Cuban Food in Miami: What to Eat, Where to Go

La Carreta Little Havana Rooster

La Carreta Little Havana Rooster

Pastelitos

Cuban Pastelitos

Versailles

Cuban coffee at Versailles

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By: Shayne Benowitz

Your Guide to Cuban Food in Miami

For many people visiting Greater Miami & Miami Beach, eating authentic Cuban cuisine is at the top of their to-do list. Want to sample the best, but not sure what to order? Read on for our handy guide to Cuban dishes and delicacies, along with a short list of some of the best Cuban restaurants from Little Havana to South Beach.

Cuban Coffee

It’s said that Miami runs on Cuban coffee. Whether it’s a café con leche, cafecito, colada or cortadito, no morning is complete without Cuban coffee. But to order properly, you’ll need to know the differences between each of these caffeinated delights.

Café con leche is a morning staple, typically served at a 50/50 ratio of high-octane Cuban coffee and hot, frothy milk. Often, you’ll find it complemented with Cuban bread, which is meant for dunking.

The cafecito (sometimes called café Cubano) is the café con leche’s more aggressive cousin. Don’t be fooled by its petite size; this sweetened shot of Cuban espresso packs a punch that will keep your heart pumping throughout the day.

A colada is simply several cafecitos in one cup and is meant to be poured into smaller cups to share among a group of four to six friends.

The cortadito is like a macchiato, a smaller variation on the Miami favorite in which Cuban espresso is topped with steamed milk.

Cuban food and pastelitos in display case
Cuban coffee and pastelitos are the perfect pair

Cuban Snacks

When it comes to quick bites to savor at breakfast, for lunch or as a snack to get you through the day, you’ll typically find empanadas, croquetas and pastelitos nestled in heated glass displays near the entrance of Cuban establishments.

Empanadas are baked or fried pastries stuffed with anything from spicy beef to chicken or ham and cheese. Croquetas are fried béchamel fritters formed into fingers and usually filled with ham or chicken. Pastelitos are flaky, sweet pastries often filled with guava and cream cheese.

Cuban Sandwiches

Just reading this will make your mouth water. A traditional Cuban sandwich is generously stuffed with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard, all pressed between two slices of crunchy Cuban bread (similar to a baguette), which is lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil.

A smaller version of the Cuban sandwich is made with a sweeter egg bread roll and is called a medianoche (which means midnight) because it is often consumed as a late-night snack.

Cuban food and black beans and rice
Pork, beans, rice, and plantains make up the classic Cuban entree

Cuban Entrees

For something heartier at lunch or dinner, spring for classic Cuban dishes such as arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), ropa vieja (shredded beef stew with tomatoes, onions and peppers), vaca frita (crispy fried beef), lechón asado (roasted pork) or picadillo (ground beef). These savory dishes make for a satisfying meal, usually accompanied by maduros (sweet plantains) or tostones (crispy fried plantains), and black beans and rice.

Where to Eat Cuban Food

Now that you know what to order, here are some of our favorite restaurants in Greater Miami & Miami Beach that serve authentic Cuban cuisine.

Little Havana

La Carreta

La Carreta was founded on Little Havana's famous Calle Ocho (Southwest 8th Street) in 1976. Even after all these years, the longstanding restaurant holds true to Cuban family-style dining traditions and food. From its famed croquetas to authentic vaca frita and ropa vieja, La Carreta serves up classic Cuban flavors that would make abuela proud. With additional locations all over the area, it’ll be easy to get your fix.

Arroz con pollo and Cuban food at Versailles
Savor chicken and yellow rice (arroz con pollo) at Versailles

Versailles

Chances are when you think of Cuban food in Miami, this mainstay comes to mind. Since 1971, Versailles has been a local gathering spot for the Cuban diaspora and one of Calle Ocho’s most popular restaurants. While the sprawling space features golden chandeliers and cut-glass mirrors as an ode to the hall of mirrors in its namesake, the Palace of Versailles, the restaurant has a casual vibe. You’ll find every staple of Cuban cuisine on the menu, from morning cortaditos and ham croquetas, to delicious Cuban sandwiches and heaping portions of arroz con pollo or ropa vieja. Of course, you must end with the flan (custard topped with caramel) for dessert.

Sanguich De Miami

For a modern spin on the Cuban sandwich, head to the popular Sanguich De Miami on Calle Ocho. This stylish luncheonette is decked out in Spanish tile floors, bold green walls and brass fixtures as an ode to Cuba's Spanish-inspired architecture and design. Of course, what keeps locals coming back are its mouthwatering sandwiches. Whether it's the classic Cubano made with spiced ham, or the sanguich de Miami (a Cuban spin on the turkey and ham club), you'll sink your teeth into high-quality ingredients and a sanguich made with love.

Cuban sandwich
The classic Cuban sandwich can be found all across Miami

Hialeah

Hialeah is a center of Cuban culture in Miami. In fact, it has the highest percentage of Cuban Americans in the United States. So, as you would expect, there are plenty of places where you can find authentic Cuban food here. Perhaps the best known is Molina’s Ranch Restaurant. This spot has been serving the community for more than three decades. Be sure to try the masas de puerco.

Wynwood

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop

Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop is a cafeteria-style eatery at the edge of the Wynwood neighborhood where hungry locals go for hearty Cuban food. Enriqueta’s is known for making one of the best Cuban sandwiches in Miami, and you’ll want to devour the traditional Cuban sandwich layered with deep-fried ham croquetas. Don’t miss staples such as pan con bistec (“break with steak” – a steak sandwich), lechón asado and filete de cherna (grouper filet). This casual spot promises plates large enough for two meals.

South Beach

Puerto Sagua

Established in the 1960s, Puerto Sagua is a Cuban diner on Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach that’s famous for serving Cuban classics. Start with an order of yuca fries, then move on to heartier dishes such as the ropa vieja served with rice, beans and sweet plantains. Also try the arroz con pollo or the fried pork chops. Be sure to order a bowl of the famous black bean soup.

Cuban coffee
Cuban coffee is served in small portions but packs a caffeineated punch

Coral Gables

Havana Harry’s

Conceived in 1995, this fusion restaurant’s menu is inspired by Cuban, Spanish and Latin American cuisine. It offers a modern twist on classic dishes. Start with Havana Harry’s delicious tostones or croquetas in a basket, and look for the weekday lunch specials. Be warned, the plates are huge, so you’ll either want to share or plan to ask for a to-go box. For dinner, dig into churrasco steak, vaca frita or pork chops in guava barbeque sauce. Those with a sweet tooth will want to tackle one of the over-the-top milkshakes loaded with toppings.

Southwest Miami-Dade

Islas Canarias

Always-busy Islas Canarias is a no-frills spot packed with hungry patrons craving a taste of authentic Cuban cuisine. Those in-the-know order the perfectly cooked croquetas, especially the ham croquetas (you can’t eat just one, so be sure to order plenty). Try the masas de puerco (fried pork chunks) or the bistec de palomilla (top sirloin steak), and end your meal with the sweet tocino del cielo, a flan made with egg yolks and cinnamon syrup. Expect to see a line out the door when you arrive, but service is swift so you’ll score a table in no time.

Various Locations

El Palacio de los Jugos

Freshly squeezed juices are the main event at this open-air Miami institution (recognized by its bright yellow and red awnings) with numerous locations in addition to its original spot on West Flagler Street and 57th Avenue. Here, juices are made to order. You’ll find exotic flavors such as sugar cane juice or mamey. Of course, you’ll also find authentic Cuban fare like croquetas, salty chicharrones (deep-fried pork belly rings), juicy pork dishes and sandwiches. When you’re done eating at El Palacio de los Jugos, stroll through the market for fresh local produce.

Sergio's

With numerous locations, family-owned Sergio’s is another household name that’s been serving authentic Cuban fare for more than 40 years. Mother-and-daughter duo, Elsa Rocha and Blanca Cabrera, are especially famous for their coveted croqueta recipe, which they’ve spent years refining into lightly fried rolls with a rich and creamy filling.

Make a list and check off a new Cuban dish or spot every day. Find more ideas about where to eat in Greater Miami & Miami Beach.

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