The Cuban sandwich is a popular food for locals and visitors alike
Cuban culture is as much a part of Miami as the aquamarine waters that lap its shore.
A great way to understand a culture is through its cuisine, and in Miami you’ll find a wide range of Cuban food to sample no matter what neighborhood you find yourself in. Let's start with a breakdown of some of the most popular Cuban food staples.
First up, the classic Cuban pick-me-up: coffee. Whether it’s a café con leche, cafecito, colada or cortadito, Cuban coffee is undeniably one of the most widely enjoyed drinks in Miami. Simply translated as “coffee with milk,” a café con leche is a breakfast staple, typically served at a 50/50 ratio of highly caffeinated Cuban coffee and hot, frothy milk. Often you’ll find it complimented with pan Cubano (Cuban bread), which is commonly dunked in the coffee, making a perfect breakfast pairing.
Other Cuban pick-me-ups include the cafecito, colada and cortadito. 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 for sharing between four to six friends. The cortadito is similar to a macchiato, a smaller variation of the Miami favorite where Cuban espresso is topped with steamed milk.
Latin finger foods are quick bites to savor at breakfast, lunch or as a snack to get you through the day. Look for empanadas, croquetas, and pasteles, all of which are typically found in heated glass displays near the entrances of Latin food establishments. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries stuffed with anything from spicy beef to chicken or ham and cheese. Croquetas are fried smashed potatoes formed into fingers usually with ham or chicken and pasteles are sweet pastries often filled with guava and cream cheese.
A traditional Cuban sandwich is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and yellow mustard, pressed between two slices of Cuban bread that have been lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil. Cuban bread is similar in taste and shape to a French baguette. A smaller version of the Cuban sandwich is made with a sweeter egg bread roll and is called the medianoche (which means midnight) because it was originally consumed as a late night snack.
Come dinnertime, you’ll probably look towards heartier entrees and classic Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo, ropa vieja, vaca frita or picadillo. These savory dishes incorporate stewed chicken, beef or pork with rice, vegetables and Cuban spices for a satisfying meal, usually accompanied by sweet fried plantains and black beans.
Whether it’s a cortadito to get your day started or a medianoche for a midnight snack, these are some of our favorite Miami restaurants with mouthwatering, authentic Cuban cuisine.
Where to Eat
Since 1971, Versailles has been a local gathering spot for the Cuban diaspora and one of Calle Ocho’s most popular locales. The décor features golden chandeliers and surrounding mirrors showcasing a throwback to the Hall of Mirrors in France’s Versailles Palace. However, the sprawling restaurant has a decidedly casual diner vibe. You’ll find every staple of Cuban cuisine on the menu here, from ham croquetas to Cuban sandwiches, cafecitos and heaping portions ropa vieja with yellow rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains. 3555 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
Islas Canarias is a tiny, no-frills spot packed with hungry patrons craving a taste of authentic Cuban cuisine. Start with the pigs' feet la andaluza, oxtail stew or bistec uruguayo, and end with the sweet tocino del cielo, a flan made with egg yolks and cinnamon syrup. Don’t be surprised if there’s a wait when you arrive as this is one of Miami’s most popular Cuban restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Service is swift and efficient, so you’ll snag your table eventually. 285 NW 27th Avenue, Miami, FL 33125
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
Despite what its name implies, Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop is a cafeteria-style eatery in Wynwood where locals go for good, hearty Cuban food. From Cuban bread and cortaditos to staples like pan con bistec, lechon asado and filete de cherna, this casual spot promises plates large enough to take home for lunch, dinner and maybe even lunch again the next day. 186 NE 29th Street, Miami, FL 33137
Larios on the Beach
Owned by celebrities and Miami locals, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Larios on the Beach is known for its prime Ocean Drive location, award-winning Cuban cuisine and world-famous mojitos. Hearty food aside, health-conscious ropa vieja lovers will be happy to know that the restaurant also boasts a “Triple C” menu (Calorie Conscious Cuban), which features tasty, guilt-free Cuban staples, like vegetarian black beans, baked plantains and grilled meat and fish. 820 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, FL 33139
As Miami’s hottest Cuban supper club, El Tucan is a throwback to the glitz and glamour of 1940s Havana. Pairing cabaret with haute Cuban fusion cuisine, this one-of-a-kind spot has dinner and a show seatings from Thursday through Saturday nights. Dine on ahi tuna tostadas and New York striploin while being entertained by the resident 11-piece Latin orchestra and lavishly costumed samba dancers. 1111 SW 1st Avenue, Miami, FL 33130
Sergio's (six locations in Miami)
For over 40 years, Sergio’s has served authentic Cuban fare with locations on Coral Way, Bird Road, London Square, Doral, Kendall and Pembroke Pines. The family-owned, fast-casual concept also incorporates a healthy section into their menu. The mother and daughter duo of Elsa Rocha and Blanca Cabrera are especially famous for their croqueta recipe, which they spent years exacting into lightly fried perfection. 3252 SW 22nd Street, Miami, FL 33145
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