Little Havana Food Tour, Miami

Little Havana Food Tour (Self Guided), Miami

Often dubbed the “Capital of Latin America,” Miami could have been just another deep-South city in Florida if it wasn't for Cuban revolution of 1959 that sent waves of Cuban refugees to Miami swiftly transforming the city's central neighborhood, once known as Riverside, into Little Havana.

The strong Cuban influence here is felt primarily in an eclectic mix of traditional eateries and hip bars encompassing Calle Ocho and the surrounding areas chock-full of good eats. Two landmark Cuban restaurants Versailles and La Carreta, both on Calle Ocho, are renowned for offering great food at decent prices.

Little Havana never ceases to surprise with its seriously good culinary finds, and whatever flavors you crave, you'll always find something to satisfy yourself with in this part of the city. Because this is Miami, you might be tempted to drive, but your better bet is to get the sidewalk under your feet. Follow this self-guided walk for a real taste of Little Havana!
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Little Havana Food Tour Map

Guide Name: Little Havana Food Tour
Guide Location: USA » Miami (See other walking tours in Miami)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Author: stacey
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Los Pinarenos Fruiteria (Market)
  • Party Cake Bakery
  • Azucar Ice Cream Company
  • Ball & Chain Live Music Bar
  • El Pub Restaurant
  • Sanguich De Miami (Sandwich Shop)
  • Casa Juancho Restaurant
  • Exquisito Chocolates
  • Versailles Restaurant
  • La Carreta Restaurant
Los Pinarenos Fruiteria (Market)

1) Los Pinarenos Fruiteria (Market)

Los Pinareños Fruteria is a semi-outdoor fruit and juice market established by Guillermina Hernandez and her late husband, both originally from Pinar del Rio, Cuba (hence the name, Los Pinareños). This family-run business has been in operation since 1963. A genuine mom-and-pop shop, one step inside here makes you feel transported to an eclectic island oasis filled with classic Miami staples like mangos, watermelons, coconuts, mameys, guanabanas, sugarcane, and other exotic tropical fruits.

Additionally, they sell coffee, juices and smoothies — always fresh, never frozen — attesting to which is the sound of blenders making these. Here you can mix and match an array of fruits and veggies or just tell the vendor what you feel like having and they'll whip up a custom batch just for you only. A star beverage of the place is the "Green Juice" or Guarapo (sugar cane juice) made with real sugarcane. Batido ("beaten") – Cuban-style milkshakes – are also worth a try.

In case you're in for something more substantial, this cash-only operation can offer you some great food as well, including tamale, a mini Cuban sandwich and homemade tuna. A traditional finish to a meal would be a Café Cubano made by the lady of the house with an authentic, grandma flare. For extra fun, step out back where you will find fruit trees growing, flocks of chickens, and even the store's mascot, Tuco (or is it Chucha?) a pot-bellied Vietnamese pig who sleeps and eats just behind the market.
Party Cake Bakery

2) Party Cake Bakery

In the vibrant city of Miami, the Party Cake Bakery stands as a testament to the dreams and determination of Olga and Juan Montano. The bakery came to life on May 1st, 1993, when the Montano family took a bold leap, leaving behind their cherished jobs and the confines of communist Cuba.

Their humble beginnings started with a modest 1,300-square-foot bakery located on the burgeoning west side of Miami, precisely on Miller Drive. In the early years, Olga and Juan faced challenges, with Olga crafting cakes and assisting customers while Juan focused on baking. The Montano's four boys would even sleep behind the display cases in the early mornings as they awaited the school bus. Despite the initial struggles, their dedication began to bear fruit as customers flocked in for their morning "Cafe Cubano" or the beloved "pastel de carne."

More than 25 years later, the dream that Olga and Juan envisioned is not only alive but thriving. The bakery offers a delightful selection of empanadas, pastries, sandwiches, and cakes. The menu is complemented by refreshing fresh orange juice and freshly brewed coffee. The service is not only swift but also welcoming and cheerful, creating an inviting atmosphere for patrons. The impeccable cleanliness extends even to the toilets, emphasizing the commitment of Party Cake Bakery to providing a delightful and enjoyable experience for all who walk through its doors.
Azucar Ice Cream Company

3) Azucar Ice Cream Company

The Miami sun can be pretty brutal at times, and ice cream is probably one of the best ways to cool yourself down. And when the call of your sweet tooth proves too strong for taking in the sights and sounds of Little Havana, take a stroll down Calle Ocho to quell it at Azucar Ice Cream Company. This parlor is a serious ode to the neighborhood and is Little Havana's—and arguably Miami's too—most famous outlet for ice cream. Distinctly marked on the outside by a massive plastic ice cream cone facade, you can’t miss it.

Azucar serves more than 100 signature and classic flavors – from chocolate to passion fruit to mamey. Their Mantecado (Cuban vanilla) ice cream is almost custardy and ultra-silky, but it is Abuela Maria, the trademarked flan ice cream concoction with heaps of Cuban rum, crispy galletas, vanilla base mixed with guava and cream cheese, that really takes the cake.

Why You Should Visit:
With a rotating board of fresh ice creams made daily, Azucar is an ultimate spot in Little Havana to go and treat yourself to all sorts of irresistible, only-in-Miami ice cream flavors, especially if you're on board with their use of cinnamon.
Ball & Chain Live Music Bar

4) Ball & Chain Live Music Bar

If your day of eating needs improvement, there's no better remedy for that than a cocktail! And if you like to combine tasty cocktails with some quality food, then Ball & Chain in Little Havana is the place for you! Drinkers or non-drinkers of alcohol must visit Ball & Chain all the same at least once, particularly so if they have an ear for good music. Opened in the 1920s, this is still one of the hottest live music venues in the area. It hosts high-energy jazz performances all day and night and, over the years, has seen the likes of Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole perform here at the famous Pineapple Stage in the garden (shaped like a giant pineapple, hence the name).

Back in the day, the rumors have it, the owner of this place was arrested once for “rum running”, i.e. for smuggling alcohol into the United States during prohibition. At some point, the venue was closed for several years and reopened only in the 2010s bringing Cuban-style mojitos, daiquiris and other neighborhood-inspired cocktails back to Miami.

In addition to mariquitas (traditional Cuban house-made sweet plantain chips) to go with the drinks, this lively bar serves some seriously good eats. The iconic lounge boasts a rather extensive menu featuring 15-plus dishes, including Cuban spring roll made with the traditional Cuban sandwich fillings of pork and cheese wrapped in spring-roll dough and served with mojo dipping sauce.

Why You Should Visit:
On a sultry night, nibbling some bites and sipping a Miami Mule, while listening to live music, is perhaps the best thing you can do.
El Pub Restaurant

5) El Pub Restaurant

If you’re in Little Havana, at some point you will undoubtedly end up at El Pub, one of the most famous restaurants in the neighborhood, especially so if you intend to dine Cuban style, i.e. standing, eating and chatting, just like the locals do. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't stop at Le Pub for a regular sit-down meal.

The signs telling you have found the right spot are the six-foot rooster guarding the entrance and the air smelling like fry oil and espresso. While less than memorable on the inside, this Little Havana mainstay has all the markers of a community touchstone — from the black and white newspaper articles laminated on wood, written about the restaurant’s early days, and posters of a Havana-gone-by to the framed photos of the owners with celebrities. But you shouldn't expect a palace here really.

A sweet, steamy café con leche, that you won't soon forget, along with the authentic Cuban cuisine are the way of El Pub. Tucking into the bite of Cuban stand-bys here, like fried chicken-stuffed plantains, ham croquettes and sammies, is a safe bet anytime. Otherwise, you may nosh on Cuban empanadas (each Latin American country has its own version) filled with beef, onion and pepper, and top it off with some Café Cubano (Cuban coffee) – a shot of espresso sweetened with demerara sugar and served in plastic thimbles each containing the same amount of caffeine as a regular coffee. NOTE: if you drank it from a normal-sized cup, you’d be consuming more than five Americanos’ worth of caffeine, hence it is sometimes referred to as “crack” because of the jolt it gives!

Why You Should Visit:
No one goes to El Pub just because it is famous, but because the restaurant serves fantastic food and excellent Cuban Coffee and, like so much of the neighborhood, is thrumming with energy morning, noon, and night.
Other than sipping some cafecito and speaking some Spanglish to the locals here, you may simply revel in an experience not possible to find in any other American city.
Sanguich De Miami (Sandwich Shop)

6) Sanguich De Miami (Sandwich Shop)

Sanguich de Miami on Calle Ocho, arguably Miami’s top destination for Cuban sandwich, is a quaint counter-service restaurant that has been on Florida’s culinary scene since 2017 offering a choice of classic Cuban sandwiches and made-to-order batidos (Cuban milkshakes).

Initially housed in a shipping container in Little Havana, the now 750-square-foot restaurant boasts its own ventanita along with indoor seating for 25 people. Inspired by Cuba’s early 1900s Spanish architecture, the venue features brass trimmings with floating tables inlaid with brass and quartz, Cuban tiles throughout and the decorative walls adorned with reeded molding.

All ingredients at Sanguich de Miami, from cured ham and brined pork to artisanal mustard and fresh pickles, are prepped and cooked in-house. The crusty Cuban bread is the only item they take from outside, but it is also made specifically to Sanguich's own recipe in a Homestead bakery.

The local menu has been unchanged since day one, offering a lineup of six sanguiches (sandwiches) including the “Cubano,” pan con lechon, and pan con croqueta, along with plantain fries served with up to five variations of mojo sauce, as well as Cuban nachos, and a rotating selection of seven “batidos” with flavors like trigo, mamey, banana, guava and cream cheese. Among the house highlights are medianoches, pan con bistec (made with slow cooked and thinly sliced top round steak, mojo rojo, and fried string potatoes with fontina cheese on Cuban bread), croqueta preparadas, and cream cheese-filled Elena Ruzes.

Why You Should Visit:
The best Cubano (classic Cuban sandwich) in Miami resides here.
Casa Juancho Restaurant

7) Casa Juancho Restaurant

Whilst in Miami, if you feel like having some quality-made tapas, jamon Iberico or oak-grilled prime beef, or savoring plenty of freshest seafood from Spain and South Florida, or award-winning paella or some other delights of the Iberian cuisine served in a character setting resembling an old Spanish hacienda, then head no further than Casa Juancho in Little Havana. This charming restaurant also boasts a massive wine cellar containing one of the largest and rarest collections of Spanish wines to be found in the United States. Adding to the dining experience here is the abundance of live music, chatty servers and large parties tucking into giant paellas.

You shouldn't come here unless you’re celebrating something or prepared to spend a lot. If the latter is a concern, rest assured that the price vs. fun ratio will always be favorable and the masterly-made seafood paella dependably satisfying.
Exquisito Chocolates

8) Exquisito Chocolates

Miami’s Willy Wonka dreams ultimately came true with the opening of Exquisito Chocolates, the city’s very first chocolate factory, in the heart of Little Havana. This place is a fascinating combination of a front retail shop and a 1,200-square-foot production facility in the back, allowing visitors to observe the entire process of chocolate making through large glass windows. Those particularly keen on learning every step of turning cacao beans into chocolate confections, can sign up for chocolate making classes and get a full first-hand knowledge.

At Exquisito they like to “Latinize” and “Miamify” their bean-to-bar bon bons outputting classic Miami flavors like Café con Leche and Little Guavana made with fresh Redland grown guava, and Miami Vice dark-chocolate truffle made with cafecito and dulce de leche. Overall, this retail shop carries 12 permanent truffle flavors, a collection of single origin bars made from cacao sourced directly from partner farms, and other confections manufactured daily.

Curiously, the local brewers and chefs at Lincoln’s Beard Brewing Co., Azucar Ice Cream Company, and The Salty Donut have been utilizing Exquisito’s cacao husks—which otherwise would have been discarded—by infusing them into beers, cocktails, ice cream, pastries and other items they produce.
Versailles Restaurant

9) Versailles Restaurant

Declared the “World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” Versailles really dominates Little Havana's culinary scene. This serious Miami institution that has been the unofficial town hall for El Exilio (Cuban expats in exile) since 1971 and is the one that is very hard to miss when cruising down 8th Street. While it may not be the best Cuban restaurant in town, it is definitely the most iconic. You can tell it because every presidential candidate shows up here for a cafecito at some point, and because you’re always going to wait a bit, even though it’s an enormous place.

If you are from out of town, you should come here for your very first shot of cafecito at least. And if time is in shortage, order it at la ventanita (an outdoor ordering window) along with some croquettas. Otherwise, if you are in for something more substantial, sit inside and order a full meal of some of their staples like Cuban sandwich with classic fixings, such as sweet ham and Swiss cheese – winner with the fast-casual crowd, or a traditional hearty Cuban-style roast pork with rice and beans on the side. On a lighter note, consider vaca frita, medianoche, some croqueticas, or pastelito.

With time, you may know that you have become a true Miamian if waitresses start giving you the Spanish menu and greeting you with “mi cielo”.

The place is open until 2:30am Friday and Saturday, making it ideal for late night comfort food.

Why You Should Visit:
An iconic place to go for a Cuban food fix.
The most famous coffee window in the city, swarming with ex-pats and adorable octogenarians sipping their daily cafecito.
If you haven't tried a Cubano at Versailles, you can hardly qualify as having been to Miami at all.
La Carreta Restaurant

10) La Carreta Restaurant

La Carreta is a chain of Cuban restaurants with multiple locations across Miami. It may well not enjoy the global fame of Versailles, its main rival, but for most Miamians La Carreta is the place to go for better food and better cafecito than that offered by its more iconic neighbor.

Guarded by a colorful rooster statue, the original La Carreta restaurant in Little Havana's Calle Ocho is particularly loved for its authentic Cuban fare. The latter comes in an extensive choice including vaca frita (grilled shredded beef and onions with a side of rice and beans), chicken breast milanesa (Cuban iteration of chicken parm), ropa vieja, picadillo, palomilla, and more. In addition to Cuban classics, they also serve some American dishes like chicken wings and spare ribs in barbecue sauce, plus some Spanish-inspired fare, too.

Each day, those in favor of Cuban basics will find at La Carreta a selection of three to four specials, plus weekday lunch deals featuring breaded pork chop, shrimp creole, and fried grouper for a rather moderate price. Any meal here will make you feel at home.

Why You Should Visit:
La Carreta may not serve the most gourmet Cuban food in Miami, but it is a convenient place to get the classics.
A fast, inexpensive spot for good lunch, dinner, breakfast or late-night snack stop. La Carreta opens late and its walk-up coffee window stays open till 5am on weekends to serve you the much wanted post-club cafecito and pastelito to kiss your hangover goodbye.

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