THE TOP TEN Cuban Restaurants in Miami/South Florida
The best Cuban restaurants in Miami/South Florida, presented in alphabetical order.
7705 W. Flagler St., Miami, FL 33144 / 305-266-5494
This Cuban food institution recently relocated to this more expansive spot around the corner from the Mall of the Americas in West Miami. It's an all-American success story: Over three decades ago, a waitress (Maria Teresa Lario) in a café met and fell in love with the café's chef (Quentin Lario). They shared a dream to own and operate a restaurant of their own someday. Eventually, they opened Casa Lario's, had a few children, and are now considered among the most successful restaurant proprietors in the city. Gloria and Emilio Estefan made them Miami household names when they opened up a Lario's in one of their hotels in South Beach. This is a casual, local family place, where Cuban historical memorabilia, photos and maps decorate the walls---and where the grown kids of the stars of this story are now the operators. Try the Cuban-style lamb shank, which is generous enough to feed two. And don't skip out on dessert, where pineapple, espresso, pumpkin, guava and cheese flans (among others) steal the show.
David's Café 2
1654 Meridian Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139 / 305-672-8707
A Cuban restaurant with a dual personality, David's is sibling to the Collins Avenue sandwich and coffee shop. Likewise, this location serves terrific medianoche sandwiches, croquetas, coladas (shots of Cuban espresso) and cortadito (café Cubano with milk), available either in the sit-down diner or via the popular take-out window. (There's usually a festive crowd of tourists, locals and business people sneaking a break at the always-open latter.) David's has a more formal side, however, evidenced by white linen-covered tables and polished (if brusque) service in the sedate dining room. Here you can indulge in vaca frita (fried steak) or arroz con pollo that's made to order, if you've got the time, or take part in the lunchtime buffet that typically includes such favorites as ropa vieja (stewed meat), plantains and rice and beans.
Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop
2830 NE 2nd Ave., Miami, FL 33137 / 305-573-4681
Blue and white collars alike can be found crowding the window counter or waiting for a table at this Cuban cafeteria in one of the city's most ethnically diverse neighborhoods. A favorite breakfast and lunch spot, Enriqueta's serves up consistent, no-frills Cuban fare (not to mention the ubiquitous café Cubano.) Table turnover is so speedy that if you blink you could miss the Mayor or an NBA player noshing on a pan con bistec.
285 NW 27th Ave., Miami, FL 33125 / 305-649-0440
It's a plain, medium-sized room with a long counter and a bunch of tables and chairs arranged in unremarkable fashion---not much different in appearance from what a neighborhood restaurant in Havana might be. Patrons come for big portions of tasty home-cooked island food at popular prices. Whole fried snapper, roast chicken with mojo, pork chunks in garlic, rice, beans and plantains are excellent, but there are also specialties like pigs' feet and oxtail stew for the more adventurous. For the complete Islas experience, make the finale a café Cubano, perhaps with an obscenely sweet tres leches or some tocino del cielo, which, despite its name meaning bacon of heaven, is actually a meatless dessert flan made with egg yolks and cinnamon.
3632 SW Eighth St., Miami, FL 33135 / 305-444-7501
Here on Calle Ocho (Little Havana), La Carreta is a landmark with finer fare and a more extensive menu than its sister establishments. In a mini-empire of perhaps the area’s best-known Cuban eateries, this is one of a dozen locations offering a quick bite at a bargain price. Expect delicious café con leche and coladas, along with satisfactory medianoche sandwiches, stuffed with pulled roast pork, ham and cheese, and press-heated. Cafeteria-style service displays such hot Cuban specialties as plantains, roast chicken, saucy beef, white rice and black beans. Other locations.
Lario's on the Beach
820 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach, FL 33139 / 305-532-9577
Singer Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio pay homage to home-style Cuban cooking for tourists and fans here, but, in terms of cuisine, it's got nothing over the Cuban dives around the corner that offer similar food for about half the price. It does, however, have the action-central Ocean Drive location, for cruising the beachgoers, fashionistas, and international visitors passing by. Best food strategy is to order a variety of the tasty starter platters for the table---crab fritters, fried batons of yucca, plantains with garlicky mojo, and a Cuban “pupu platter” being good choices for a fun grazing meal. Start with a knock-out mojito, finish with a syrupy sweet Cuban coffee colada, and enjoy the live Latin music and beach breezes in between.
700 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, FL 33139 / 305-673-1115
This is Cuban comfort food. Roasted chicken, black beans, rice and plátanos all excel. Whether called a Cuban sandwich or a medianoche, this tradition packs ham, pulled pork, cheese, mustard and pickles into the Cuban version of a baguette press-toasted into oh-so-hot-and-gooey goodness. Finish with a soupy-sweet Cuban coffee colada to go. Although the décor is not particularly attractive, you still may want to add this diner to your list of favorites.
3252 Coral Way, Coral Gables, FL 33145 / 305-529-0047
Sergio's is Miami's capital of Cuban comfort food, where regional Cuban specialties are prepared with unparalleled integrity. It looks like a roadside diner off a rural highway---in Cuba. The café con leche is excellent. Try the pollo a la plancha, mojo-marinated chicken breast pounded thin, grilled and topped with onions. The tostones, smashed and double-fried plantains, are the best we've ever tasted---crispy outside, tender-sweet inside. Garlic-lovers rejoice over the vaca frita, roasted pulled beef served over black beans, with rice plus french fries on the side. Chase it with a Cuban imported beer. Also located at 9330 Bird Rd., Miami, 305-552-9626.
3555 SW Eighth St., Miami, FL 33135 / 305-444-0240
When locals only have time to take out-of-town visitors to one Cuban restaurant, this landmark spot is usually the choice, due to its history, its position as Latin power players’ primo informal gathering place (which guarantees stimulating people-watching into the wee hours every night), and its supremely silly décor. The restaurant hits home more accurately with its traditional fare. One example is the wondrous ropa vieja, tender shreds of garlic-enriched beef simmered with onion and bell pepper in a tomato sauce, served with soupy black beans. When lechon asado is a special (generally Friday-Sunday), it’s a tasty version, especially when diners are lucky enough to hit the place when the pork roast is right out of the oven. And for those seeking a late-night bite, the Versailles special sandwich (a Cubano, with added chorizo) always satisfies.
501 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, FL 33139 / 305-532-9822
Yuca stands for Young Upwardly mobile Cuban Americans, which describes the scene here better than we can. The dining experience was first-rate before the restaurant deserted its original location in refined Coral Gables for touristy South Beach. The upscale Cuban food is still appealing enough, however, to make this place a better-than-average choice for those who want to eat on the Lincoln Road pedestrian mall. Yucca stuffed with truffle oil-spiked wild mushroom picadillo (served with sautéed spinach plus two veggie salads) is a welcome innovation for vegetarians and, for carnivores, guava-glazed barbecued baby-back ribs, served with mojo-drenched crispy yucca fries and chayote slaw, are otherworldly. Tourists convene at YUCA year-round to glimpse Sobe’s glitzy version of Cuban culture, and the place is also a hub for the mushrooming Latin music industry’s movers-and-shakers, as well as a hotbed of racy Latin celebrities.
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