Little Havana Miami, a food tour of Cuban cuisine
Little Havana just outside of the downtown Miami center is a very traditional Cuban neighborhood with a main road filled with Cuban inspired galleries, boutiques, eateries and bars. I was fortunate to have signed up for a lunch tour since I was already getting very hungry, having spent an hour earlier walking down through some of the interesting galleries and areas of interest in this historic neighborhood. I was eager to explore the area with Miami Culinary tours and taste some of the wonderful Cuban street food and other specialty products made locally in Florida.
Little Havana Miami
Little Havana Miami – Cuban street food and specialty drinks
The main area of Little Havana was originally a part of Miami where the new Cuban immigrants went to live and work especially with cheap rents and property in this part of the city. As a result, a variety of specialty shops and eateries were started to cater to the local crowds in this district.
First stop on the tour is one of the oldest restaurants in the area called El Pub. Filled with old photographs, posters and other Cuban Illustrations, this popular local eatery is where we got to sample the iconic empanada and Cuban sandwich, both typically street food takeaway food. The fried empanadas here are made with a peccadillo filling of ground beef, olives in a tomato based sauce. Cuban empanadas are not typically served with any sauce but the American Louisiana hot sauce offered, added a bit more vinegar and hot zing to the overall taste of the empanada. This was quickly followed with a plate of fries and a Cuban sandwich – a Panini like sandwich filled with ham, pork, melted cheese, pickles and mustard. I had to take some time to eat both of these dishes which could have easily filled you up right away.
Popular Cuban sandwiches served at El Pub
Empanadas are very popular street food in Little Havana
Little Havana Miami – Cuban Coffee to go
After a nice first two bites at El Pub we walked outside to their street service window called a Ventanita were we sampled the typical Cuban coffee. Served in small cup size portion in a sugary sweet base, this intense espresso like coffee will definitely give you a shot of energy after a full meal. We find out from our guides that these popular Ventanitas sell Cuban coffees along with other popular street food and sweet delicacies for locals that want to take it to go.
Little Havana Miami – Cuban Cigar makers
Next on our visit to Little Havana is to one of the iconic Cigar makers called Bello Cigars which traces its roots to the 19th century. We walk inside to watch a worker roll their Cuban cigars which is later aged in cedar vaults. The entire places smells and oozes with musty cigar smoke and is charming right down to the family patriarch hanging out in the front door next to a large wooden chief in American flag regalia and waving to the crowds all day.
Watching a cigar rolling demonstration in Little Havana
Little Havana Miami – takeaway snacks from a Ventanita
Ready to sample another quick bite we stop by another Ventanita to sample another popular street food – a Croqueta, which are crispy lightly breaded appetizer rolls filled with ham, eggs, spices and flour. It was just the right snack food and I ended up sampling more than a few of these fried snacks.
Fried snacks and sweets at a Ventanita
Little Havana Miami – action at Domino park
Playing dominoes is a very popular pastime in Cuba and this naturally spills over into Little Havana with the Domino park – a senior’s only club where domino playing is serious and heated. It’s a perfect spot to see and take some wonderful candid shots of locals playing a fast and furious game of dominoes.
Little Havana Miami – Hemingway’s favorite watering hole
Along with Hemingway, many famous personalities and musicians have visited the Ball and Chain bar an iconic establishment in Little Havana. We drop by to hear a fantastic live band while downing the local favorite – a classic Mojito. Made Havana style with crushed mint leaves, a squeeze of lime and island rum served over ice in the end, it is refreshing and the perfect drink to imbibe with the cool tropical music and vibe inside. Make sure to check out the outdoor back area with the huge pineapple stage that is fun to take a photo souvenir like my shot below.
Little Havana Miami – Live music and cool vibes at Ball and Chain
Photo selfie with the giant Pineapple stage in the back
The classic Mojito at the Ball and chain – Little Havana
Trying a guayaba pastelito
If you like pastries then the Guava pastry at Yisil bakery is where to go for delicious baked goods. You can sample many Cuban baked goods but the Guayaba pastelito we tried was spot on flaky with a fruity middle of gooey guava goodness inside. I’m glade we were only offered one of the big pastries since we still had a desert finale coming up soon.
A nice and flaky Guayaba pastelito
Little Havana Miami – Los Pinaderos Fruteria
No visit to Little Havana is complete without dropping by the local fruit stand and Los Pinaderos Fruteria is where you can get any of the in season fruits from Florida and other imported fruits not grown in the area. We sampled some freshly squeezed cane juice and it was refreshing and just sweet enough to quench our thirst from the afternoon sun. We were also offered a variety of fruit samples that I cannot remember what we tasted but I remember it was all good and perfect for the late afternoon since we were winding down quickly to our last stop.
Trying some freshly squeezed cane juice
Little Havana Miami – Azucar Ice cream
Of course ice cream is the last stop on the Little Havana Miami food tour, Azucar Ice cream serves up traditional and modern ice cream flavors in exotic and latin inspired flavors. You can sample as many of the flavors in the entire display but eventually you can choose up to two flavors in a cup. I ended up choosing a delicious Mamey ice cream with chocolate combination and it was just creamy and a perfect melt in your mouth combination of flavors.
You can sample all the ice cream at Azucar
Well that was a fun tour and I finished satisfied with just enough food to be full but not bursting at the seams. It was fun to explore Little Havana and tasting our way through the entire neighborhood. If you enjoyed the places visited, you can sign up for the same tour with Miami Culinary tours and check out their tours and prices eating your way through different neighborhoods in Miami.
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