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Miami runs on ventanitas

If you’ve lived in Miami for any length of time, you’ve almost certainly ordered something from a ventanita.

Ventanita means little window in Spanish, and these portholes that dot the sides of restaurants across the city dish out hot Cuban coffee, crunchy pastries, crispy croquetas, and just about anything else that can be packaged up to-go at a Latin food joint.

While a certain fast-food chain might claim that America runs off of its mass-produced brand of bland fried dough and cheap burnt coffee, it’s clear Miami residents expect a little bit more when it comes to walk-up breakfast service. La Carreta’s chicken empanadas, the medianoche sandwich from Exquisito, and the duck croquetas at All Day are just a few of the gourmet morsels Miami’s ventanitas have to offer.

And then of course there’s the Cuban coffee. Doused with steamed milk in a café con leche, served jet-fuel straight in a colada, or cut half-and-half in the iconic cortadito, the powerful espresso you can get almost anywhere in this town surely beats out any of the bitter stuff you’ll find at Starbucks.  

That leaves just two questions: what do you order when you’re at the ventanita? And what’s your go-to spot?

By Mario Ariza
Mario Alejandro Ariza is a Dominican immigrant who grew up in Miami. A Michener Fellow in poetry at the University of Miami’s Master in Fine Arts program, he is currently working on a nonfiction book about South Florida and Sea Level Rise. On a day with a good swell and northeasterly breezes, you’ll find him surfing on South Beach (yes, there’s actually surfing Miami.)

  • Hilda

    My default is La Carreta on Bird Road and my order is un cafecito
    “bien dulce”.

  • Maria Herrera

    I grew up in West Miami and live abroad but everytime I’m visiting my viejos I gotta stop at my favorite ventanita – La Palma!
    The pastelitos de guayaba are outta control. BTW this stop used to be a Burger King way way way back when…

  • Depending on what looks good at the moment, or just random mood: Croquetas de jamón or un pastelito de carne, and either a cortadito or café.

    Anyone in this town that goes to Starbucks for any reason other than to get out of the heat or to use the wi-fi is a fool wasting their money.