This neighborhood is bursting with great Cuban food, obviously — cafecitos, empanadas, pastelitos, batidos, pork in all forms — but a wave of Nicaraguan immigrants has also brought gallo pinto and queso frito in large, delicious quantities. And as the neighborhood develops, you’re seeing food from much further away than Latin America join the mix.
With a rotating board of fresh ice creams made daily, Azucar is the go-to spot for a sweet treat in Little Havana. There are more than 100 flavors, from originals like the Abuela Maria, which has a vanilla base mixed with guava, cream cheese, and crispy galletas, to classics like chocolate. The Miami sun can be pretty brutal, and Azucar’s ice creams are probably the perfect way to cool down.
Cardón y El Tirano
In an effort to represent the influx of immigrants who now call Little Havana home, Cardón y El Tirano set out to create a menu that features all the flavors of this increasingly international community. If you’re craving good food but can’t decide what you want, this is the place to go. Their menu features food from all over the world, including Mexico, the Caribbean, Venezuela, Peru, and parts of Asia — aka deliciousness.
Little Havana isn’t just about the Cuban food. At Fritanga Pinolandia, you can get all the Nicaraguan goodness you want for less than $10 if you’re willing to spend just a few minutes in line. We recommend the carne asada and the queso frito in particular. Head to the back for a bodega straight out of Managua, selling all kinds of Nicaraguan treats.
Tucked away in a quiet pocket off Calle Ocho is one of the best Nicaraguan kitchens in Miami. The family-owned Guayacan has been serving Nicaraguan food since the 1990s and has not let up since. With their homey ambiance, the occasional mariachi, and friendly service, Guayacan’s a Little Havana gem.
This seafood restaurant is a Miami legend that attracts everyone from enthusiastic tourists to celebrity chefs. The owners’ story is a true Cuban-American one: Two brothers who dreamed of escaping the Castro regime and opening a fish market. Now, they have this restaurant. If you’re looking for delicious, fresh seafood at fair prices, this is your spot. But remember, it’s cash only.
It may not have the global fame of Versailles, but most locals know La Carreta for better food and better cafecito than its more iconic neighbor. It’s clearly a recipe for success, as there are now eight other locations in addition to the original Calle Ocho outpost — including at Mercy Hospital, Dolphin Mall, and Miami International Airport.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas
From Chef Veenuthri “Bas” Trisransri, the man who has been improving Miami’s Asian food game for years, comes Lung Yai Thai Tapas. His latest creation is an intimate, relaxed space that puts the kitchen, and the authentic Thai cooking that comes from it, at the center of the whole experience. The menu – which includes popular items like pad thai and green curry, as well as less common plates like Larb Muang, a northern Thai ground pork salad – has earned rave reviews and a healthy buzz of customers.
Taqueria El Carnal
There are no trendy flavor profiles or hidden tequila bars at El Carnal—there are only tacos, and they are delicious. Behind the barred windows is a colorfully tiny shop, with space for only a few customers. The handwritten menu features cartoon pigs advertising classics like tongue, lechon, and al pastor. Grab a sampler of salsas and hot sauces, and park outside with a Modelo for prime taco delight.
We can’t write about Little Havana without writing about Versailles. It may not be the best Cuban restaurant in town, but it’s definitely the most iconic. You can tell because every presidential candidate shows up here for a cafecito at some point, because every time Fidel farts the place gets swamped with news trucks, and because you’re always going to wait a bit, even though it’s an enormous place. Take your gringo friends from out of town here for their first shot of cafecito. Eat the vaca frita, the medianoche, some croqueticas, un pastelito … all the classics are decent. You will know you’ve become a real Miamian when the waitresses give you the Spanish menu and start “mi cielo”-ing you.
EVERYTHING IS OFFAL! Viva Mexico has, for our money, the most legit and delicious tacos in town, in part because they go whole hog on authenticity. Layers of various pig parts break down for hours over low heat until what is piled into a delicious tortilla are Miami’s ne plus ultra of carnitas. You can get all kinds of pig-part tacos here (tongue, ears) and beef tripe ones, too. The chicken and steak are also great for your gringo pals who fear meat they have not tried. Bring cash and know that these are authentic tacos — meat, tortilla and a few sauces, onions, etc. If you want sour cream and all that, hit Chipotle, bro.
This new addition to Little Havana pairs classic Cuban dishes with Southern staples like fried chicken, mac and cheese, and crispy brussel sprouts. The menu is locally sourced and carefully crafted. Try the chorizo croquetas, made with chorizo from the nearby Miami Smokers and a spicy mostaza. Then move on to the Cubano with sorpresatta, smoked pork loin, and mojo mayo. You’ll probably be full by now, but come back another time for the short rib burger with queso frito and truffle aioli.