Little Havana’s the spot to be if you’re looking for a buzz — both of the caffeinated and alcoholic persuasions. While its many ventanas have been serving up authentic cafe con leche for decades, with the new bars and restaurants along Calle Ocho you can now get some mean cocktails too. By day or by night, Little Havana is a great place to quench your thirst.
Ball & Chain
Established in 1935, this bar is older than the road that is now Calle Ocho. Through the years, it’s hosted a wide range of musical legends, from Ella Fitzgerald to Tito Puente, Jr. Although it was shuttered in the mid-90s, it’s come back full force — with palmetto leaf fans and salsa playing deep into the night in a nod to the neighborhood’s Cuban influences. Be sure to try some of their incredible cocktails — the tobacco-infused old fashioned is our favorite.
The live jazz performances are every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cubaocho Museum & Performing Arts Center
Cubaocho is truly a Miami gem. Part performing arts center, part art gallery, part event space, and part bar (featuring the largest selection of rums around), you will almost certainly have a good time no matter when you stop by. Make sure you walk around, check out the art, get a rum to sample, and take it to the middle courtyard to soak it all in.
Hoy Como Ayer
It’s a small space, but it pumps out huge tunes — especially on a Thursday night when Miami locals Spam Allstars belt out their Afro-Cuban beats. The dance floor is tiny, but you better believe that when that live music starts, every nook and cranny is filled with swaying hips and tapping feet. On other nights, musical legends from across Latin America play at this iconic spot, dubbed as the unofficial house of salsa by regulars. Brush up on your Spanish before coming, though – you’ll need it.
Los Pinarenos Fruteria
Not ready to visit Cuba? Then Los Pinarenos Fruteria is as close as you can get to a local Cuban market, with fresh juices, smoothies, veggies, tamales, and authentic Cuban coffee straight from abuela. The Hernandez family has run this oasis for more than 40 years. A visit is not complete without saying hola to Tuca, the owner’s pig kept out back.
Palace Cafe and Dairy
This place has great Cuban food, but what its known for is the creamy, cold, refreshing ice cream and batidos (Cuban milkshakes). It’s a little hole in the wall, but look behind the bars on the windows, and walk right up to la ventana to get yourself one of the best mamey milkshakes in town. Pop a squat on the benches outside and take in the deliciousness.
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.