With worldly sophisticates and well-heeled jet-setters flocking to the warm climes of Miami, Florida, for its sunny weather and the city’s white-hot culture scene, it’s undeniable that the Magic City is one of America’s most international destinations.
And the country this bayside paradise is most synonymous with is, undoubtedly, the island nation of Cuba. At just a little over 100 miles south of Florida’s most southern tip, the echoes of this diverse — and until recently mysterious — island nation reverberate from the party scene in South Beach to the brand new luxury condos popping up along the water and in must-live neighborhoods like Brickell and Wyndham to — no surprise — Little Havana, the heart of the Cuban diaspora.
In Miami you can sense this energy, much like the rhythm of rumba, in the fashion, the architecture, and, especially, the food. Yes, Miami might be part of the United States, but its tastes buds owe much to the Caribbean isle known as the Pearl of the Antilles.
Want to indulge in some of these mouthwatering delights? Take a trip to the land of playas and papayas without hopping on a plane. These are our picks for the best Cuban restaurants in Miami.
Time Out calls this singular spot “one of the few Cuban restaurants in Miami that people still get dressed up for.” And it’s easy to see why: this institution offers guest a refined setting and regional Cuban food that’s beyond compare. As an appetizer, the tamale en hoja is a revelation. Different from a traditional Mexican tamal you may have had, these are not stuffed, rather meat and other tropical delights are incorporated into delicious corn masa. For a main course try the Mariquitas Harry’s. “Mariquitas” means ladybug in Spanish — don’t worry, the mariquitas in this dish are the plantain chips that serve as a bed for the expertly cooked beef and cheese that top it. Just remember, there are no reservations, so get there early.
Want some of the most authentic Cuban cuisine you can get north of Cienfuegos? Puerto Sagua might be the place for you. Be forewarned, it has a throwback style replete with throwback service. Sure, it’s not the hippest-looking destination, but the hippest people in Miami flock to this iconic restaurant in the heart of South Beach for a big meal before hitting the clubs or an apres dancing dinner. Patrons love the facsimiles of a bygone Cuba that decorate the walls of this hallowed food-centric institution. And in-the-know foodies and tourists alike can’t get enough of some of Puerto Sagua’s famous dishes. The fanbase is fervent, and for a good reason. Those who are willing to experience the sometimes large crowds will be rewarded handsomely.
Yes — it’s the same Estefans you’re thinking of. Musical superstar Gloria and her mega-producer husband opened Estefan Kitchen to celebrate the splendor of Cuban cuisine. It’s not just a mere vanity project, they’ve been running restaurants for almost 20 years. And this upscale destination serves up some of the best Cuban food in the city, including some dishes from Gloria’s grandmother. The power couple’s menu goes from small plates to how-can-I-eat-more brunches. Dine in a plush setting while you enjoy some authentic Cuban dishes like the vaca frita (fried beef) with a luxurious dollop of sweet yet tart guava cream.