The Best Restaurants In Little Havana   guide image


The Best Restaurants In Little Havana

Our 19 favorite places to eat in and around Little Havana.

We all know you’ll find amazing Cuban food in Little Havana. But the neighborhood is also big and diverse and extends way beyond the part of Calle Ocho where the sidewalks are permanently clogged with tourists who can’t figure out how to light their cigars. The places on this guide will definitely steer you towards some of the best Cuban food in the city (and specifically the best Cuban sandwich in Miami), but they also include great Thai, incredible Mexican food, classic Salvadoran, and a lot more.


Cafe La Trova

A restaurant that feels like a party isn’t usually the kind of place we want to eat at, but Cafe la Trova is the best spot in Miami to have a big, loud, and fun dinner that actually tastes good. You should come to this very large Cuban restaurant if you have anything even remotely important to celebrate. There will be live (and loud) music, perfect daiquiris, and some excellent empanadas. And having found all that under one roof seems like reason enough to celebrate.

We weren’t always this excited about Cuban sandwiches, especially after years of eating pretty average versions with cold cheese and pitifully thin ham. But then Sanguich de Miami came along with their excellent Cubano and now we think the city of Miami’s official slogan should just be a picture of this thing. This Calle Ocho shop nails every aspect of the Cuban sandwich. We would tell you to come here if it was the only thing they sold, but they also make other great sandwiches you should try eventually—especially the self-titled Sanguich de Miami, which is a delicious mash-up of a BLT, turkey sandwich, and a Cubano. Just know that lines can be long during tourist season.

Far Out Pizza is a slice shop in the epicenter of Calle Ocho that makes pizza we thoroughly enjoy—but the best things here aren’t actually pizza. That honor goes to Far Out’s sandwiches, a handful of thick options that range from a saucy eggplant parm to the delicious (and lawyer-approved) riff on a Publix sub they call the “public sub.” Far Out also happens to be next door to (and run by the same team as) Union Beer Store, one of our favorite bars in Miami. So you can spend a Saturday night carrying pepperoni pizza and Italian subs back and forth between the two like a hardworking ant. 

Taqueria Viva Mexico is a great casual Mexican spot on Calle Ocho. The menu is pretty straightforward, with Mexican dishes like sopes, gorditas, and some of Miami's best tacos. Stay away from the more common taco variations like carne asada or al pastor (which are just alright) and instead go for the less common (at least in Miami) versions like oreja, lengua, and tripe, which this place excels at. Taqueria works great for a casual meal, but the drinks are also tasty and affordable, so keep it in mind for a fun dinner before a night out. 

Caña Brava is a fritanga that feels a bit more formal than the other fritangas we’ve been to in Miami. It has a big, wood-accented dining room with Nicaraguan landmarks etched into the mirrored ceiling. They serve solid staples—carne asada, gallo pinto, and queso frito—but the real attraction is the huge variety of dishes you may not see at other fritangas, like achiote-rubbed pork cutlets, white rice, and rich Nicaraguan refried beans, or a bowl of Indio Viejo. They even have a selection of homemade sweets, including buñuelos—fried dough balls enriched with cheese and crema that are drowned in a caramel syrup.

Coney Burger is a sidewalk restaurant in Little Havana serving a menu heavy on American nostalgia with burgers, chili dogs, soft serve, and mac and cheese. What makes it different from your average burger stand is that—in addition to the usual meat versions—there are plant-based variations of everything on the menu. It’s all very good too, so this is a great option if you’re with a mixed group of vegans and non-vegans. If you’re not going for something plant-based, get the champ burger. The thick wagyu patty, the main character of the burger, is delicious and pairs great with the yuzu mayo they put on it. The mac and cheese with plant-based pepperoni crumbles is our favorite vegan option.

We usually go to La Camaronera for the pan con minuta. It’s a butterflied snapper filet that’s lightly fried and arranged in sandwich form with Cuban bread, onions, ketchup, and tartar sauce. The thought of anyone going their entire life without eating one is genuinely sad, so please visit this casual seafood spot and order this. And then come back to try the fried shrimp, conch, and lobster. This place also functions as a seafood market, so you can buy your own snappers and spend sleepless nights trying to recreate the pan con minuta at home.

La Michoacana offers some of the best paletas in town. And we’re not talking about the ones stuffed with Nutella and bruleed with a miniature flame-thrower. La Michoacana serves up traditional Mexican-style popsicles in water-based (lighter) and milk-based (richer) options—and La Michoacana has a lot of options. The elote paleta, a popsicle made with milk and sweet corn, is our personal favorite. They also have pantry items and a limited selection of tacos and tortas. There are a few tables inside, but it's mostly to-go.

Pinolandia is one of Miami’s most iconic fritangas. Customers line up in front of a cafeteria-style steam counter and pick the items they want. There are a few picnic-style tables in a paved courtyard in front of the restaurant, but it’s also perfectly acceptable to tear into your carne asada while hunched over the hood of your car (there’s an ample parking lot next door exclusively for customers). That carne asada is the thing to get here, and it has one of the tastiest marinades we’ve had at a fritanga. Make sure to visit the adjacent general store to pick up a traditional homemade drink like tamarind with chia seeds.

Lung Yai can get slammed on busy weekend nights. But at least you can order a beer while you wait on the sidewalk. Eating here is a bit of a mission because the tiny Thai restaurant doesn’t take reservations and only allows you to order once. But for your troubles, you’ll get some really solid Thai food (in the neighborhood where you'd least expect it). They've got staples like khao soi, beautifully fried chicken wings, and more curries and noodle dishes.

La Carreta is Versailles’ less famous sister restaurant—but the food is actually much better here. And while Versailles has a big-city feel, La Carreta is more rural. The ceiling is lined with straw hatching, the servers wear guayaberas, and it’s more casual. The place is huge—and so are the portions. The vaca frita is shredded into long delicious strips, and the maduros are crunchy around the edges. The mariquitas are crisp, and the mojo is so strong, it pricks the tip of your tongue. So next time someone visiting Miami insists on going to Versailles, take them to the ventanita for a colada and then cross the street to eat at La Carreta. 

You’ll find some of the best casual Mexican food in Miami at this spot on Calle Ocho, where piñatas hang from the ceiling and there’s almost always a crowd. They have solid tacos, but there are also more exciting things on the menu—like the gorditas, which you should order with pork. There’s plenty more on the incredibly large menu, and you should keep coming back until you’ve tried the bulk of it. Don't forget to check out the Mexican bakery in the back before you leave.

Palace Cafe & Dairy is reminiscent of the old-school Dairy Queens with concrete tables outside, except that Palace Cafe serves Cuban and Dominican food, too. Located right down the street from where the Marlins play, this is a great place to grab a traditional Dominican breakfast of mangu (mashed plantains) with fried salami and eggs (which they serve all day) or a proper Cuban sandwich. But we love the old-school, nostalgic ice cream here even more. You can enjoy a scoop of unnaturally green pistachio ice cream or Barbie Dream House pink strawberry ice cream. Or you can share a banana split with friends on one of those tiled concrete tables under Palace’s awning.

There are almost as many places in Miami with fusion menus as there are with banana leaf wallpaper, but few of them pull it off as well as Doce Provisions. This mostly Cuban restaurant just off Calle Ocho does dishes like shrimp po’boy tacos and fried chicken just as good as their more straightforward dishes—like the great Cuban sandwich or the arroz imperial, a skillet of rice and chicken thigh underneath a hot layer of cheese you should really let cool off before you put in your mouth. Whatever you decide to order, eat it on Doce’s back patio, which is a lovely little alley with string lights, a mural, and some vegetation.

As the name implies, this incredibly bright Calle Ocho diner is home to the best fritas in Miami. They have eight versions of the Cuban hamburger here, which come with everything from a fried egg to plantains and fried cheese. But we prefer to keep it simple with the original: spiced meat, onions, a Cuban bun, and enough potato sticks to create a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower.

El Salvador is famous for pupusas, and El Atlacatl serves some of Miami’s best. The pupusas here have impossibly thin crusts of crisp nixtamalized corn masa and rich fillings inside. The loroco and cheese, a meatless option, is stuffed with loroco flower buds that taste like mild asparagus. The meatier chicharrón option features fried pork belly that gets braised in a tangy tomato-based sauce. Besides the great pupusas, the ambiance makes it an ideal locale for a romantic dinner or family meal. It serves country glam rancher-strikes-it-rich realness with chandeliers, royal blue accent walls, and flat-screen TVs in the hacienda-like space.

Ahi Sushi is right on the busiest part of Calle Ocho and only about the size of a very nice walk-in closet. The sushi counter can seat about six to eight comfortably, and their small a la carte menu has really good rolls, nigiri, and sashimi. The sashimi and nigiri are our favorite parts of the menu, and you should ask if the uni is available too. They also do one of Miami's best omakase dinners. Also, this place is BYOB, which you can very easily make happen by crossing the street and going to Union Beer Store.

Fatair Al Basha is right on the eastern tip of Calle Ocho where Brickell turns into Little Havana. It’s not a spot with a lot of foot traffic, but this little Lebanese market is worth pulling over for if you’re even remotely in the mood for shawarma, shish kebabs, falafel, or any of the other Middle Eastern dishes they do really well. We like the kibbe platter (which you should get with a side of hummus and Lebanese rice), but they also do a great “Lebanese pizza” sprinkled with zaatar and vegetables for under $5.

Though El Mago de las Fritas is kind of the archrival to El Rey de las Fritas, we believe this town is certainly big enough for two frita slingers. And while we prefer El Rey’s versions (primarily thanks to their wonderfully excessive use of potato sticks), you should still check out El Mago to decide which version you side with. Plus, El Mago does have El Rey beat when it comes to flan, and it’s worth coming here just for that alone.

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photo credit: Emily Schindler

The Best Restaurants In Little Havana   guide image