MIAReview

photo credit: Tasty Planet

Versailles  image
6.9

Versailles

CubanSandwiches

Little Havana

$$$$Perfect For:Classic Establishment

Included In

It doesn’t feel right to say this, but Versailles isn’t a great Cuban restaurant anymore. 

And that’s a shame because for the Cuban community, it’s more than just a restaurant. It’s a beacon of hope and a symbol for the island’s exiles—a giant green and white sign that once implied, You, too, can make it in The United States. Some of us owe our very lives to it. The blasphemous words you’re reading right now wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Versailles—because this writer’s Cuban parents met there. And yet, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s far from the best Cuban restaurant in Miami today. 

The food is cold. There’s a line of sunburnt tourists waiting outside for watery black beans. The mojo, a Cuban staple that should make you sweat garlic for days, tastes like thin vegetable oil. And the mariquitas it comes with are stale, stuck together, and shaped like the droopy sad face you’ll make when you eat them. The remaining two things we still love about Versailles are actually outside the restaurant: the fabulous Versailles Bakery next door and the ventanita—where heated political arguments are fueled by coladas and the empanadas are crispy.

Versailles  image

photo credit: Courtesy Tasty Planet

But Versailles the restaurant is now just another stop for those red double-decker buses. They carry tourists itching for a glimpse of Miami after the Cuban Revolution. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, Versailles was this city’s original see-and-be-seen restaurant for Cuban exiles. It became a place to celebrate your success in this new country and eat familiar food—a comforting connection to the homeland many would never see again. They didn’t mind that Versailles the restaurant, with its green chairs, giant mirrors, and hexagon-tiled floors, was the furthest thing from Versailles the palace. This city gave them an opportunity to thrive and build a flourishing society—and Versailles’ success was a living example of that.

Versailles  image

photo credit: Tasty Planet

Versailles  image

photo credit: Tasty Planet

But many who ate here don’t anymore. While some still do because it’s laced with nostalgia. They remember how Versailles made them feel and what the food used to taste like—they might as well be eating pleasant memories. 

Versailles no longer has to try. It just has to exist. And so it serves grey croquetas and small portions of cold vaca frita next to warm mojitos that taste like Country Time lemonade. It’s a landmark now—just like the real Versailles—where you go and marvel at the ballrooms, imagining yourself there during its heyday. This is what our Versailles has been reduced to, ironically living up to its name in a way it never intended. 

All food tells a story of migration, oppression, and celebration. Once upon a time, Versailles did that for an entire diaspora. We hope it will again. But for now, we’ll stick to the ventanita and eat delicious pastelitos from their bakery. Or we can just go across the street to La Carreta, a very different Cuban restaurant where the vaca frita is charred and juicy, the mojitos are cold and—in a paradox that can only be written by someone criticizing the very reason they’re alive—is owned and operated by the same group that owns and operates Versailles. 

So, clearly, it’s possible. 

Food Rundown

Versailles  image

photo credit: Tasty Planet

Elena Ruz

Here’s something that thankfully hasn’t changed: Versailles’ elena ruz. Their version is the best in Miami for one reason: the ratio. Held together with media noche bread, it’s the perfect amount of creamy, salty, and sweet in every bite.

Moros

These beans and rice get along as well as moros and cristianos did during the Crusades. And they’re about as dry as this historically accurate joke.

Vaca Frita

Swimming in Miami’s ocean during the summer is great. It’s slightly warm, and every once in a while you get that cold rush along your body from a random current. That’s what eating this vaca frita is like. It’s warm until you fork a bone-cold bite. And the crispy bits we look forward to in a proper vaca frita are few and far between.

Bistec Empanizado

This bistec empanizado is hard to swallow. The breaded steak is rubbery and under-seasoned. And all you taste is the breading that falls off the steak anyway.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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