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Tips on Miami Cuban and Ethnic Places

Tips on Miami Cuban and Ethnic Places
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  • Tips on Miami Cuban and Ethnic Places

    Post #1 - November 28th, 2004, 9:58 am
    Post #1 - November 28th, 2004, 9:58 am Post #1 - November 28th, 2004, 9:58 am
    I am going to be down in Miami around Christmas, and wondered if anyone had any tips on food places there
  • Post #2 - November 29th, 2004, 1:46 am
    Post #2 - November 29th, 2004, 1:46 am Post #2 - November 29th, 2004, 1:46 am
    check my answer to s fla re: "tap tap". unlike anywhere you've ever been.
    "In pursuit of joys untasted"
    from Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata
  • Post #3 - November 29th, 2004, 7:46 pm
    Post #3 - November 29th, 2004, 7:46 pm Post #3 - November 29th, 2004, 7:46 pm

    Any specific types of cuisine you're looking for? Miami pretty much caters to most tastes across the board, with varying degrees of success and cost, naturally. I have to second the Tap Tap recommendation. Wonderful, complex, wholly satisfying Haitian cuisine. A good corollary to Haitian cuisine might be that it is to Caribbean what Vietnamese is to SE Asian - both represent the native tastes and ingredients, but have adopted and incorporated many subtle touches from the French colonial experience. Of course, Cuban, Central/South American and other Latino cuisines are to be found everywhere, with some run of the mill and some really, really stellar. And, for my money, some of the best pizza anywhere in the States is to be found on South Beach. Let us know what you have a taste for, and I'll do my best to fill you in.

  • Post #4 - November 29th, 2004, 9:31 pm
    Post #4 - November 29th, 2004, 9:31 pm Post #4 - November 29th, 2004, 9:31 pm
    thanks hungryrabbi. i was looking for good ethnic food. Like Cuban food, etc. I hear that they have some good Cuban places
  • Post #5 - December 1st, 2004, 4:08 pm
    Post #5 - December 1st, 2004, 4:08 pm Post #5 - December 1st, 2004, 4:08 pm

    I know some will disagree with me here, but to my tastes, the simple, almost street-food level of Cuban cuisine is the best. There have been several attempts in Miami (and elsewhere) to create a "nuevo Latino" cuisine, which blends contemporary technique with old ingredients or updates old favorites with nouveau touches (much like the Fog City Diner inspired the whole nouveau comfort/diner food trend). For my money, though, the numerous old school, Cuban-American diners and lunch counters which dot greater Dade county offer great representations of traditional Cuban fare at usually ridiculously low prices. I'm talking ropa vieja, picadillo, bistec milanesa, and of course the humble cuban sandwich or, even better, the frita (spiced small hamburger served on a cuban bread like bun with potato sticks, lettuce and tomato, which is hard to find outside of Miami). These sandwiches or dishes are best enjoyed with Materva (the peculiar tasting, Mate-infused soft drink) or a latin American beer such as Presidente. Some suggestions (I'll get the addresses if you want):

    Versailles (huge Cuban diner which offers every permutation of Cuban American cuisine, open late. Some say it's tacky (it is) and that it's fallen on quality, but I was there about a year ago and thought it was great. It's right in the heart of residential Little Havana, too (a little west of the rough part of the 'hood). Masas de puerco, bistec, or any of the specials in the 20 page menu are great.

    Las Palmas or La Palma; I forget - there are both restaurants in Miami, though. The one I mean is way out west, like calle ocho (sw 8th street) and maybe 60th avenue. The food here always seemed to be fresher, bigger, and better than the run of the mill cafeteria or sandwich shop. The ladies who run the place are great, too - classic Cuban grandmother types. You can get well fed for very little here (plantain chips, sandwich or main dish, and batido for under 9 bucks with tax)

    I'll check on the addresses of these places and come up with some more for you soon.

  • Post #6 - December 1st, 2004, 7:19 pm
    Post #6 - December 1st, 2004, 7:19 pm Post #6 - December 1st, 2004, 7:19 pm

    Here are the addresses of the places I just mentioned, along with a couple of others you might want to try for good Cuban food. What part of Miami are you going to be in? Wherever you are, good signs to look out for are the ubiquitous window service counters, which should have a small group of older men standing around it gabbing about whatever, smoking cigars, and drinking shot after shot of syrupy espresso (coladas). The window counter will have a large cooler of ice water next to it with paper cups and you should be able to get a limited amount of snacks (empanadas, medianoches) along with coffee. These are usually good signs of things awaiting you on the menu in the sit-down part of the restaurant. Anyway, the info:

    Versailles: 3555 Sw 8th St. (305) 444-0240
    La Palma: 6091 Sw 8th St. (305) 261-1113
    Sergio's: 9330 Sw 40th St (Bird Road) (305) 552-9626 (other locations in the city, including one in the Gables, on Coral Way, 22nd St.)
    Puerto Sagua: 700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach (305) 673-1115
    There is also a 24 hour Cuban place further up Collins, at maybe 15th-16th street, across from the Sagamore Hotel, that is very good. All the standbys (bistec in various guises, sandwiches, picadillo, lechon, etc..) done really well.
    If you want to try the more upscale Cuban, the Estefans opened up Larios on the beach (820 Ocean Drive) which is not too fancy, just a bit more refined in style and service. It's actually really good, and convenient if you're on the beach.
    Others have raved about the Latin American Cafeteria in the Gables, though I haven't tried it myself. It's at 2940 Coral Way (Sw 22nd St.) and supposed to have the definitive Cuban sandwich.
    Ahh! The 24 hour Cuban place on the beach is El Viajante Segundo, 1676 Collins Ave. Nice post-club or whatever spot to chill and eat.
    The truly chi-chi Cuban place on the beach I was thinking of is Yuca, on Lincoln Road. Check out some reviews - I've only tried a piece of someone else's food from there once, but it was quite good (a piece of tuna done up in mojo and plantains)
    A spot that's loved by locals (especially my friend's parents, both native Cubans) is Islas Canarias, 285 NW 27th Ave. Supposed to be the real deal as far as authenticity, and a lot of the dishes go past the usual fare into real country Cuban.
    For my money, though, La Palma is my favorite. Unpretentious, basic place, but I've never been disappointed by anything there. It's just a friendly, homey diner with really delicious, homestyle Cuban food and nice people. I don't think you'll go wrong at any of the places I've mentioned, though, or at dozens more in the city. Ask around, look for the telltale signs I've discussed, and you'll be feasting on vaca frita so good you'll want to change your religion. Let us know how everything goes. Buen provecho!

  • Post #7 - December 1st, 2004, 7:53 pm
    Post #7 - December 1st, 2004, 7:53 pm Post #7 - December 1st, 2004, 7:53 pm
    Rebbe, I can't disagree or add much to your advice except to note that Versaille should be visited at least once, especially if you have some obscure Cuban dish you have never tried. It's not great, as has been documented, however.

    I went to Yuca (young upwardly mobile Cuban American or some such drivel) ten years ago when it was new. Very good, but not much more than what you might get at a loncheria. The real travesty is Victors, which is in Manhattan and also, I believe, Miami. They give it away on Letterman. This *is* cafeteria food, but at high-end prices. And they refused to give me chicharon with my lechon. They toss it, the waiter told me. That's all you need to know.

    The La Carreta in the airport has my favorite airport food.

    Look at the website for more ideas.
  • Post #8 - December 2nd, 2004, 1:04 am
    Post #8 - December 2nd, 2004, 1:04 am Post #8 - December 2nd, 2004, 1:04 am

    Yeah, I know, I know... Versailles, as I mentioned, is the height of Cuban-American OTT tacky, but that's precisely one of the reasons why an out of towner should visit. And the food, though never mind-blowing, has always been consistently solid and satisfying, especially the desserts, coffee, and snacks. In fact, I would recommend going to Versailles just to have a sampling of appetizers, side dishes, and dessert and coffee, especially cause the main dishes are Flintstone-sized ridiculous. I mean, the bistec encebollado is enough beef for a month for the average person. If you're not going to share your main course, Versailles would be great to sample a sandwich, some empanadas, plantain chips (with the requisite garlic butter) and some arroz con leche, flan, and espresso to finish off. Damn, I must be hungry. You're right about La Carreta in the airport - surprisingly good!! As good as the one in the city, which might make for the best airport terminal food in the States (though not in the world - that distinction is reserved for the D&E coffee and sandwich counter one comes across upon disembarking at the international terminal in Schiphol, Holland. Nothing like getting off a 9 hour flight to be able to have a smoke, a world-class ham and gouda sandwich, and the BEST GODDAMN CUP OF COFFEE EVER). Don't know about Victor's, but from what you say, sounds like it should be avoided. A place that makes lechon but THROWS AWAY the skin???? I mean, that's the flavor. Songs have been written and poems recited about Chicharrones, for Christ's sake. Anyway, feel free to add to or even dispute my picks. I'll stick with La Palma whenever I'm in Miami for my fix of ... well, whatever the abuelitas wanna make me.

    Oh! One more to add to the list - Night and Day, a 24 hour counter-only place near the airport. It used to be open air, but they have put in glass and doors within the last few years. A great place to observe every stratum of human existence in Miami, from cabbies to junkies to businessmen to... whatever. Possibly the best pan con tortilla (I get mine with papa y jamon) in the city.

  • Post #9 - December 7th, 2004, 12:53 pm
    Post #9 - December 7th, 2004, 12:53 pm Post #9 - December 7th, 2004, 12:53 pm
    Ditto to Jeff and Rebbi on Versailles - you gotta go because it is a shirne, but there are much better places to get Cuban food. For many years, Versailles was my reference point for Cuban cuisine, and I did not think I liked it at all. But then my horizons expanded and, amazingly, I found there is some great food.

    But my meals at Versailles have always been just okay.
    Feeling (south) loopy