Cuba in Miami
Less than a half-hour drive from Miami Beach, you’ll find this neighborhood, where joyous music, irresistible flavors and a festive spirit invite you to discover Cuban culture.
Text: SOLEDAD JACOBSON photos: MARK TOMARAS map: MANUEL CÓRDOVA @thechumbeques
1. La esquina de la fama
The music can be heard out on the sidewalk, encouraging passers-by to improvise a little salsa dancing, and several give in to the temptation to explore this restaurant-museum that warmly welcomes guests. Slogans like “El arte de la libertad” (The Art of Freedom) and “Yo amo a Cuba” (I Love Cuba) are emblazoned on the folk art and paintings adorning La Esquina de la Fama, and owner Mike Chevallier is proud to serve “the best mojito in the world: it’s twice the size of what you normally get, and it contains two secret house ingredients.” On one of the most famous corners on Calle Ocho, you can admire the first mural painted in tribute to the Latino community as you enjoy the music and cocktails.
1388 SW 8th Street
|La esquina de la fama|
2. Los Pinareños Frutería
The vibrant color and freshness of the mangos, tamarinds and coconuts in this small market are just part of the appeal. Head to the back patio to enjoy a refreshing batido (milkshake) – try the one with a shot of espresso. The atmosphere is filled with nostalgia and Cuban culture; in fact, many of the original plants were brought as seeds from Cuba by friends and family of the owners and are then cultivated locally. During the noon lull you can carefully discover all the products the market has to offer and learn the story of this hard-working family from Pinar del Río.
1334 SW 8th Street
3. Café Versailles
“The world’s most famous Cuban restaurant” is how Café Versailles describes itself and how locals see it. Cuban families and visitors from around the world stop in to enjoy some of the menu’s 100+ traditional dishes, like ropa vieja (shredded stewed beef) or bistec de palomilla (thin steaks marinated in garlic and lime). Don’t be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by local politicians: stopping at Café Versailles is a favorite way show an affinity with the Cuban community. Before leaving, go to la ventanita (the walk-up coffee window) and end your visit with a coffee and a slice of traditional guava pie, like the Cubans do.
3555 SW 8th Street
4. Maximo Gomez Park
Dominoes – the traditional game that brings together young and old alike back on the island – is also a staple in Little Havana. The dotted tiles provide the perfect excuse for older men and women to spend time together all week long in a unique space. The park’s founder, 92-year-old Rene Janero, is one of the ever-present aficionados who stop by to chat, play and share Cuban coffee with other players. Memories, anecdotes and political discussions make this spot a prime tourist attraction.
801 SW 15th Avenue
5. Paseo de la fama
A Latino take on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, celebrities from our region are honored with a star on the iconic Calle Ocho. The Paseo de la Fama begins at the Tower Theater and extends for two blocks, shining in the afternoon Miami sun, showcasing great Latin artists like Julio Iglesias, Thalia and Willy Chirino. The most popular star belongs to the unforgettable queen of salsa: Celia Cruz.
6. Tower Theater
The Art Deco architecture alone will make you stop to admire this historic theater, with its picturesque structure preserved since its inauguration in 1926. The marquee usually features Cuban films, and any English-language movies will have subtitles in Spanish. For many years, this theater was the first contact that Cuban families had with U.S. culture. Every year, it’s specially decorated to celebrate the Miami International Film Festival.
1508 SW 8th Street
7. Cuba Ocho
“The glamour of this space vindicates and preserves part of Cuba’s history prior to the revolution of 1959,” explains Roberto Ramos, owner and collector of all the works on display in this art gallery with a twist. Twenty years ago, Ramos left the island on a raft with 14 pieces of art and a mission to show the world “the real Cuba.” Celebrating the island’s culture on a daily basis with international book presentations, tango classes and jazz shows, Cuba Ocho is still going strong eight years after its inauguration. In addition to featuring one of the most significant collections of Cuban art in the world, Cuba Ocho also offers more than 460 types of rum.
1465 SW 8th Street Suite 106
8. Cultural Fridays
From 7:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on the last Friday of every month, Little Havana welcomes thousands of visitors to take to the streets and celebrate the richness of its culture. In Maximo Gomez Park, you’ll find stands selling beautiful Cuban folk art and paintings by local talent. Sip on a mojito while you enjoy a pleasant walk through the art galleries: it’s part of a highly recommended ritual for savoring an unforgettable evening on Calle Ocho. Music lovers and those looking to try their salsa moves will enjoy the gifted singers and live bands performing under the stars.