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Eat your way through Little Havana, Miami


What is a vacation without at least one tour discovering local treats from a professional foodie? One of my favorite ways to get to know a city is through its cuisine and since Miami is full of immigrants from all over the world this is especially great way to get to know the city as you literally can try so many different foods during your trip to the city. This place is a true culture overload and I was more than ready to discover it all. Miami can get a bit of a bad rap, but like most cities that I hear many people say is ‘not their thing’ – you would be surprised at just how much depth their really is if you take the time to do a little digging. Example #1, this area. 

I really wanted to discover the place that is Little Havana {otherwise known as the colorful Calle Ocho, between 12th and 27th Avenues}, since who knows when I can visit Cuba in real life. An area populated by many Cuban immigrants which probably has shifted a little now due to gentrification here you can immediately sense the change in air with music softly drifting into the streets, men rolling cigars and playing dominoes and small windows selling cafecitos {cuban coffee, similar to espresso} at every corner. They have their own ‘avenue of the stars’ {Paseo de las Estrellas} with celebrities like Gloria Estefan embalazened in the cement, the streets are also lined with colorful murals.  

We got the chance to tag along on a food tour with Miami culinary tours to discover this area, one bite at a time which is absolutely one of the highlights of our vacation in Miami. After a journey involving a bus, the metromover and another bus, we finally arrived at the Agustin Gainza Arts Gallery to meet our friendly guide, Mirka. She had a ton of energy and got us all excited to try some Cuban delights, I especially was ready to try the famous Cuban sandwhich which many people told me was a must-try in Miami.

Beautiful stained glass featured at the Agustin Gainza Arts Gallery

Our first stop was at the El Pub Restaurant on the 1548 SW 8th street to snack on freshly made empanadas, spiced-chicken filled plantain shells and the famous ‘cafecitos’ – strong Cuban coffee that I now adore. The place itself was kitschy-cute with some pretty underwhelming bathrooms, but the food was great, that empanada is calling my name all the way here in Italy.

Another stop that was burned in my memory along this tour was for the cuban sandwich ( heavy grilled panino stuffed with ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard) at El Exquisito at 1510 SW 8th street. Unassuming locale with some pretty tasty sandwiches that will make anyone come back for more, plus their lunch specials were dirt cheap.

We also stopped by a bakery to indulge a traditional pastry stuffed with guava which was Nico’s favorite and one of mine too. According to Mirka, Cuban mothers would often bring these snacks to school classrooms instead of the traditional ‘cupcakes’ and I can understand why, flaky and simple, I sort of wanted to grab the entire tray from Mirka’s hands and hide in a room somewhere to finish them off myself. Sharing is overrated

What’s a food tour without a trip to a fruit & veggie market?

Well sure enough we stopped by one too, the Los Pinarenos Fruteria further down on 8th street. A colorful place where we indulged in some fresh sugar cane juice {awesome} and I saw a pig on a rope. No he was not meant for a porchetta sandwich but instead was the shop owner’s pet.

One of my favorite stops along the tour was the Cubaocho Art Center, a cool place touting itself as having one of the largest rum collections in the world, live music, beautiful artwork and an inner courtyard that an Italian would be proud of. The day we were there a domino competition was already heating up and after the tour was over we stopped by again for a 10$ mojito.

Thoughts about the tour

Mirka, our guide, did such a wonderful job getting us excited about trying these different foods, she would give Italian tour guides a run for their money in her impeccable customer service and fun attitude. We had a great time chatting with the other tour members and I appreciated the fact that the tour wasn’t just about food but also focused heavily on the culture and various extra stops along the way {cuban cigar shop, art gallery & more}. You definitely got a feel of this place with the various backstories that I don’t think would have been the same just coming along and snapping photos.

The ‘little havana food tour gang’

About the tour (additional info & booking here) Price is $59 per person, 5-6 food stops with a total duration of around 2 hours {total distance around 8 short city blocks}.

Must-sees in Little Havana

  • Tower Theatre on 8th street [art-deco cool and one of the first places in Miami showcasing films subtitled in Spanish}.
  • Gomez Park (Domino Park), Calle Ocho and 15th Ave. [Pictured above] cool place where men gather to play dominoes and basically, hang out.
  • Azucar Ice Cream Company – cuban ice cream is awesome, my favorite was the Miami-only Abuela Maria.

*Additional tip! I highly recommend visiting Little Havana the last Friday of each month during Viernes Culturales {cultural Friday} when the whole area turns into a street party with music, food, dancing and more. I’ve heard its a great time and I wish we would have gotten to experience this for ourselves.

*Me and my partner were guests of Miami Culinary tours but trust that this post 100% reflects my personal opinion and thoughts of the tour. 

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9 Comment

  1. bakeritalia
    22.04.2014 at 14:27

    Miami looks better than I thought. Fantastic food scene…$10 mojito!? I’m there 🙂

    1. GirlinFlorence
      22.04.2014 at 14:35

      that’s what I’m saying, a place that I didn’t even consider visiting is now got a place in my heart. Culture, awesome beaches, good food – its on!

  2. kirstenandmo
    23.04.2014 at 3:22

    Awesome Post! I hope to do a US road trip later this year and Miami was on my “maybe” list, but you may have just pushed me over the edge! Love hearing about all the yummy food 🙂 thanks!

    1. GirlinFlorence
      23.04.2014 at 9:30

      good choice! It was definitely one of those places that I thought.. ok I don’t REALLY need to visit but my boyfriend really wanted to go. It was awesome to try a ton of different foods (not just cuban but peruvian ceviche, haitian, and more.. ). Plus drinks on the beach or along the water daily. Its awesome!

      1. kirstenandmo
        23.04.2014 at 11:20

        Sounds like heaven 🙂
        Did you stop in the Keys or Key West too? I lived there when I was very little but haven’t been back in years and years. I’m sure it’s changed a lot by now, but if you haven’t been, and you get a chance, there is some yummy food down there too!

        1. GirlinFlorence
          23.04.2014 at 11:22

          We went to Key West for a day during our trip and wow, it was awesome. As you said, great food (we even stopped at a food truck) and chill vibe, post to come!

          1. kirstenandmo
            23.04.2014 at 11:23

            Oh awesome! Can’t wait to hear about it 🙂

  3. Beatriz B.
    24.04.2014 at 14:50

    Being from Miami (and Cuban-American) I’m so glad you got to experience some of the “real” Miami and the Cuban cuisine. So many tourists never leave the Miami Beach/Downtown area and miss out on one of the most unique things about the city!

    Also, I’ve been following your blog for about a year now, ever since my husband and I found out we were moving to Rome, and it’s been a great resource for us! We’ll be in Florence in a couple of months so I was wondering if you could recommend us some good local restaurants?

    Hope you enjoyed Miami!

    1. GirlinFlorence
      24.04.2014 at 17:48

      Thanks Beatriz! I really enjoyed discovering the other areas of Miami besides South Beach, I wish we would have more days… I can absolutely help you on your quest for good restaurants in Florence, this post will tell you ALL you need to know

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