On the main drag of Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street if you please), you can take in a foreign film at the iconic Tower with your squeeze, taste some tropical flavors at Azucar Ice Cream with your team, or dance the night away at Ball & Chain, and let your booty go insane. Locals and visitors alike can experience the real
Miami’s beating heart, in Little Havana where all good times start. Instead of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop, check out our Jacober Creative’s rico y sabroso
Cafe La Trova
971 SW 8th Street
We have a total soft spot for Miami’s home-girl chef extraordinaire Michelle Bernstein. When we heard she was teaming up with her longtime friend and famous bartender Julio Cabrera to open a spot in the heart of Little Havana, we got excited (and hungry!). Cafe La Trova and its “back room” 305 Bar totally deliver. Think classic Cuba in the front, Latin ‘80s ambience in the back. Both are filled with sharply dressed bartenders, guayabera-clad musicians and a vibrantly diverse Miami crowd. Mambo anyone?
El Nuevo Siglo Supermaket
1305 SW 8th Street
This would not be a solid insider’s guide to Little Havana without mentioning this special eatery tucked inside a supermarket that draws large numbers of locals (and thankfully few tourists). Located just across the street from the Bay of Pigs monument, this old school cafeteria-style restaurant offers the real deal in terms of Cuban food. It’s the best place to quickly grab a “no fuss no muss" authentic island bite, the menus are in Spanish and English (for the gringos), and it’s a surprisingly intimate hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed. Final note: the bakery in the back is also the bomb.
Taquerias El Mexicano & Los Altos
521 SW 8th Street
Taquerias El Mexicano is that spot on Calle Ocho that made us scratch our heads for a bit. Mexican? Here? But then we ate their delicious, home-cooked style fare and were hooked! A go-to spot in the neighborhood for food that feels muy auténtico
, with their brightly lit technicolor street decor, features floor-to-ceiling Mexican-themed designs and Los Altos, the new second-story cocktail lounge and bar above the restaurant (be forewarned – no shorts allowed – we should know). Order a drink, and enjoy cocktails that are intricate concoctions made with tequila or mezcal, fresh fruits, veggies, and spices. ¡Salud!
Azucar Ice Cream
1503 SW 8th Street
Family-owned Azucar is Little Havana’s first artisanal ice cream shop. They serve up sweet scoops of ice cream and sorbet made from high-quality ingredients. Everything is locally sourced from neighborhood fruit stands and farms run by Florida growers in the Redlands (viva los locals!). The Latin-inspired flavors highlight fruits like mamey, guava or sweet plantain but really you can’t go wrong. The cult favorite is the Abuela Maria – vanilla ice cream with ruby red guava, rich cream cheese and crispy, crunchy Maria cookies (diet food this is not). When we’re in the mood for something lighter, we order the seasonal Mamacita, a mix of refreshing orange blossom and creamy almond.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas
1731 SW 8th Street
This tiny place is obviously not Cuban or anything close to that, but it’s been hugely popular since the minute it opened its doors. With space for just a handful of people, Lung Yai serves authentic Thai cuisine, including coconut curries, soups and salads. Do like we do and cozy up to the bar to watch the chefs work while slurping on dishes like khao soi and palo moo (roasted pork in a sweet and savory broth over rice), along with staples like pad thai and massaman curry. Order a little of everything, every dish on the menu is $15 or less, which means you can go to town without doing too much damage. And hello, leftovers?
La Casa de los Trucos
1343 SW 8th Street
The House of Costumes (for you Spanish-challenged) is called “the best costume shop in Miami” for a reason. Around for 46 years, this mom and pop shop is small but packed – like dynamite. Don't fret, everything is expertly cataloged in the maze-like display of costumes, accessories, novelty goods, party decorations, and even pranks. Whether you need a costume mid-December, a disguise for a date, or a whoopee cushion for your little cousin (or for the office), La Casa de Los Trucos covers it all. And if you can't find the exact item you’re looking for (like M’s Boy Toy Belt), ask – they have costume specialists for each section of the store. Pro tip: do not come during Halloween, the line is out the door.
541 SW 12th Avenue
Locally sourced and "crafted with love", Doce Provisions (“12 Provisions,” named for the avenue on which it sits) is a low-key spot for Latin bites and craft beer. It’s got a hidden patio in the back that boasts a dash of tropical flair. Order a take on a classic churrasco
or keep it light with charred salmon – the menu is a fusion of Calle Ocho flavors with a dollop of culinary surprises. We just love that frisée comes with chorizo
vinaigrette and mac and cheese comes with a splash of Japanese togarashi spice. The waffles are scene stealers! Order a beer and clear your schedule, this is a place where the hustle of Miami melts away. It’s easy, it’s breezy, they’ve got you covered, girl. Simply hang for a while.
Ball & Chain
1513 SW 8th Street
It’s so overly touristy now it almost didn’t make the cut. But if you don’t mind pushing through a bevy of bachelorette babes and beefy Cuban daddies, it’s actually quite fun. An a special nightclub from the 1930s to the 1950s with a colorful history (celebrities such as Chet Baker and Billie Holiday used to grace the stage), Ball & Chain has reemerged over the past few years as a hip and happening live-music venue. It’s got Cuban-style food and a cocktail menu deemed one of the best in town. If you can deal with the inevitable overcrowding, wear your dancing shoes and get ready to salsa! All night long! Parti', karamu', fiesta, forever!
801 SW 15th Avenue
Maximo Gomez Park is a Little Havana landmark, where older Cubans come all day to play a classic game of dominoes among friends, share a coffee and maybe smoke a cigarro
. But don’t think of this as a lazy chill-out kind of thing – these folks can get fierce (and competitive)! The City over the years has added domino-inspired tiles embedded in the walkways, and benches to encourage this as a spectator sport. Let those spotted tiles take you back to another time and place, or get a first taste of this popular Cuban pursuit. Ganar o perder
, it’s all in good fun.
3555 SW 8th Street
We can’t mention Little Havana without a shout-out to this uber-Cuban spot, which some could argue is the most famous landmark of a restaurant in all of Miami, decorated with mirrors, mirrors and more mirrors (for that true French palace feel). Politicians since that old lion Ronald Reagan (who voted for him?) have made it a must-do on their campaign tours, and it’s where everyone gathers (outside on the street as well as indoors) when there’s some kind of big news dropping for the Cuban community. They serve classic eats like mariquitas con mojo
, yuca croquetas
, vaca frita
and ropa vieja
. If you’re short on time, head to the ventanilla
for a cafe con leche
and a pastelito
Calle Ocho Walk of Fame
SW 8th Street, between 12th and 17th Avenues
We love a good celebrity sighting, so the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame is a must-see. The names of some of the biggest Latin artists with ties to South Florida are embedded in the sidewalk on pink marble stars (yes, it’s our little piece of Hollywood). Some of our favorites are the stars for the immortal and indelible Queen of Salsa Celia Cruz, Cristina the Latin Oprah, and Miami’s crossover conga-line cantante Gloria Estefan.
1508 SW 8th Street
The Tower Theater is at the center of Little Havana, evolving from a single-screen 1920s mini-movie palace, to a neighborhood staple for the first wave of Cuban immigrants, to allegedly a seedy “adult film” grindhouse, to today’s incarnation as a beloved art cinema run by Miami Dade College. The striking Art Deco exterior is an icon of the neighborhood, with a prominent 40-foot steel tower and a bright neon sign. They show Spanish, English and other foreign-language films with a robust program of U.S. indies, Oscar-winning hits, and film festival events. Catch a flick and stay a while!
Life House, Little Havana
528 SW 9th Avenue
Had too much fun and want to stay overnight? The newly opened boutique Life House, Little Havana promises a high-end stay at a low-end cost. Think small rooms with bespoke design and high-touch details like Le Labo toiletries, Revival sheets and Diptyque scents. The best part is that breakfast at their indoor/outdoor all-day cafe Parcela is on fleek. The Florida Aguacate is a vegan take on avocado toast with roasted heirloom cherry tomatoes and cucumber, topped with their signature seed mix. According to Fodor’s Travel, this is one of the best 15 hotels in the country and was praised by the publication for being “cheap and chic" — just like we like it.
RIP Hoy Como Ayer…Long Live Hoy Como Ayer!
2212 SW 8th Street
We thought that we would never again be able to dance our hearts out at this bar and lounge – it sadly closed this year, for a few heartbeats (or two). We wanted to give it a shout-out for its many years of performances by well-know Latin artists, its dedicated throwback to Cuban salsa hits and, of course, all night fun and fiesta. But now we are thrilled (down to our stilettos) that it’s been spiffed up and reopened under new management. ¡Que viva Hoy Como Ayer!
The spirit of Little Havana is also in the music . . .
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