Little Havana

Festivals & tours spotlight Little Havana’s cultural gems

 

A Little Havana itinerary

10 a.m.: Los Pinareros Fruteria

Address: 1334 SW Eighth St.

Phone: 305-285-1135

Cost: About $5

This iconic fruit market serves raw sugarcane juice ( guarapo) on ice, a refreshing drink for a hot summer day.

Noon: El Exquisito Restaurant

Address: 1510 SW Eighth St.

Website: www.exquisitorestaurant.com

Cost: About $10

You can’t go to Little Havana without having a Cuban meal -- whether it’s a media noche sandwich or plate of ropa vieja with black beans and rice. Make sure to grab a cortadito or café con leche at the counter outside before you leave.

2 p.m.: Azucar Ice Cream Company

Address: 1503 SW Eighth St.

Website: www.azucaricecream.com

Cost: About $5

Shirts with Cuban-American sayings such as Insoportable (Intolerable) and Eso no pasaba en Cuba (That never happens in Cuba), La Jefa (the boss woman) are framed on the walls, as well as a large painting of the late salsa queen Celia Cruz. This ice cream shop has a variety of tropical flavors, its most famous being Abuela María, which has María cookies, cream cheese and guava paste.

Robert Grand enjoys Azucar’s ice cream. “I feel transported to a different world, even though Miami is quite multicultural and I live only three miles away,” he said.

3 p.m.: Maximo Gomez Park/Domino Park

Address: 801 SW 15th Ave.

Cost: Free

Around this time, people playing dominoes fill the park. (No alcohol, no obscenities, no gambling. Shirts and shoes are a must.) Pavilions protect the games from the sun, and more and more tourists are visiting.

4 p.m.: Tower Theater

Address: 1508 SW Eighth St.

Website: www.towertheatermiami.com

Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and MDC staff

Rated one of the Top 10 great places to see a movie in splendor by USA Today, Miami Dade College’s Tower Theater has been around for nearly 87 years.

Helene Dudley said the Tower Theater is her favorite place in Little Havana.

“They show thought-provoking, serious movies that are not usually available in the larger theaters,” she said. “Prices are good, staff is friendly and parking is easy, unless there is a film festival.”

7 p.m.: 2B Asian Bistro

Address: 1444 SW Eighth St.

Website: www.2b-asianbistro.com

Cost: About $20

In addition to Cuban cuisine, Little Havana also has Thai and Japanese food. The restaurant, which serves everything from papaya salads to a variety of curries, also delivers.

“Panang curry is the favorite of my group, but everything I have tasted has been delicious,” Dudley said. “Portions are large, so we often share.”


kkallergis@MiamiHerald.com

Pepe Menendez starts his tours of Little Havana in his Cuban-American uniform: a guayabera, jeans, a cooler lunch box hanging from his shoulder and a hat.

Inside the cooler are small bottles of cologne -- love, good luck and success, among others -- that he gives to tour takers.

Inside his pockets are his cell phone and two guava fruits. The guayabera, he explains, comes from a Cuban tale of a woman who sewed pockets into her husband’s shirt so he could carry guava fruits, or guayabas in Spanish.

Menendez starts his tour of Little Havana in the 1400 block of Southwest Eighth Street, at the beginning of a row of Cuban-American monuments. He’s been giving tours with History Miami for four years.

“Let’s talk a little about Cuba,” he says.

Although Menendez’s tour is focused on about three blocks in Little Havana, there’s more to see and do in other parts of the area – especially on foot. Corinna Moebius, a Miami tour guide, said you can’t understand the neighborhood if you drive or even bike through it.

“Sometimes you’re going to go off the Calle Ocho track,” Moebius said. “You can walk into a place and feel like you’re in Spain, or you’re in Honduras.”

Moebius also encourages visitors to keep an open mind, especially when it comes to spiritual shops called botanicas.

“Each botanica is a little different,” she said. “Every cigar place is different. You want to smoke your cigar? Go to a lounge.”

It’s a great time to visit the neighborhood, she said, and a lot’s been done to bring people into Little Havana.

“Even though you’re in this big city called Miami, there’s this intimacy in Little Havana,” Moebius said. “I think it’s really exciting to discover your own city.”

Pablo Canton, who recently retired from the Little Havana Neighborhood Enhancement Team, worked with local businesses and residents on improving the quality of life for about 20 years. Economic development was one Canton’s priorities, and 13 years ago he and others started Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), a festival that’s held from 7-11 p.m. on the last Friday of every month in Little Havana.

“It’s really made a big change in the area,” he said. “(Visitors) are going to be pleasantly surprised. The whole dynamic of the festival changes as it gets later and later into the night.”

Anywhere from 3,000 people to 4,000 people attend the festival, said Viernes Culturales Director Pati Vargas, who also runs the Little Havana Artwalk, which occurs on the second Friday of every month.

Paul George, historian and professor at Miami Dade College, gives a free walking tour of Little Havana during Viernes Culturales. The tour begins in front of the Tower Theater. This Friday’s lineup includes belly dancing, a fashion show for young girls and a performance by a group called Cortadito.

Street parking is available along Southwest Eighth Street and nearby streets. For more information visit www.viernesculturales.org.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald. Become a news source by going to MiamiHerald.com/ insight. Follow @kkallergis on Twitter.

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