OK, so maybe Hialeah isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you set out to explore South Florida, but hear us out. Once described by Princeton sociologist Patricia Fernández-Kelly as “an affordable Eden” for exiles fleeing Cuba in 1959, the city is slowly but surely on its way to being reinvented. Most notably, the Leah Arts District — also known as the Artist Live/Work District — was formed three years ago with the intention of galvanizing the neighborhood through cultural experiences. Landmarks like the sculptural AmerTec Building and Hialeah Race Track, which is now Hialeah Park Racing & Casino, still coexist next to of-the-moment businesses like Petit Pois by Viviana G. and Rene Ruiz Couture, just two of the haute fashion labels that manufacture their wares here.
Meet Our Guide: Jon Secada
Jon Secada crooned his way onto the music scene in 1992. A former protégé of Gloria Estefan, for whom he sang backup in the mid-’80s, he’s since racked up three Grammy Awards — including a 2017 Latin Grammy for To Beny Moré With Love — and sold millions of records. The Cuban immigrant came to the United States at age 12 and grew up in Hialeah. He holds fond memories of hanging out at Milander Park after classes at Hialeah High School and meeting up with his crew at Westland Mall.
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The whole colada
“Delicias La Cabaña is right in the center of my old neighborhood. It’s a family-run staple where I will order an entire colada — one shot doesn’t do it for me — with una croqueta and maybe pastelito guayaba to get the salty and sweet together.” 1442 West 49th Street; 305-822-0062; facebook.com/restaurantedeliciaslacabana.
“Walking into La Fresa Francesa Petit Café is like stepping into another world. The co-owner, Sandy Sanchez, grew up in Hialeah, and her partner, chef Benoit Rablat, is from Paris. Don’t miss the dessert crepes — salted butter or guava creme are the best around.” 59 West Third Street; 786-717-6886; facebook.com/lafresafrancesa.
Get a pizza this
“Everybody gets a pizza craving now and then, and Sapori D’Italia is the place to indulge it. Not only are the brick-oven pies crisp and delicious, the kale and mozzarella ravioli is amazing, too.” 2800 West 84th Street, Suite 6; 786-536-5195; italianbrickovenpizza.com.
Scripts and sweets
“Universal Arts Pharmacy has that familiar, friendly atmosphere that people associate with Hialeah. Plus, they do immunizations and deliver prescriptions, and while you’re there you can pick up other important items — like candy.” 6500 West Fourth Avenue, Suite 4; 305-557-3151; stores.healthmart.com/universalartspharmacy1.
Won’t fade your wallet
“Lazarito’s Barber Shop is one of the best places to get fades and tapes, along with traditional haircuts, all for $10. Owner Lazarito Gamon is a Hialeah native and really cares about serving the locals. He opens at 7:30 a.m., seven days a week.” 1959 West 60th Street; 305-821-7671; lazaritosbarbershop.com.
This old house
“Right on the edge of the city is the Curtiss Mansion and Gardens, named after aviation pioneer Glenn Hammond Curtiss, who developed Miami Springs, Hialeah and Opa-locka. They rent it out for weddings and events, but you can just meander through the property on one of the Saturday tours.” 500 Deer Run, Miami Springs; 305-869-5180; curtissmansion.com.
“The Leah Arts District was created a few years back, kicking off with a cool art festival. They’ve done all sorts of events since and brought recognition to the area with graffiti murals and paintings by local artists.” 1501 East 15th Street; 786-975-9596; leahartsdistrict.org.
Funniest home videos
“You won’t find many places like Miami Tape. They’ve been mastering, duplicating and transferring videotapes and vinyl for 44 years. They’ll take any old medium — slides, VHS, Betamax — and convert it to a modern digital format.” 6200 West 21st Court; 305-558-9211; miamitape.com.
More Neighborhood coverage: Upper Buena Vista is the new shopping district that feels like a global vacation.