Quick: Where can you find the best Cuban food in all of Miami?
If your answer wasn’t “my abuela’s house” or “fulana’s Tia Rosa over in Westchester,” please turn in any relevant Miami-Dade identification card on your persons and think long and hard about what you’re calling a pan con lechon these days.
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But on the off chance you can’t access a Cuban abuela’s culinary stylings, you’re in luck: Miami has some pretty strong restaurant contenders. Here are seven of the best places to find Cuban food—and yes, you can have your ID back.
If you’ve never enjoyed a croqueta from Islas Canarias, you haven’t lived. Sorry, but it’s true. The drive out to west Kendall is well worth it for these massively fried rolls stuffed with your choice of ham, chicken, beef, fish or spinach and cheese. Just sprinkle them with some lime juice, slide them between two saltine crackers, and you have snacking nirvana. You’ll also find a roster of traditional Cuban dishes cooked to perfection. After all, masas de cerdo (pork chunks) and ropa vieja (stewed beef with vegetables) are the only logical way to follow up a warm basket of homemade plantain chips.
Islas Canarias, 13695 SW 26 St., Miami; 305-559-6666 or http://islascanariasrestaurant.com/index.html
On the outskirts of Wynwood, you’ll find an unassuming Cuban diner that serves up some of the finest (and biggest) sandwiches this side of Havana. Red-cushioned stools line the counter top here and invite those in search of a proper Media Noche or pan con bistec (stuffed with fries, no less) to set aside any illusions of a diet for a while and just embrace the magnificent calories gracing their palates. If you’re starting off your day here, no breakfast is complete without a creamy café con leche and a few slices of crisp, buttery Cuban bread for dunking.
Enriqueta’s, 186 NE 29 St., Miami; 305-573-4681 or http://enriquetas.com/
A little hard to pronounce, so here’s all you need to know: The 80-plus-year-old couple that founded the famed Larios restaurants and inspired Emilio and Gloria Estefan to go into the restaurant biz are back at it. The 87-year-old Quintin Larios is in the kitchen every day, cooking Cuban favorites from vaca frita to arroz con pollo (and the baked chicken that Gloria Estefan loved). He’s using the same techniques and flavors. All you have to do is look around a dining room full of three generations of families here for Cuban classics to know it’s the real deal.
La Fragua, 7931 NW Second St, Miami, 305-266-3226
For 23 years, this eatery has been supplying the Coral Gables crowd its necessary fix of Cuban food. It’s a bit of an upgrade from the usual Cuban joints around town, and the generous menu here reflects that. Fish chicharrones, palomilla steak and pork chunks that have been slow-cooked for hours take center stage here, as does the selection of rum-splashed mojitos. Oh, and tell your sweet tooth to relax—Havana Harry’s has it taken care of with flan and an epic cinco leches cake stuffed with dulce de leche and soaked with five different types of milk.
Havana Harry’s, 4612 S Le Jeune Rd., Coral Gables; 305-661-2622 or http://www.havanaharrys.com/
El Palacio de los Jugos
In most cities, following a set of red and yellow signage will guide you to a land of nuggets and special sauce. In Miami, the same color scheme can only mean one thing: you’ve found El Palacio de los Jugos. From its humble start on Flagler and 57th Avenue, this counter-service eatery has expanded to a total of nine locations. What to order? Look to the name. The freshly squeezed juices here take center stage with flavors like papaya, mamey, mango, guava and coconut. But before long, the irresistible smells emanating from the warming trays will work their magic on your appetite, and you’ll be forced to succumb to the lechon asado, milanesa de res, ropa vieja and other Cuban food taking prime real estate behind the glass.
El Palacio de los Jugos, 5721 W. Flagler St.; 305-264-1503 or http://www.elpalaciodelosjugos.com/en/
You can’t have a list of Cuban restaurants in Miami and not include this OG Little Havana eatery. That would be sacrilegious. Versailles is ground-zero for presidential candidates looking to woo local voters; but it also sees its fair share of disgruntled elders arguing about politics around the ventanita. Which, incidentally, is a prime spot for loading up on cafecito and light and crispy guava pastelitos. Inside, grab a table under one of the ornate chandeliers—don’t worry, you can leave your Loubis at home—and order up the rabo encendido (oxtail stew) or boliche asado (think: pot roast) with a side of black beans and fried sweet plantains.
Versailles, 3501 SW 8 St., Miami; 305-441-2500 or http://www.versaillesrestaurant.com/
Sergio’s is like the Tribbles of Cuban restaurants, rapidly multiplying and taking over entire civilizations (or, at the very least, Miami). So, it’s a really good thing they know their way around a Cuban recipe. The original location on Bird Road has received a considerable upgrade since its humble beginnings, but the Cuban food is still just as satisfyingly good. You’ll find all of the traditional Cuban staples along with a few creative riffs on favorites, like mariquita-crusted mahi fingers, thin-crust croqueta pizza and nachos made with homemade plantain chips and black bean hummus.
Sergio’s Restaurant, 9330 SW 40 St., Miami; 305-552-9626 or http://www.sergios.com/