We all know you’ll find amazing Cuban food in Little Havana. But the neighborhood is also big and diverse and extends way beyond the part of Calle Ocho where the sidewalks are permanently clogged with tourists who can’t figure out how to light their cigars. If you only stick around there, chances are you’ll end up with a plate of stale rice and a very bad mojito.
The 16 places on this guide will definitely steer you towards some of the best Cuban food in the city, but they also include our favorite Thai spot, some incredible Mexican food, excellent barbecue, and a lot more.
La Camaronera is home to one of the single best things you can eat in Miami: the pan con minuta. It’s a butterflied snapper filet that’s lightly fried and arranged in sandwich form with Cuban bread, onions, ketchup, and tartar sauce. The thought of anyone going their entire life without eating one is genuinely sad, so please visit this casual seafood spot and order this. And then come back to try the equally exceptional fried shrimp, conch, and lobster. This place also functions as a seafood market, so you can buy your own snappers and spend sleepless nights trying to recreate the pan con minuta at home.
We weren’t always this excited about Cuban sandwiches, especially after years of eating pretty average versions with cold cheese and pitifully thin ham. But then Sanguich de Miami came along with their excellent Cubano and now we think the city of Miami’s official slogan should just be a picture of this thing. This Calle Ocho shop nails every aspect of the Cuban sandwich - from the crunchy bread down to the homemade pickles and perfect amount of mustard. We would tell you to come here if it was the only thing they sold, but they also make four other great sandwiches you should try eventually - especially the self-titled Sanguich de Miami, which is a delicious mash-up of a BLT, turkey sandwich, and a Cubano.
Lung Yai might just be the hardest table to get in Miami, especially on the weekend when waits can hit around two hours. Eating here is a bit of a mission because the tiny Thai restaurant doesn’t take reservations, has limited counter seating inside, and only allows you to order once. But despite the rules and obstacles and the fact that sitting inside can be a bit sweaty, this place is very worth the effort. For your troubles, you’ll get the best Thai food in the city, including a fantastic khao soi with crispy noodles, beautifully fried chicken wings, and more curries and noodle dishes that are tasty enough to justify everything you went through for your seat.
You’ll find some of the best Mexican food in the entire city at this spot on Calle Ocho, where piñatas hang from the ceiling and there’s almost always a crowd. They have very good tacos, but there are also more exciting things on the menu - like the gorditas, which are basically shrunken arepas you really need to order with pork. There’s plenty more on the incredibly large menu, and you should keep coming back until you’ve tried the bulk of it.
There are almost as many places in Miami with fusion menus as there are with banana leaf wallpaper, but few of them pull it off as well as Doce Provisions. This mostly Cuban restaurant just off Calle Ocho does shrimp po’boy tacos and fried chicken just as good as their more straightforward dishes - like the great Cuban sandwich (which is only available for lunch) or the arroz imperial, a skillet of rice and chicken thigh underneath a hot layer of cheese you should really let cool off before you put in your mouth. Whatever you decide to order, eat it on Doce’s back patio, which is a lovely little alley with string lights and some vegetation.
As the name implies, this incredibly bright Calle Ocho diner is home to the best fritas in Miami. They have eight versions of the Cuban hamburger here, which come with everything from a fried egg to plantains and fried cheese. But we prefer to keep it simple with the original: spiced meat, onions, a Cuban bun, and enough potato sticks to create a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower.
You may have had Miami Smokers without realizing it since they provide bacon and other smoked meats to a good chunk of Miami restaurants. But you should still visit their little smokehouse, which features a small but tasty menu of sandwiches and various meats you can smell before you even walk inside. Their BLT is a good choice if you’re in a bacon mood. Otherwise, stick to the “smoked meats” section of the menu. The ribs are wonderful and the really great chicken wings are slightly sweet and smoky. They’re also usually stocked with bacon-infused Knaus Berry Farm cinnamon rolls too, even when the famous bakery is closed during the summer.
There’s a high likelihood of getting lost on the way to this colorful Spanish spot since it’s located on a backstreet along the Miami River you’d never drive down unless you live there. But Jamon Iberico Pata Negra - which is decorated with dramatic paintings of matadors (one of which appears to be fighting a marlin) - is worth hunting down. Start with the anchovies in vinegar and piquillos peppers filled with codfish. Then move onto one of the rices of the house, like the very good egg-crusted rice with scallops and shrimp. It’s big enough to feed about four people or one-and-a-half hungry dramatic matadors.
Ahi Sushi is right on the busiest part of Calle Ocho and only about the size of a very nice walk-in closet. The sushi counter can seat about six to eight comfortably, and their small a la carte menu has really good rolls, salads, nigiri, sashimi, and poke. The sashimi and nigiri are our favorite parts of the menu, and you should ask if the uni is available too. They also do an omakase for $110 per person, but it’s a little too informal and doesn’t quite live up to an experience you’d want to pay $110 for. Stick to the a la carte options and know that this place is BYOB, which you can very easily make happen by crossing the street and going to Union Beer Store.
A restaurant that feels like a party isn’t usually the kind of place we want to eat at, but Cafe la Trova is the best spot in Miami to have a big, loud, and fun dinner that actually tastes good. You should come to this very large Cuban restaurant if you have anything even remotely important to celebrate. There will be live music, perfect cocktails, and some of the best empanadas we’ve ever had. And having found all that under one roof seems like reason enough to celebrate.
Yes, it’s the most famous Cuban restaurant in the country, but it’s also still one of the best places for Cuban food in Miami, which is is why Versailles’ dining room is always busy. If you’ve never been here, you might spend a good portion of your meal marveling at the small army of staff and the dining room’s excessive amount of mirrors. But if you, like many Miamians, grew up coming here, then you’re probably just excited for the croquettes, ropa vieja, and flan.
Fatair Al Basha is right on the eastern tip of Calle Ocho where Brickell turns into Little Havana. It’s not a spot with a lot of foot traffic, but this little Lebanese market is worth pulling over for if you’re even remotely in the mood for shawarma, shish kebabs, falafel, or any of the other Middle Eastern dishes they do really well here. We like the kibbe platter (which you should get with a side of hummus and Lebanese rice), but they also do a great “Lebanese pizza” sprinkled with zaatar and vegetables for under $4.
If you happen to be one of the three people who go to Marlins games, you should be stopping nearby at Edukos for a pre or post-game snack. This Venezuelan spot is very good at empanadas, arepas, and tequenos, which is what you should order over some of their Asian-influenced dishes. Their “biggie” empanadas are the size of Arnold from Hey Arnold!’s head and both the classic pabellón and the buffalo chicken “gringo” are good enough to make you forget how bad the Marlins are for at least a few bites.
Sala’o has one of the more interesting menus on Calle Ocho. The mostly-seafood spot serves fried glass minnows, oysters in a shot glass of tomato and lime juice, and pickled fried swordfish. It’s all pretty tasty too. Plus, the daiquiris are very solid and they have pleasant live Cuban music in the dining room. But we do have one problem with this place: it’s incredibly heavy-handed Ernest Hemingway theme. There is just about nowhere you can look where you won’t make direct eye contact with him. But if you’re okay with the touristy atmosphere and constant gaze of a dead literary giant, then it’s a good choice. Just come early, because after 10pm this place can turn into a full-blown club-staurant.
If you’re having trouble finding Azucar among the Calle Ocho sensory overload, just look for the giant ice cream cone sculpture. Directly below that, you’ll find this little scoop shop, where they serve some very Miami flavors. The Cuban coffee and Oreo is as good as it sounds, but the best thing here is the Abuela Maria that’s made with chunks of guava and Maria cookies. You can eat it under a giant painting of Celia Cruz while sitting on a bench made out of guayaberas, just in case you didn’t already know you were in Little Havana.
Though El Mago de las Fritas is kind of the archrival to El Rey de las Fritas, we believe this town is certainly big enough for two frita slingers. And while we prefer El Rey’s versions (primarily thanks to their wonderfully excessive use of potato sticks), you should still check out El Mago to decide which version you side with. Plus, El Mago does have El Rey beat when it comes to flan, and it’s worth coming here just for that alone.