One of the best parts of moving to South Florida is the abundance of amazing Cuban food that rivals what my mother and grandmother make. The fact that there are at least 5 stellar Cuban restaurants near my apartment is fantastic but everyone knows the best Cuban food in South Florida can be found in Miami’s Little Havana. In Little Havana, you can find the lively Calle Ocho, a street jam-packed with Cuban culture, where lively music and the aroma of Cuban coffee spill out of the local establishments all hours of the day. This area is beloved by the Cuban locals, so much so that is was recently named a ‘national treasure’! When Miami Culinary Tours invited me on their food tour of Little Havana, I knew I was in for a treat. The 3-hour tour gave the highlights on what to see and where to eat on Calle Ocho.
El Pub Restaurant
Our first stop on the Miami Culinary Tour was the El Pub Restaurant. This family-run restaurant has been around for 20 years and is somewhat of a landmark on Calle Ocho. In fact, a gentleman walking by interrupted our tour guide just to make sure that she shared with us how beloved this restaurant is by the local Cuban community.
El Pub Restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch & dinner and serves Cuban classics like the Cuban sandwich and Lechon Asado (roast pork).
While here we sampled a delicious beef empanada that was the perfect blend of savory and crunchy. We also sipped some Cafe Cubano! If you’ve never tried Cuban coffee before, you’re in for a treat. It’s typically very strong and very sweet. When looking for where to eat on Calle Ocho, keep in mind that many of the establishments on Calle Ocho have a walk up windows where you can order food & coffee right from the street.
Calle Ocho’s Roosters
If you walk around Calle Ocho long enough you still start to run into rooster statues. These rooster statues started with a local project done by Little Havana artists. Today they stand outside some of the more popular attractions and restaurants in the area. It’s fun to see how many you can spot while walking around, but if you’re like me and gotta catch em all, you use this list of all the roosters!
Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co.
Our next stop on the tour was the Cuban Tobacco Cigar Co., one of the oldest Cigar factories and storefronts in Little Havana. The Bello family has been in the cigar business for over 100 years and their cigars are known for their unique blends and quality craftsmanship. You can pop in and pick out a cigar or watch them being rolled by the talented staff in the shop every day.
Ball & Chain
Our next stop was the Ball & Chain, a bar that has a rich history since its original opening in 1935. Back in its early days, it hosted famous artists like Billie Holiday. It was recently reopened by the current owners in 2014. Much of the decor is a nod to the bar’s gangster- era past and is definitely Instagram worthy. The Ball & Chain hosts a series of fun events all week long and has generous happy hour specials!
We stopped in to try their famous mojito! After all the walking we were doing in the heat, this refreshing drink, coupled with their adorable back patio & live music, was a welcomed break. I didn’t want to fill up before the rest of the tour but when I’ve asked people where to eat on Calle Ocho they always talk up the Cuban tapas here.
The Tower Theater
The Tower Theater is a beautiful art deco building in the heart of Calle Ocho. This theater was one of the first theaters in the area to offer English movies with Spanish subtitles. The Cuban locals came to the theater to learn about American culture and use the films to learn English words. Now the theater shows an array of independent and foreign films.
Old’s Havana Restaurant
We popped into the Old’s Havana Restaurant to try a classic Cuban sandwich, which was the best that I’ve ever had! A Cubano has ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, mustard and pickle, all pressed together between two toasted slices of Cuban bread. This mix of ingredients creates a savory and delicious blend.
This restaurant is heavily decorated with Cuban memorabilia so definitely take a walk around and check it out while you wait for your food.
Maximo Gomez Park, more commonly known as Domino Park has become a meeting point for the locals. You can find the older gentleman smoking cigars and playing endless games of dominoes here from open to close. They take their playing seriously and it is fun to watch them play. Feel free to watch (a sign says tourists welcome) but be respectful of the people playing and follow the park rules. If you want to try your hand at a game, make sure that you are over 55 years old, or you are not allowed to join.
This was my favorite stop on the tour! Guava pastelitos have been a favorite of mine since childhood. I’ve always loved the perfect blend of salty & sweet, and Yisell’s is known for having the best pastelitos in town.
Guava, a tropical fruit that is very tart in taste, is a common ingredient in Cuban deserts. You can also try the Pastelito de Guayaba & Quest, for a sweet-savory treat.
Calle Ocho’s Walk of Fame
Be sure to look down while you are walking around because Calle Ocho has it’s very own Hollywood Walk of Fame— but this one strictly honors Latin artists & entertainers. You can find famous Latin stars like Gloria Estefan and Celia Cruz. You can find the stars between 12th Avenue and 17th Avenue.
Los Pinarenos Fruteria
Next, we visited a lovely little open-air fruit market to try some Guarapo juice, or sugar cane juice. The owner of the fruit stand pressed the sugar cane while we were there so that it was nice and fresh. The juice is sweet but not too sweet and is all 100% sugar cane juice, nothing added. It definitely was refreshing on such a hot day.
Marie, our amazing tour guide, also gave us an overview of the incredible array of tropical fruit that they sell at Los Pinarenos Fruteria — including plantains & deliciously ripe mangos!
On Memorial Boulevard you will find a few memorials to commemorate Cuban exiles. There is an eternal flame monument to those who lost their lives in the Bay of Pigs Invasion along with statues of famous Cubans such as Jose Marti & Antonio Maceo.
There is also a large ceiba tree that is sacred to the followers of the Afro-Cuban religion Santería. You can often find locals leaving offerings at this magnificent tree.
Azucar Ice Cream
To end the tour and fill my already overstuffed belly, we popped into Azucar Ice Cream for a sweet treat. This ice-cream shop has some fun and unique flavors like the Dulce de Leche, Guarapiña and their signature flavor— the Abuela Maria.
I got the Abuela Maria, which is vanilla ice-cream with chunks of red guava, swirls of cream cheese and crunchy Maria cookies, all topped with a guava glaze. When searching for where to eat on Calle Ocho, this ice cream shop is a must! It was delicious and the perfect ending to the tour!
If you are interested in booking the Little Havana Food Tour by Miami Culinary Tours is costs $59 per an adult and departs daily at 12:30PM. This is one of the best food tours I have ever taken! They shared where to eat on Calle Ocho and I loved how the talented tour guide, Marie, also shared spots of interest and tons of cultural information & insight. I highly recommend it if you want to explore the area.
Some Additional Food Options-
Both of these options are a little bit further away from the main area but are definitely worth the Uber or ride on the bus!
Versailles- When searching for where to eat on Calle Ocho, I’m sure that many people will suggest Versailles— and for good reason! This restaurant is a Little Havana staple and serves one of the best Cuban breakfasts around.
La Carreta- This is my favorite Cuban restaurant in Miami. This was always the restaurant that we went to when we were visiting the area growing up. The food here is absolutely phenomenal for a very affordable price!
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I was invited by the team at Miami Culinary Tours to enjoy their tour. As always, I only review tours, hotels & products that I truly enjoy & recommend. All opinions are my own.