28 Oct Food Tour through Miami’s Little Havana
Delicious food? Check. Interesting Culture? Check. Beautiful Art? Check.
Miami’s Little Havana has it all.
I have been pining to explore this Cuban area in more depth, so when Miami Culinary Tours invited us to join one of their walks, we jumped at the chance to experience their Little Havana Food Tour, and I’m so glad we did. Our guide, Mirka was so much fun and extremely knowledgeable about the area; it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
Little Havana is a small community in Miami, but it almost feels as though you have walked into another country. Spanish is more prevalent in the area than English, as many of the locals are from Cuba and have preserved their families heritage by keeping strong ties to their cultural traditions. The main street of Little Havana is Calle Ocho, or 8th Street, and it neighbors downtown Miami on the west side.
The Little Havana Food Tours are held weekly at 12:30 every Saturday afternoon, so it makes a perfect lunch–make sure you come hungry! Our tour started out at a local art gallery owned by Mildrey Guillot, where she told us stories about the meanings of her beautiful paintings. Most of her paintings are created with an impressionist style, so I was intrigued to hear her talk because impressionist art is my favorite. Throughout our journey, we gained insight on the strong art culture in the Little Havana area; I was surprised how active the art community is here and it was exciting to learn about the local art scene.
As for the tasty part of the tour, we sampled a multitude of traditional foods. Our first stop was to sample a Cuba Libre or “Free Cuba” which is also known as “little lie” and is a traditional Cuban drink of rum, Coke and a wedge of lime. This drink is said to have originated after Cuba’s liberalization, but it is called the little lie because Cuba will never really be free under current political conditions.
Next we stopped at El Pub Restaurant and noshed on empanadas, chicken stuffed plantains, and Café Cubano which is a Cuban coffee. Basically, Cuban coffee is a shot of espresso that is sweetened with demerara sugar; order a colada of the coffee and it will be served in one large cup with a lid and a stack of tiny little cups on top. The coffee is poured into the small cups and shared–you only need a couple of shots because it is so strong. At one of my past office jobs, they used to call Cuban coffee “crack” because it gives you such a jolt!
Medianoche or “midnight” sandwich, which is a twist of the Cuban sandwich, was up next at El Exquisito Restaurant. Consisting of the same main ingredients as the Cuban sandwich i.e. pork, ham, cheese, pickles and yellow mustard, this sandwich rests on a different type of bread. The bread is a sweet yellow egg bread and is commonly ordered as a late night snack, hence the name midnight sandwich.
We then moved along to some sweet, flaky guava pastries at Yisil Bakery, and that was followed by fresh mango and fresh sugar cane juice squeezed right before our eyes at a local fruit stand called Los Pinaderos Fruteria.
And, last but not least we sampled a dish of ice cream from Azucar Ice Cream. Micah and I had been to this shop in the past and loved it, so we were excited to return. This small shop is always making new and unique flavors out of as many locally grown fruits and vegetables as possible.
I must admit I was a little worried about Micah enjoying the rest of the food offerings since he is quite the picky eater. Activities revolving around food can be a little tricky, but I’m happy to say, he actually enjoyed the food! The midnight sandwich was Micah’s favorite while my favorites were the empanadas, the chicken stuffed plantains and the Cuban coffee. Due to the wide variety of offerings on this tour, we feel they hit it out of the park. I can assure you that you won’t be leaving hungry–we were stuffed and happy.
One aspect of this tour that I appreciated is that they focus on bringing you to small, local businesses. I feel supporting local businesses is so important for the economy and sustaining the culture of an area.
We also made pit stops to learn about cigar production, Domino Park and the Cuban Memorial Boulevard. The Cuba Tabacco Cigar Co is a family owned cigar shop–the Bellos family has been in the Cuban cigar business for over 100 years, and we watched master rollers hard at work crafting the cigars by hand.
Domino park is a local hangout for the elderly residents–you will find the park constantly packed with patrons enjoying dominos, chess or checkers. The park was created in the 70’s when the locals would bring portable crates, chairs and tables where they would gather to play games and tell stories. In the 80’s, the park was remodeled with permanent pavilions, tables and chairs and the continued games create a memorable experience to observe.
The Cuban Memorial Boulevard is home to the Bay of Pigs Invasion Memorial as well as numerous other sculptures. This area is where any politically infused protests or gatherings occur.
I really enjoyed our culinary tour and exploring Little Havana. Of course, the food was delicious, but even more than the delectable treats, I loved the fact that we actually experienced a little piece of the Cuban culture through the food we ate and the traditions we learned about. After all, that is what travel is all about, right?
Many thanks to Miami Culinary Tours for providing us with a complimentary tour. As always, all opinions are our own!