Headed to Miami? Get ready to eat, eat, eat. Magic City cuisine is like none other because you’re getting an authentic selection of Latin American and Caribbean foods made by chefs straight from Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, Haiti, Portugal, Spain and all across the globe. It’s a good thing you’ll have plenty of opportunities to dance the calories off, too, because most dishes include lots of meat and sweet, sweet carbs. Consume, shimmy, imbibe, repeat. Below, 10 local dishes you must try and where you can enjoy them around the city.
There’s not a whole lot to say about stone crabs that hasn’t already been said. The South Florida staple has been served seasonally at Joe’s Stone Crab for almost a decade. Eat them chilled with hash brown potatoes, coleslaw and mayo for the ultimate Miami experience. Catch them while you can, October 15th through May 15th every year; June through September you may just have to settle for a fish sandwich.
It’s a bit of a trek to get to this Colombian restaurant, but you won’t regret it. At Macitas, a family-owned Cutler Bay eatery, you can have your crunchy-on-the-outside, piping-hot-on-the-inside empanadas with a mild dipping salsa — just be careful not to burn your mouth. Still hungry? Try the pan de bono (a delectable cheesy bread) or if you’re starving, a Bandeja Paisa, a heaping plate of red beans, rice, ground beef, chorizo, plantain, arepa, avocado, a fried egg and fried pork belly.
OK, let’s start off by acknowledging that you can’t go wrong with any kind of Venezuelan arepa. The only problem is that there are limitless delicious combinations to choose from including options for vegans and vegetarians with beans, avocado and sweet plantains as well as options with chicken, meat and pork. Our personal favorite, though, is the Cachapa, a sweet corn pancake filled with oozing cheese. At La Latina, in the Midtown area, you can have your Cachapa simple and sweet or you can choose to add beef, pork or chicken for a savory twist.
If you think there’s nothing better than a Cuban sandwich stuffed with ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard, think again. A Croqueta Preparada is a Cuban sandwich, but with a very important addition. This delicacy, which is filled with ham croquettes (oh yeah, you read that right) is gluttonous for sure, but oh-so-satisfying to the very last crumb. At Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop, a Cuban diner in the Wynwood/Midtown area, you can have your cake and eat it too — or you can devour your croquetas with your Sandwich Cubano.
Another oldie but goodie (open since 1977), El Palacio de los Jugos serves some fantastic juices as its name suggests, but the real winner here is the chicharron. These delectable fried pork belly or pork rinds originated in Spain, but Cubans in Miami have done a good job of making the dish their own. Eat these golden, crispy and fresh out the frying pan. With multiple locations all over the city, this restaurant is never out of the way, either.
Cafe con Leche
This Cuban staple is paired with every meal in Miami, whether breakfast, lunch, happy hour or dinner. "Cuban crack", as many like to call it, this sweet caffeinated beverage is sure to give you a kick midday or whenever you need it most. Lucky enough, most restaurants in Miami offer variations of this coffee including cafecitos and cortaditos, but our favorite Cuban spots do it best. Head to Versailles, a 1971 Miami landmark, or La Carreta, another fave that’s been serving both visitors and locals for over 40 years.
Key Lime Pie
Maybe the last place you’d expect to find a key lime pie that tastes like it was homemade in the Florida Keys, Lure Fishbar inside the Loews South Beach has nailed it. This key lime pie is just the right amount of sweet and tart, perfectly creamy and practically melts in your mouth. Dessert before dinner has never felt so right, although if you want to have a full meal first, we won’t judge you.
It’s considered a side dish or appetizer, but akra is too delicious to pass up. These malanga fritters with a watercress dipping sauce can be had at Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant, a colorful and classic Haitian spot on South Beach. Another dish you don’t want to miss here: the stewed oxtail entree. Pair your meal with some great rum and if you’re looking for some extra fun, visit Tap Tap on a Thursday or Saturday to hear live music.
Patatas bravas or ali-oli, champiñones, garbanzos fritos... to be honest, anything and everything on a Spanish tapas menu is worth trying, but these three staples will satisfy you every darn time. Start with some potatoes smothered in creamy garlic sauce, spicy tomato sauce or a combination of the two. Then opt for some sauteed mushrooms and fried chickpeas. Xixon in Coral Gables or El Carajo (a full bar and restaurant set inside an unassuming gas station!) have the most bona fide comida española in Miami. Wash it all down with a glass of sangria or get a pitcher to share.
A classic Portuguese dish that’s become popular in Brazilian culture as well (it’s even the South American country’s national dish), feijoada is a black bean stew with salted and smoked pork and beef. At Old Lisbon in Coral Gables, they do feijoada a little differently, but it’s just as tasty. The feijoada con mariscos is a plate of seafood mixed with clams, shrimp, mussels, squid and sausage in a white bean stew. We might even call this the surf and turf take on a traditional feijoada.