Picture this: you’re driving around Miami, listening to your favorite Pitbull song and faster than you can say “dale,” you’re hit with an insatiable craving for some good ol’ Cuban food. You run through your list of tried and trues, but your soul won’t be satisfied by the likes of La Carreta, Sergio’s, or Versailles this particular Miami day. Another pan con bistec will send you into a rage. And you overdosed on lechon during the holidays, so that’s totally out of the question. Yeah, we’ve been there. So we searched high and low for those Cuban spots that are off the beaten path, yet always have our mouths watering. And no matter what time of day you want to scratch that Cuban food itch, we’ve got you covered.
Breakfast: Pastelitos and Café Con Leche at Lucerne Bakery
Not all Cuban bakeries are created equal and Lucerne Bakery is proof of that. Upon your arrival, you’ll be met with rapid fire Cuban dialogue from the sassy ladies that work there. In fact, you’ll actually wish that they came with subtitles. You might sweat. You might panic. But all you need to do is lock eyes with the pastelito (puff pastry) of your dreams, point, and order about a dozen. Lucerne has plenty to choose from: guava, cheese, guava and cheese, meat, coconut. Seriously, just try them all. Round out your order with a ham croqueta, wash it down with a café con leche and walk right out of there, ready to conquer the day.
Lunch: Camaronera Sandwich at La Camaronera
People will tell you to get the pan con minuta sandwich (snapper fish sandwich) here and while it’s a divine choice, the Camaronera sandwich is really where it’s at. Essentially just a Cuban bread roll filled with breaded shrimp, chopped onions, ketchup, and homemade tartar sauce, it’s Miami’s version of a New Orleans po’ boy, except with a little bit of Latin flair. And though you may be tempted to dive right in, we suggest you first whet your appetite with the frituras de cobo (conch fritters). They’re little itty-bitty pieces of seafood heaven. Don't forget the Ironbeer or Materva to sip on.
Consider Coldstone and Carvel the ugly stepsisters to Azucar’s beautiful Cinderella. Located in the heart of Little Havana, this isn’t your regular ice cream shop. Their signature flavor, Abuela Maria, features a rich guava swirl, cream cheese chunks, and crushed up Maria cookies. It’s so Cuban, you’ll swear it was invented by the ghost of Celia Cruz herself. Also try the mamey, mango, café con leche, Willy Cherrino (a cherry ice cream flavor named after your favorite salsa superstar), or Zapaticos de Rosa (a rose petal ice cream with a shout out to José Martí).
Dinner: Everything at Bread + Butter
traditional Cuban dishes and turning them on their head, Bread + Butter
(literal translation: pan con mantequilla)
is the beautiful union of the Cuban cafeterias of yesteryear and the modern
gastropubs of today. While the restaurant is quaint and cozy, consider the menu
items a little more sophisticated than the ropa
vieja and arroz con pollo that
your abuelita used to make (no disrespect!). The chicharrón de puerco
(fried pork belly) and bacon wrapped plantains are a must order and the fufu de
platano (plantain mash) will have you salsa dancing around the restaurant
in joy. Make sure to save room for dessert because the goat
cheese flan is nothing short of absolutely amazing. So go ahead and order two. Trust
Reserve this for one of the three cold nights of the year in Miami. You’ll see a line snaking down the street but it’s well worth the wait. Flaky, sugary, and warm, those churros will certainly hit the spot. Plus, they’re perfect to dip into that thick and creamy hot chocolate. In our opinion, there really hasn’t been a better combination since Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. At the end of a long night, the churros and hot chocolate at La Palma have us feeling emotions. The sweetest, sweetest emotions. Can it drop below 70 degrees already?