5 Must-Eat Cuban Meals in Miami

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5 Must Eat Cuban Meals in Miami
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5 Must-Eat Cuban Meals in Miami

Latino culture and food permeate Miami, earning it the nickname, "The Capital of Latin America." Above all, it's impossible to ignore the city's Cuban influences, which reach a crescendo in the town's Little Havana neighborhood. You'll be hard-pressed to find a bad meal among the many Cuban-style cafeterias, but too many visitors chow down on the ubiquitous Cubano sandwich and call it a day. No offense to the Cubano, but this town doles out a bevy of divine dishes that put that sammie to shame. After much stomach-stuffing research, we've sussed out Miami's 5 must-try Cuban meals. 

El Rey de Las Fritas —  In this land of McDonald's and Burger King, Americans like to think they've got the hamburger market cornered. Clearly, most have not indulged in a frita, the Cuban answer to a burger, only -- yup, we'll say it -- better. Find Miami's most decadent frita at El Rey de Las Fritas, along Calle Ocho (8th Street), Little Havana's main drag. The frita patty is spiced similar to a chorizo, then topped with a secret sauce, a slice of yellow American cheese and a heaping pile of crispy shoestring fries. Spice the whole thing up with a little salsa caliente, or eat it as-is. Either way, you'll have found heaven on a bun. Wash your meal down with a chilly mango or passion fruit batido, a Cuban milkshake.

Islas Canarias — Everyone and their mamacita raves about the croquetas at Islas Canarias in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood, but don't be fooled: the restaurant's real charms lie further afield. While the ham croquetas are tasty enough, the real gem is the churrasco a la parrilla, a tender, char-grilled skirt steak, dripping with juices. Order the steak medium, as it comes out rather pink -- but that only makes it juicier. Make like a local Cubano and ask for a side of chimichurri sauce, a pitch-perfect, tangy blend of parsley, minced garlic, onions, olive oil, oregano and vinegar to complement the meat. If at any point, you manage to look away from your massive hunk of delectable meat, take a gander at the restaurant's awesomely retro atmosphere: brown diner counter and stools, beehive-bun sporting waitresses and a still-in-use 1970s push-button cash register.

Enriqueta's — You'll see families, police officers, day laborers and office workers crammed into Enriqueta's, a favored breakfast and lunch joint in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood for more than 25 years. While many customers flock here for the tasty sandwiches, plan your trip for a Thursday, and indulge in the daily special, paella. This seafood extravaganza arrives teeming with chunky morsels of fish, including a whole crab perched upright on top of a pile of saffron rice. You'll chow down on mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, whitefish and octopus, as well as the aforementioned crustacean. Wash that goodness down with a guarapo, a bracingly sweet glass of hand-pressed sugarcane juice.

Puerto Sagua — Though South Beach isn't usually top of mind when seeking stellar Cuban food in Miami, Puerto Sagua on Collins Avenue should be a must-stop on any serious eater's itinerary -- the restaurant has been a neighborhood favorite since it opened in 1962. While it's hard to order a bad dish at Puerto, go for the gold and stick your fork into the pernil asado, a juicy rendering of pulled pork shoulder, braised in juices and onions until it melts in your mouth. The dish comes with moro, a combo of rice and black beans and yuca (though we recommend asking to switch these to the sweet plantains). Load the shredded pork and juices onto the moro, douse with a bit of hot sauce, eat a forkful and be transported to a state of porkalicious heaven. Seriously, it's that good. 

El Palacio de Los Jugos — If for some tragic reason, you were visiting El Palacio de Los Jugos (The Juice Palace) marketplace and allowed to order only one item, you'd be wise to make it the juice. This Miami institution is famed for its 20-plus flavors of juices, including mango, guava, papaya, beet and coconut — and yes, they are divine. But if arriving with free will and a monster appetite, order a plato, a styrofoam container stuffed to bursting,from one of the prepared foods counters. The standout entree is the ropa vieja. It’s shredded beef steeped in a tomato sauce base, flecked with red and green peppers and onions, and served over moro, a mix of black beans and white rice, with platanos maduros, gooey, fried sweet plantains. Don't leave Palacio without ordering a side of chicharrónes, or fried pork rinds; they've acquired epic status throughout Miami.

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