A visit to Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood is like a trip outside the USA. The sights, the smells, the accents — you’ll feel like you’ve really journeyed to Cuba. For many of us, it will be the closest we ever get to the real deal. We only had a few brief hours to explore this go around, so it was something of a whirlwind tour, for certain.
We rarely come to this part of the world without stopping for a meal at Versailles Cuban Cuisine. If not the best, it is surely the most popular and well known eatery in Little Havana. The food is consistently good and the prices always fair. It always seems to be a proper mix of tourists and locals. And if the locals are consistently eating here in large numbers, then you know they are doing something right.
Lots of locals make Versailles a regular stop — even if it’s just to grab a jolt of strong Cuban coffee or a flaky pastry from Versailles always-busy bakery. This place is a bit of a compound. A cottage industry, one might even say. There is a walk up window to accomodate patrons on the go and it appears to be a never ending flow of humanity. Boston may run on Dunkin … but Miami runs on these tiny, shot glass-size shots of dark coffee loaded with more sugar than a box of Dunkin Donuts. Yes, you could say this is an acquired taste. I whoofed it down and immediately felt the combination caffeine/sugar buzz. Eileen didn’t care for it and I, not wanting to waste a drop, knocked hers back as well. My day was now in full tilt mode.
Cafe Con Leche and Conversation — morning in Little Havana
“The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant” — enough said.
Check out the ornate mirrored walls in Versaille’s rear dining area
The Versailles’ traditional Cuban sandwich is my go-to lunch order
Save room for some Tres Leche Cake — it’s moist and sinfully good
If you love coconut, give these sugar bombs (aka “Coquitos”) a try
Playing dominoes to pass the day is a Cuban (and Miami) passion
The art of making a hand-rolled stogie is alive and kickin’ in Miami
The Breakwater – one of South Beach’s fabulous art deco palaces
Do not miss Versailles Cuban Cuisine. But more importantly, don’t miss Miami’s Little Havana. It is a cultural gem that showcases Florida’s diversity and strong connection to Latin America. One day I will get to the real Havana. That day is coming soon. But until then, this will have to do. My son told me he felt like we were in a totally different country. “That’s the whole point, Travis,” I replied. “That is the whole point.”
Versailles Cuban Cuisine – 3555 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135
www.versaillesrestaurant.com; (305) 444-0240