Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America’s Hottest Culinary Destination
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - The Art of Cuban Sandwiches
The Cuban sandwich may seem simple - just ham, pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard pressed between slices of Cuban bread. But this satisfying sandwich is so much more than the sum of its parts. It's an edible embodiment of Miami's cultural fusion and a must-try for any visitor.
The Cuban sandwich has its roots in cigar factories of Cuba's capital Havana, where workers needed hearty portable meals. When many Cubans migrated to Florida after the 1959 revolution, they brought their sandwich tradition along. Outside their homeland, the classic Cubano took on new life with the addition of salami and different breads.
Today, Cuban bakeries all over Miami produce the fluffy, slightly sweet Cuban bread that gives the sandwich its distinctive crust. And every restaurant puts its own spin on the filling - adding roasted pork, turkey, or garlicky mojo sauce. Locals are quick to weigh in on where to find the best Cubano in town.
Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana claims to be the spot where the modern Cuban sandwich was invented when they first added salami in the 1970s. Their house-baked bread and thin-sliced meats draw devotees from all over Miami. Meanwhile, Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop packs their sandwiches with double the usual ham for a truly meaty experience.
At Sanguich de Miami, they toast the bread on a panini press while keeping the fillings deliciously chilled. You can even get a vegetarian spin with avocado and smoked gouda instead of meats. Or for a modern fusion take, try the Cubano Torres at Dizengoff restaurant, which combines pastrami, sauerkraut and Chinese mustard.
No matter which restaurant's version you try, the Cuban sandwich captures a slice of Miami history between two pieces of bread. The melding of sweet plantains, smoky pork and piquant pickles reflects how Cuban culture marinated with other Latin and American influences to create South Florida's unique flavors.
What else is in this post?
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - The Art of Cuban Sandwiches
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - From Croquetas to Tacos - Latin Flavors Shine
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Miami's Melting Pot of Caribbean Cuisines
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Nuevo Latino - Reinventing Traditional Dishes
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Molecular Gastronomy Goes Mainstream
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - The Rise of Food Halls and Artisanal Markets
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Craft Beer Flows in the Sunshine State
- Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Sweet Treats with a Tropical Twist
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - From Croquetas to Tacos - Latin Flavors Shine
Miami's culinary landscape shines with the vibrant flavors of Latin America and the Caribbean. Beyond Cuban influences, the city embraces cuisines from across Central and South America. Croquetas, empanadas, and tacos have become as ubiquitous as Cuban sandwiches.
Croquetas make the perfect snack - flaky on the outside, creamy on the inside. Little Havana institution El Exquisito Restaurant serves some of Miami's best. Their ham croquetas are filled with sweet Serrano ham and melty bechamel. For a more contemporary take, Mandolin Aegean Bistro does crab croquetas with fresh lump crabmeat, feta, and herbs. You can even find vegan croquetas made from hearts of palm at plant-based joints like Laguna Pasta Bar.
Empanadas also migrated from South America to Miami, with fillings ranging from Colombian-style beef to Argentine-inspired chicken. At Talavera Cocina Mexicana, their empanadas have a Mexican twist with fillings like tinga chicken stewed with chipotle peppers. Or try the empanadas at Oye! Arepa Bar for a taste of Venezuela's hearty corn patties stuffed with your choice of fillings.
Of course, tacos have taken Miami by storm in recent years. From Baja fish tacos to Mexico City-style al pastor, you'll find authentic regional tacos all over town. Coyo Taco honors Mexican street food with handmade blue corn tortillas and fillings like chipotle chicken and braised beef brisket. Taquiza takes a chef-driven approach, with creative tacos like suckling pig with a guava glaze or tuna with watermelon.
The rise of Latin American cuisine in Miami reflects the region's diversity and the shared culinary heritage between South and Central America. As immigrants from these areas continue settling in Miami, they bring their recipes and culinary traditions. Food lovers eagerly embrace each new wave of Latin flavors and fusions. Trying Miami's breadth of empanadas, arepas, pupusas and more provides a delicious culinary tour of Latin America without leaving the city.
Beyond specific dishes, Miami's Latin restaurants also offer cultural experiences. Sip guayoyos (Ecuadorian cocktails) on the beachfront patio at Las Olas Restaurant. Feast on a family-style Peruvian meal under hanging lanterns at Ariete. Or chat with the Argentine chef as he slices thin cuts of juicy steak at Boia De. Every meal offers a chance to savor Miami's vibrant blend of Latin cultures.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Miami's Melting Pot of Caribbean Cuisines
Beyond Latin influences, Miami boasts a dynamic blend of cuisines from across the Caribbean islands. The waves of immigrants from Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and more brought their local ingredients, cooking techniques and flavor profiles. Trying Miami's mix of Jerk chicken, conch fritters, and curried goat provides a culinary island-hopping adventure.
At Jamaican hot spots like Hot Tropic Gardens, oxtail stew simmers with pigeon peas and scotch bonnet peppers for a true taste of Kingston. Their jerk chicken is smoked over fragrant allspice wood, lending a memorably spicy, smoky flavor. Neighboring hole-in-the-wall Jerk Machine serves equally addictive Jamaican fare like brown stew chicken and curried goat dished up with sides of fried plantains, cabbage and rice and peas.
Miami's Haitian restaurants also showcase the unique flavors of the Caribbean's largest island nation. Chef Creole infuses traditional dishes like griot (fried pork) and tassot (braised beef) with modern flair. At Lakay Cafe, the extensive menu highlights Haiti's French and African influences, from pumpkin soup to conch salad with a kick of Scotch bonnet. Beyond entrées, Haitian patties stuffed with spicy ground beef make the perfect quick bite.
The islands' proximity means cuisines cross-pollinate. Miami's Bahamian eateries offer conch fritters similar to those found in Haiti and Turks & Caicos. At Addiction Restaurant & Lounge, their fritters pair sweet, briny conch with heat from Scotch bonnets. Triton Seafood serves its fritters with zesty lemon garlic aioli for dipping. Conch also stars in cracked conch - pounded thin, fried crisp and served with sliced onions, lime and fiery sauce.
Miami's Dominican restaurants showcase dishes like mofongo - fried green plantains mashed with garlic and olive oil - and tostones, smashed then fried green plantains. Try them alongside slow-roasted pernil (pork shoulder) at Santo Domingo Restaurant in Little Havana. Locals flock to Puerto Sagua for the Dominican-style mangu - mashed plantains topped with sauteed onions, eggs and sausage or other meat.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Nuevo Latino - Reinventing Traditional Dishes
Miami’s dining scene has embraced Nuevo Latino cuisine, which puts inventive twists on traditional Latin American dishes. Chefs are reinventing classics with modern techniques and fresh flavor combinations while staying true to the soul of these iconic recipes. Nuevo Latino celebrates Latin America’s incredible diversity of ingredients and cultures while pushing boundaries.
At restaurants like Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, chef Samuel Vasquez spotlights Peruvian flavors through a contemporary lens. His take on the Peruvian causa layers yellow potato puree with sustainable Patagonian toothfish, citrus-cured grapes and spicy rocoto peppers for an upscale spin on the classic cold potato terrine. Vasquez's arroz meloso showcases creamy Andean black rice, scallops and truffle for luxury touch. Yet the chef ensures dishes like his lomo saltado and anticuchos retain their Peruvian essence despite elegant plating.
Argentine chef Misha Garcia helms Coya Miami, which infuses traditional dishes from Peru to Argentina with modern flair. Cebiches feature market-fresh Florida fish like snapper instead of classic lime-marinated corvina. Empanadas get a gourmet spin with fillings like oxtail ragu with figs and blue cheese. Garcia's provoleta puts the spotlight on the high-quality provolone, searing the cheese then drizzling it with lemon olive oil and micro greens.
Even beloved Cuban mainstays get reinvented at Nuevo Latino hot spots. At Navé, a starter of Cuban sandwich croquetas mimics the layers of ham, pork, cheese and pickles in crunchy fried bites. Their vaca frita tacos shed the pork for braised then crispy fried beef flank with mango salsa and lime crema in housemade corn tortillas.
Miami chef Michelle Bernstein's Café La Trova gives the humble tostones an elegant makeover, frying them in truffle oil and sprinkling with parmesan. Her lechón asado sandwich swaps Cuban roast pork for 16-hour braised pork belly with melted Swiss cheese, Dijon and pickles on pressed Cuban bread. These playful riffs on Cuban classics help breathe new life into traditional recipes.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Molecular Gastronomy Goes Mainstream
Molecular gastronomy brings science into the kitchen for transformative takes on food. While modernist techniques like spherification and sous-vide cooking long seemed relegated to avant-garde restaurants, Miami’s dining scene has embraced making them more accessible. Now curious eaters can experience molecular cuisine’s innovative methods and unexpected textures without the highbrow price tag.
At Dizengoff restaurant, husband-wife co-owners Zack and Balyn create magic combining their Middle Eastern roots with molecular techniques learned while working under famous modernist chefs Ferran Adrià and Grant Achatz. Their hummus channels spherification to form edible “dumplings” that burst with cool, creamy chickpea flavor. For a showstopping salad, fresh vegetables and herbs get frozen with liquid nitrogen then shattered tableside into a salad as colorful and dazzling as confetti.
Even their pita bread receives a molecular upgrade. The dough first ferments for an extended 72 hours to develop complex flavor before getting rolled paper-thin and baked till perfectly crisp. Dizengoff’s molecular twists on familiar foods make trying avant-garde methods unintimidating and fun.
At each outpost of Vice City Bean, the coffee shop proves you don’t need a multi-course tasting menu to enjoy molecular techniques. Their nitro coffee gets infused with nitrogen for an ultra-smooth, frothy cold brew. Tea lattes feature perfectly spherical boba pearls crafted through reverse spherification. It allows vice city to skip the usual additives and preservatives used in pre-made boba. Customers can sip Instagram-worthy drinks without paying fancy restaurant prices.
Even mall food court La Centrale elevates Italian food with modern methods and cutting-edge equipment. Their ravioli gets extruded into consistent, delicate pillows with a pasta press. Perfectly cooked eggs for carbonara come straight from the water bath of an immersion circulator. Cocktails employ centrifuges for clarifying juices into crystal-clear mixers. La Centrale makes molecular cuisine easily accessible for the mall-going masses.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - The Rise of Food Halls and Artisanal Markets
From old warehouses to abandoned malls, Miami is transforming neglected urban spaces into vibrant culinary destinations. Food halls provide the perfect home for small purveyors to unite under one roof while drawing large crowds. And specialty markets allow local artisans and food entrepreneurs to showcase their products.
At La Centrale food hall, what was once an unused section of the Aventura Mall now houses an array of upscale vendors slinging everything from Venezuelan arepas to Japanese udon noodles. Solo diners can grab a drink and small bite from any of the 20+ vendors, while groups can sample dishes from multiple stalls for the ultimate tasting tour. La Centrale's airy industrial design feels a world away from standard mall food court fare.
The vibrant Riverside Wharf neighborhood carved a foodie paradise from deserted warehouses. At halls like Coyo Taco and 1-800-Lucky, Latin street food from tacos to ceviche joins forces with craft beer, coffees and sweets. Outdoor seating and a sweeping mural make for an energizing, Instagrammable experience. Nearby, The Citadel food hall transformed a former office building into a mecca for artisans and epicures. From Venezuelan hot dogs at Doggi’s Arepa Bar, to Hawaiian poke bowls at Aloha Poke Co, it brings Miami's diverse cultures to the table.
Beyond expansive halls, niche markets also celebrate local purveyors. At Soyka's Table, a quaint converted home, shoppers weave past olive oils, honeys and baked goods to dine al fresco. Nearby MATLAB Marketplace spotlights Latin American comestibles, from Brazilian guarana sodas to Salvadoran pupusas. Even airports are getting in on the action. At Miami International Airport, La Provence Marketplace draws travelers with small-batch roasters, gluten-free bakers and empanada outposts from Miami favorites like Ms. Cheezious and Timba.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Craft Beer Flows in the Sunshine State
Florida conjures images of sunshine, beaches and margaritas. But beyond tropical cocktails, the Sunshine State now boasts a thriving craft beer scene. Funky breweries are popping up across South Florida, pouring hoppy IPAs, rich stouts and playful sours for locals and visitors alike. From relaxed taprooms to beer-soaked events, craft brew lovers have plenty of ways to savor Florida’s flavorful ales and lagers.
Miami pioneered Florida’s craft beer boom with trendsetters like Abbey Brewing Company. They’ve expanded from Abbey’s original humble 1995 operation to become Miami’s largest craft brewer. Their massivePIPE\Works facility allows for small-batch experimentation alongside mainstays like Monk in the Abbey Belgian Amber and Father Theodore’s Stout. For lighter refreshment, try their Miami Pale Ale or Golden Ale. Those looking to expand their hops horizons can opt for monthly memberships offering exclusive brews.
J Wakefield Brewing made a splash in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District with its audacious use of fruit. Their signature Florida Weisse series turns Berliner Weisses tart and quenchable by adding mango, guava, passionfruit or key lime. Wakefield’s specialty Star Awardee imperial stout achieves sweet complexity using coconut, cocoa, vanilla beans and coffee. The taproom’s outdoor ‘Biergarden’ captures Wynwood’s artsy energy with street art murals and hipster vibes.
In nearby Fort Lauderdale, breweries like Odd Breed Wild Ales funk things up with sours and farmhouse styles. Using wild yeast strains and oak-aging, they create tart, funky brews like their flagship Hipster Pony saison. At Invasive Species Brewing, patrons sip classics like Hefeweizens alongside more adventuresome options like a Peanut Butter & Jelly milk stout. The dog- and kid-friendly taproom offers laidback vibes for enjoying their repertoire of innovative brews.
The Palm Beaches area boasts standouts like Twisted Trunk Brewing and Saltwater Brewery. Twisted Trunk pays tribute to its natural surroundings with brews like the Honey IPA featuring honey from local bee farms. Saltwater makes quaffable beers like their malt-forward Reef Lager approachable for Florida’s ubiquitous boaters and beachgoers. Their admirable initiatives supporting ocean conservation through beer sales and other eco-efforts make imbibing their brews feel good in more ways than one.
Beyond major metros, craft brewing flourishes in smaller Florida cities too. In Dunedin near Tampa, wood-clad Dunedin Brewery serves Celtic-inspired beers like their sweet, malty Gaelic Ale beside gastropub fare like Scotch eggs and fish and chips. At Intracoastal Brewing in Melbourne offering views of the bay, highlights range from refreshing Sea Cow Milk Stout with lactose to Ran' D IPA generously hopped with Chinook, Azacca and Mosaic varietals.
Miami Spices Things Up: How the Magic City Became America's Hottest Culinary Destination - Sweet Treats with a Tropical Twist
Miami’s tropical climate means fruit grows abundantly, from juicy mangos to refreshing coconuts. Innovative chefs and artisans are using these local bounties to put tempting twists on beloved desserts and confections. Experiencing Miami’s reimagined classic treats, reinvented with fresh tropical produce, provides a sweet introduction to South Florida’s exotic offerings.
No Miami dessert spree would be complete without trying guava pastelitos, the sweet hand pies ubiquitous in Cuban bakeries. While the traditional pastelito filling combines guava paste and cream cheese, trendy bakery Batch, Gastropub takes the tropical flavors up a notch. Owner Andrew Gonzalez fills his pastelitos with whole fresh guava slices mixed into the silky cream cheese filling. The tart guava brightens the rich cheese beautifully in each flaky bite. Regulars rave these are the best pastelitos in Miami.
At Mexican outpost Coyo Taco, their signature Esquites cookies swap out chocolate chips for kernels of grilled corn. The burnt sugar notes of the charred corn complement the buttery, chewy cookies for a perfect salty-sweet balance. One enthusiastic Yelper declared these “insanely delicious” corn cookies are “worth the calories.” Even ice cream gets more interesting with tropical fruits as mix-ins. At Azucar Ice Cream Company, customers line up for flavors like mamey, a sweet tropical fruit. They also offer more adventurous ice creams featuring local tastes like Cuban bread, receives rave reviews.
Miami’s proximity to the Caribbean means coconut is put to delicious use. Popular Venezuelan bakery D’La Santa Gourmet makes coquito cookies sandwiching coquito custard between coconut cookies. The coveted cookies sell out daily. At Caribbean spot The Daily Creative Food Co., their coconut cake layers moist coconut cake with silky coconut pastry cream for coconut bliss in every bite. The cake became so popular, they began selling whole ones nationwide.
One can hardly discuss sweets in the tropics without mentioning rum cake. Cuban staple Havana 1957 serves their soak-it-yourself rum cake with a whole bottle of dark rum for maximizing boozy flavor. Night owls appreciate their late hours, with the Little Havana shop staying open till 3am on weekends. On Miami Beach, Azucar Ice Cream pushes rum cake into decadent new territory by using it in their rum cake ice cream. They soak rum cake in even more rum to infuse the ice cream base before churning and mixing in crumbled bits of cake. The results are sublime.