Feast like a local in the Magic City

Bayside Marketplace is a popular
Miami location where visitors can
get a taste of South Florida
cuisine at restaurants like Kuba
Cabana.
Bayside Marketplace is a popular Miami location where visitors can get a taste of South Florida cuisine at restaurants like Kuba Cabana. Photo credit: Josh Halper

With a 70% Hispanic population and Haitians as the second largest immigrant group, Miami residents have established their own communities through music, tradition and food. From Little Haiti to Little Havana, the city is full of diverse cuisine.

If you’re looking for hot spots that’ll transport you directly to Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, look no further. Here’s everything you need to know to experience the Miami food scene the authentic way.

Did someone say croquetas?

52% of Miami’s population identifies as Cuban. With a multitude of Cuban dining options, it can be overwhelming to select the most authentic restaurants.

Sydney Stropes, a senior majoring in nursing and religion and healthcare who served as the 2021-2022 president of the Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos, describes Versailles as a “Cuban watering hole.” While she holds Rio Cristal near and dear to her heart for sentimental reasons, she admits that Versailles is a special place and recalls how her family exchanged memories of her great grandmother after her passing over croquetas and cafecitos.

“It’s like walking into my own family’s dining room,” Stropes said about the self-proclaimed world’s most famous Cuban restaurant.

La Carreta cannot be forgotten either. When it’s time to break out pots and pans because the Miami Heat made it to the NBA Finals, this chain restaurant is known for providing customers with homestyle food.

Haitian food for the soul

From being linguistically isolated to the negative stereotypes formed around the community, Haitian food has not always received the spotlight it deserves. But now, Haitian restaurants across Miami are often touted as the crown jewel of Miami’s food scene.

Not sure what to order for your first time trying Haitian food? Make sure to try staples like diri kolé ak pwa — the national rice of Haiti which consists of red beans and rice — and fried, marinated pork chunks.

Naomi’s Garden Restaurant & Lounge’s large portions and welcoming, garden-seating ambience will leave you feeling plenty satisfied. Chef Creole Seasoned Restaurant is widely known for its fresh food made from scratch. Don’t forget to try the conch salad!

Students that are new to Miami can eat like a local at all of the native South Florida restaurants that are featured on Ocean drive in South Beach.
Ocean Drive in South Beach is a frequented destination to stroll and taste the many flavors of Miami at one of the many restaurants on on the street. Photo credit: Josh Halper

Sweetwater or Pequeña Managua?

What do you get when you mix a devastating earthquake in 1972, a revolution starting in 1979 and a civil war lasting until 1989? An influx of Nicaraguans immigrating to Miami. The city of Sweetwater has coined the term “Pequeña Managua,” due to 20% of the city’s population consisting of Nicaraguans alone.

If you’re looking for the best carne asada (grilled skirt steak) and gallo pinto (rice and beans), you should take a trip to Fritanga Monimbo. Luckily for UM students, there is a franchise only 15 minutes away from campus.

These casual restaurants will serve you the best “abuela-style” Nicaraguan food to make your mouth water. With sides, such as tajadas (fried plantain chips), fried cheese and cabbage salad, you’ll have leftovers to last you a while.

If you’re looking for a more upscale experience, visit restaurants like El Novillo or Los Ranchos Steakhouse. The churrasco and chimichurri combo with tortillas as an appetizer will make you a regular.

With so many different cuisines to embrace in Miami, it can be overwhelming to try them all. This guide will ensure you get a taste of what Miami truly is all about.

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Versailles

3555 Southwest 8th St.,

Miami, FL 33135

Rio Cristal

9872 SW 40th St,

Miami, FL 33165

La Carreta

8650 SW 40th St,

Miami, FL 33155

Naomi’s Garden Restaurant & Lounge’s

650 NW 71st St,

Miami, FL 33150

Chef Creole Seasoned Restaurant

200 NW 54th St,

Miami, FL 33127

Fritanga Monimbo

7173 SW 117th Ave,

Miami, FL 33183

El Novillo

830 SW 40th St,

Miami, FL 33155

Los Ranchos Steakhouse

The Falls, 8888 SW 136th St,

Miami, FL 33172