Highlights from Calle Ocho in Miami’s Little Havana.
No trip to Miami is complete without a visit to Little Havana, and the last time I was there, my husband and I had so much fun we ended up going twice because one short visit was not nearly enough to satiate his curiosity.
The main drag through the neighborhood is Calle Ocho (Eighth Street in Spanish) and while it’s where you’ll find many of the big tourist draws, it also refreshingly still feels like it’s part of a neighborhood in which people live. For every cafe or bar there are opticians, grocery stores, and other signs of everyday life, and the best Cuban sandwiches in the city can be found in a tiny strip mall. There are still places along Calle Ocho that I’m eager to see, here are some of my favorites from my recent travels there:
El Sanguich de Miami: Repeatedly appearing at the top of “best Cuban sandwiches in the city” lists, El Sanguich is the aforementioned restaurant tucked in at the end of a tiny strip mall. On my first visit there, my Uber driver was a bit confused as to where I was going though once I saw the sign I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. The place is tiny and has a very focused menu of about six sandwiches and a handful of appetizers and sides. Everything they can make in-house is made in-house, from the mustard to the bread to the roasted pork. You even have your choice to either sit indoors or pick up a sandwich to go from their window, though if you have time definitely sit down and sit down and enjoy my favorite combo, a media noche (essentially a smaller Cuban sandwich on sweeter bread) and a cortadito, a proper Cuban-style coffee.
Ball and Chain: There are plenty of places along Calle Ocho to get a cocktail, but Ball and Chain is my favorite. Hailing from the mid-30s, the sprawling bar and restaurant features amazing cocktails (the Passion Fountaine is delicious and too easy to drink) and fun little appetizers like Cuban sandwich-style egg rolls. It’s also a great place to sit and listen to live music, and through it all you can stay cool under the belt-powered ceiling fans and misters they have set up along the front windows. If you’ve found a cigar from one of the nearby stores that you want to light up, there’s a space to do so in the back courtyard. The barstools here are extremely comfortable, and for good reason--you’re going to want to spend some time here.
Domino Park: Not far from the historic Tower Theater is Domino Park which features a covered pavilion where you can try your hand at playing dominoes. We’re determined to learn the game before our next trip to the city so we can play and not look too foolish in front of the locals. There’s also some wonderful art on the walls surrounding the pavilion if dominoes aren’t your thing.
Ella’s Oysters: If you’re in the mood for something lighter than a Cuban sandwich, Ella’s Oysters has you covered. A newer addition to the street, it’s quiet and cool there in the afternoon which is perfect for enjoying their happy hour buck-a-shuck oysters and drink specials, especially their draft beers. An added bonus is that their happy hour starts at 12 PM and runs until 7, making it easy to duck in and enjoy a snack.
La Colada Gourmet: For when you’re looking for a place to linger over coffee, come to this charming cafe. It’s definitely cozy, but they are serious about their coffee which makes it an ideal spot to take a break and do some writing, reading, or just shooting the breeze if you’re traveling with someone. The store also features lots of coffee-related gifts and knick-knacks, so you never know what may catch your eye.food sea
This list barely scratches the surface of what you can find in this gem of a neighborhood, but it’s enough to give you a lovely day there.