Miami’s blend of Latin American and Caribbean cuisines (with touches of African and Asian influence) make the city a melting pot for good food.
From Colombian to Haitian, Culture Trip has listed the Latin American and Caribbean eateries unique to Miami and worth checking out. Portions here are generous, and the meals are hearty. If you hit some of these spots, you’ll get a real taste of Miami.
Hole in the Wall, South American, Venezuelan
If you find yourself in Doral, it’s only fitting to grab Venezuelan grub – the area’s specialty. Featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, Pepito’s Plaza is a Venezuelan hideaway inside a Doral Exxon gas station. What started as a window stand expanded to a sizeable corner joint with indoor and outdoor seating areas. At Pepito’s, you can expect six sauces, on top of protein and more protein. The Doralzuela burger features a beef burger patty, thick-sliced ham and fried egg loaded with crunchy shoestring potatoes, avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and flavorful sauces between two buns. If that’s too much of a mouthful, order a parilla (mixed grill), which is all the works without the buns.
Miami had El Palacio de los Jugos (The Juice Palace) well before Joe and the Juice or Pura Vida even existed. Beyond being the city’s OG juice bar, this Cuban landmark is an unpretentious cacophony of sound and motion that houses three separate vendors, easily identified by staff sporting color-coordinated uniforms. The venue has a juice bar, a sandwichery and a hot-food cantine section – you pay for each separately. Though the jugo de mango (mango juice) and guarapo (sugar cane juice) are as fresh as they get, this is the kind of spot you avoid if noting your calorie intake. Instead, indulge in a hefty portion of its famous lechón asado (roasted pork) accompanied by yuca and maduros (plantains), and walk out with a greasy brown paper bag carrying chicharrones (fried pork belly chunks). There are three locations spread throughout Miami in Sweetwater, Westchester and West Miami.
This Nicaraguan fritanga is a casual hideout owned and operated by two Nicaraguan sisters. You can strike gold at La Hormiga de Oro with high-quality ingredients, savory tastes and low prices. Try the carne asada (charbroiled steak), which comes with gallo pinto (rice and beans soaked in onion) plus a choice of three sides, including fried sweet plantains, salad, fried yuca, fried cheese and tortillas – the fried cheese is the one side you should not sacrifice. Order from the kitchen or choose your pickings from a cantina that changes daily, flaunting Nica-style soups, pork and tacos. The fritanga – with three locations in Hialeah Gardens, Kendall and Pembroke Pines – also sells fresh Nica products like rosquillas (baked goods), white cheese and pinolillo (a sweet cornmeal- and cocoa-based beverage).
The long-standing B and M Market, dating back to 1980, is a colorful West Indian food market with a kitchen in the back. The husband-wife duo Nafeeza and Sheir Ali have owned and operated the place since 1990. The couple cooks up fresh, authentic Caribbean cuisine and sells a variety of products at low prices. Try the saltfish and ackee, or slather the market’s home-whipped hot sauce on the popular roti, which is available in vegetarian, chicken, goat or seafood variations. The no-frills corner shop is a go-to for generous portions of quality food matched with top-notch hospitality.
Skilled with a knife, the masters at Graziano’s are ready to cut, cook and season your meat to perfection. That’s how the Graziano family built an Argentinian empire in Miami, which now boasts several restaurants – including a pizzeria – and markets across South Florida. The owner, who set up shop over 50 years ago, is committed to his craft and still cuts the meat every morning while his son runs the multiple restaurants. You can’t go wrong with any of the meats grilled on the wood-fired asador, which uses quebracho wood imported from Argentina, paired with a glass of wine from the extensive wine list. Be sure to grab a couple of empanadas to go before you leave.
Chef Creole is another hole-in-the-wall takeout spot sought out by the likes of Anthony Bourdain, Eddie Huang and the Obamas. Because the chef-owner serves some of the best and most flavorful seafood around, this spot is a local Miami favorite. Wilkinson Sejour, the man behind the kitchen and the restaurant’s name, whipped up a creole sauce so good it made Bourdain blurt out it “might be the best creole sauce outside Haiti.” Help yourself to island classics, such as conch, slow-cooked oxtail or fish in creole sauce, in any of the six locations across Miami. If you’re hooked on the signature sauces Pikliz and Épice, you can take them home or purchase them online.
This Little Havana restaurant serves delicious authentic Mexican fare and not much else. With stripped down interiors, the main focus at Mi Rinconcito Mexicano is the food. You can choose cochinita pibil (pork), lamb, ground beef, chicken, chorizo or tongue to tuck into your soft corn tortillas, complemented by onions and cilantro. Drizzle lime juice and spicy hot sauce to add the finishing touches, and then wash down your tacos with a glass of home-made horchata (cinnamon-infused rice drink) or an ice-cold beer. The Calle Ocho mainstay also features a Mexican bakery inside the restaurant.
Miami is home to this Antioquian chain’s only US location. Thanks to the city’s large Colombian community, Mondongo’s opened its doors in Doral in 2001, 25 years after the first restaurant opened in Medellín. The restaurant’s menu boasts a range of typical paisa dishes, such as ajiaco or mondongo, but the tipico antioqueño is the name of this game. Locally known as a bandeja paisa (paisa platter), the hearty meal lays out a large plate of pinto beans, ground beef, chicharrones, egg, ripe plantain, potatoes and rice with sides of avocado and arepas (corn cakes). This is the place to cure your hangover by loading up on protein and carbs.