MIAMI’s culturally diverse tastes permeate both high-end restaurants on South Beach, as well as less expensive cafeterias and counters around the city. Here are some of Miami’s most delectable multicultural dishes.
1. Vaca frita
A staple in Cuban kitchens, vaca frita literally translates to “fried cow.” It’s beef that’s been shredded and marinated in lime and then cooked until it’s crispy. It is often served with a mountain of sautéed onions and wedge of lime so you can squeeze it on top to taste, and usually with rice and beans.
2. Ropa vieja
The Spanish name translates to “old clothes,” referring to the way the beef is shredded and stewed in a tomato-based sauce. Though the meat used is the same as in vaca frita, the resulting dish is completely different. You can find the city’s best of both dishes at Habana Vieja Restaurant.
Maduros are plantains sliced and fried to make a sweet side dish that goes great with rice, beans, and any kind of meat. Another common way to enjoy plantains is twice-fried and salted as tostones — crunchy on the outside and soft inside.
4. Toston burger
A local Miami chain called Pincho Factory has taken the alt-bun to another level by putting two giant tostones as buns. You can add all kinds of toppings, including bacon and fried cheese.
8. Aji de gallina
Miami is also a great place for Peruvian food. The shredded chicken in this dish is in a creamy yellow sauce and served with white rice. It’s unlike any chicken you’ve ever had before. You’ll find it in most Peruvian restaurants in Miami including the popular Happy Hour spot, Suviche.
Another traditionally Peruvian specialty, ceviche, is made of fresh fish marinated in citrus juices. The flavors of ceviche are unique, depending on the seafood chosen and the juices and spices used to marinate them. Coconut Grove restaurant Jaguar offers the perfect introduction to ceviche, with a variety of ceviche spoon samplers.
10. Colombian perros
After a long night of partying in Brickell, the best place to get your munchies on is La Moon Restaurant. Their to-go options include meat skewers, burgers, and the craziest hot dogs you’ve ever seen. The Colombian perro is a smoked sausage served with bacon, a quail egg, and drowned in three different sauces.
The French have croissants, and the Miamians have pastelitos. These puff pastries come in different shapes and sizes, with different fillings. The most common flavors are guava, cream cheese, and ground meat. You can get pastelitos anywhere in the city, even gas stations, but the best ones are made fresh at Ricky Bakery.
12. Chicken wings
Sports Grill wings are Miami’s favorite, especially on a Dolphins or Heat game day. The chicken is plump and meaty, and they’re made in 7 flavors. Their most popular wings are the Special Grilled wings which are cooked first in Sports Grill buffalo sauce and then cooked again in Worcestershire. But if you’re feeling brave, you can try their extremely spicy Miami Heats — they’re covered in five different hot spices.
13. Palomilla steak
One of Miami’s oldest and most important Cuban restaurants is Versailles on historic Calle Ocho. Here you’ll find a lot of Cuban favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But the best dish of the bunch is the palomilla steak, or the butterflied beefsteak. It’s a thin steak, grilled to perfection, and served with French fries.
For a hearty piece of meat, try the churrasco, or grilled skirt steak. This cut of meat can be found at most Brazilian or Argentinian steakhouses and is often served with chimichurri, an oily sauce made with finely chopped green herbs. But for a twist on a classic, check out Finka’s take. Their churrasco steak is served with truffled green beans on a bed of sweet potato mash, with a tangy Asian version of chimichurri.
Yuca, also known as cassava, is a potato-like root vegetable that is almost as important as rice in Latin cuisine. It’s typically prepared in two different ways: Boiled and served with a garlic sauce (known as mojo), or fried either in little bites or like thick-cut fries and served with a dipping sauce, like a creamy cilantro garlic sauce. Pollo Tropical has a great version.
16. Stone crab
South Florida seafood is always fresh. Aside from ceviche, one particular seafood favorite in Miami is the Florida Stone Crab. And the best place to get your fill is at Joe’s Stone Crab, where you can dig into fresh Stone Crab claws from October 15th to May 15th. The sweet claw meat can be dipped into melted butter or their famous mustard sauce. You can also get the Stone Crab Bisque or Crab Cakes from the menu.
17. Cinnamon rolls
Another seasonal delight is Knaus Berry Farm’s cinnamon rolls. The farm, where you can pick tomatoes and strawberries, is known best for its bakery, where you can get fresh pies, cookies, and their warm gooey cinnamon rolls. People wait in line for up to two hours for these mouthwatering rolls. To help the long wait, you can enjoy a thick, cold milkshake (the key lime one is particularly delicious). But if you want to avoid driving all the way to Homestead, Knaus Berry teams up from time to time with local smokehouse Miami Smokers, who bakes their cured bacon into the rolls. Knaus Berry closes up shop from mid-April until about November.
18. Churros and hot chocolate
If you’re visiting on one of the two days of the year where the temperatures hover under 50 degrees, head over to La Palma to warm up. Churros are fried dough pastries covered in sugar and they pair flawlessly with a hot cup of cocoa. This is probably not the hot chocolate you’re used to — it’s thick and soupy, perfect for dipping.
Over the past year, since The Salty Donut came to town, the city has been gripped with donut frenzy. The artisanal donut shop makes fresh batches of craft donuts every day, opening up just in time for breakfast and closing when they sell out. Some donuts are made all year round, like their Nutella and Maple Bacon flavors, but their menu changes constantly, with special flavors introduced each week.
20. Southern cooking
Miami Beach’s Yardbird is the perfect place for some great Southern comfort food and hospitality. Perfect for brunch, their signature dish is the chicken and waffles which comes with a honey hot sauce. Save room for some of the small plates, like the mac and cheese, grits, biscuits, and the fried green tomato BLT. This is a great place to go with a big group and share everything.