I’m not a local to Miami, but I’ve been here a few times. I’m visiting my grandparents, which shouldn’t come across as much of a surprise since it’s pretty much the retirement capital of the United States. To assist people from an unbiased standpoints, I am going to detail my experiences at the restaurants I have visited so far.
First up is Old’s Havana Cuban Bar & Cocina. Located near East Little Havana in Miami, they serve some amazing Cuban food. It’s not every day that you get to eat authentic Cuban food, but Miami is a cultural hub for Cubans so they have plenty of restaurants. I’m not sure how I managed to pass them up each time, but I’m glad there’s a first time for everything. Old’s is one of the highest rated Cuban restaurants in town, and it was the nearest one to me so I thought I’d give it a try.
The wait staff was experienced and accommodating, and the restaurant’s view was amazing as well. Old’s overlooks SW 8th Street, which the locals refer to as “calle ocho”. It always bring a little joy to my heart when you see the staff in a restaurant actually enjoying themselves. For anyone who doesn’t listen to Latin music, it really makes you want to dance. I could see the waiters struggling to suppress their moves, which actually surprised me. I ordered the vaca frita with moros and platano.
If there was any room left in my stomach, I would have kept ordering it again and again. Fried food is just one of my things. In addition, the tables were very well maintained and cleaned. Some places have little pieces of food left over from the last people, and a lot of people don’t realize how dangerous unsanitary conditions can be. One thing I can say for sure? Old’s never gets old.
After going to Old’s I had to get another taste of Miami’s Cuban food. I decided to go to El Exquisito, the next highest rated Cuban restaurant that also happened to be on SW 8th Street in Miami. They even let me go on a little tour around the kitchen, and I was surprised at how much I remembered from my high school cooking class. My teacher always used to remind us to check the exhaust hoods often, as grease fires were a huge potential risk.
El Exquisito definitely has that covered. They must have an amazing Miami hood cleaning business on their payroll. I came in halfheartedly expecting some lofty prices since Miami is a tourist trap. Strangely, I was taken aback by the reasonable prices and quality of the food. I ordered the tortilla de platanos maduras, which was even better than the food I ate at Old’s maybe just because I had been craving Cuban food all day this time around. Another thing El Exqusitio does right is ambience.
They got the lighting and decor right, to the point where I would pay just to sit down and hang out in the restaurant. Fortunately, the food was just as good. One thing I enjoy when visiting a restaurant is seeing how the staff (including the chefs) handle stress. You can tell whether or not a chef is good at their job depending on how they react to a high volume of requests. El Exquisito had no issues there, even during rush hour, which is arguably the busiest time of the day for any restaurant. The only bad part about this experience is that I can’t decide which Cuban place I would rather go to.
Next up came yesterday morning, when I decided to go to Mr and Mrs Bun. It’s a Peruvian sandwich shop located in southeast Miami, but they still have a variety of other dishes if that’s not one of your interests. I loved a good sandwich, so I got the short rib sandwich that’s pictured above. The amazing reviews for this place weren’t joking. You couldn’t get a better sandwich from chef Gordon Ramsay.
This may technically not be a restaurant, but I’ll still treat it like one because of the high quality of their food. Long gone are the college days of eating Port of Subs and Subway. I have arrived in sandwich heaven, and somehow it still manages to cost less than some of the dumpier restaurants that don’t even serve good food. I’m not sure how it works, but somehow seeing the cashier smile as she gave me my sandwich made it taste a whole lot better.
I took mine on the go, so I could tear little pieces of bread off for the ducks at the Westwind Lake Park. A lot of places tote that they have the “freshest” ingredients, but if you were able to look back into the kitchen you’d see the cans of processed food that they pull their slop from.
Last but not least came my meal this morning. I went to Neme Gastro Bar, which is near Coral Way in Miami. I was looking for a place to relax without any of the loud touristy noises from outside, and this was the perfect spot. At night, they feature jazz performances but unfortunately I was unable to experience one. Great service and great reviews, which I have now come to expect from restaurants.
It’s going to suck when I have to go back to eating at normal restaurants where the waiters don’t treat you like you’re at a hotel. The bar stools and counter were well-kept, and there weren’t any smudges in the glass. Not something you would normally look for, but when a place appears to be flawless then your mind tries extra hard to find any imperfections.
Neme’s menus were clean and error-free as well. There was one place that I visited in Reno where the menus had actual typos on them. It wasn’t even a theme. I wasn’t super hungry, so I only ordered an appetizer and took it with me so I could watch the sun come up by the ocean. Definitely one of my more unforgettable experiences.