So you say you want hand-rolled cigars. Well, Little Havana, where Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans and Peruvians, among others, have settled, is the place to get them—along with Cuban cafecitos (coffees), guava pastellitos (pastries) and a game of dominoes. One of Miami's more colorful ethnic neighborhoods, Little Havana is the center of socio-politico exilio life, which visitors can get a grand taste for at elaborately decorated diner Versailles (pronounced not like the French with the –s missing but with the –es as an extra syllable). Little Havana is also the home for such music and culture festivals as the Three Kings Parade and, every February through March, Carnaval Miami, which concludes with the biggest Hispanic street party in America, the Calle Ocho Festival.
Speaking of Calle Ocho, or Southwest Eighth Street (which is also known as Tamiami Trail and continues across the state westward), this main thoroughfare west of downtown's Brickell Avenue is where you can find the colorful murals, bodegas (markets), botánicas (folk medicine and religious statuary shops) and fruterías/cafeterias (juice cafes) such as El Palacios de los Jugos. At such places, you can enjoy a full Cuban meal--roast pork or chicken, white rice, black beans and sweet or fried plantains--for under ten dollars. There are also higher-end restaurants of all stripes; one of the best, Casa Juancho, touts classic Spanish fare and is renowned for its paella, and another, the long-standing Vietnamese eatery, Hy Vong, is regarded for its rolling cakes and fish with mango sauce.
Similar to Hollywood Boulevard, Calle Ocho celebrates famous Latinos and Latinas, including jazz legend Celia Cruz and pop culture diva Gloria Estefan on the "Walkway of Stars." On Calle Ocho, you can also enjoy cultural landmarks Domino Park (where fierce tournaments and gentle games both ensue); Jose Marti Park; The Tower Theater, which was built in 1926 and still hosts productions; and PAX (Performing Arts Exchange) for live salsa and flamenco music and dance concerts.
Bewildered by it all? Don't know where to start? Miami Culinary Tours offers the tastiest way to see the twenty-odd blocks: with your palate.© NileGuide