Hanging on Calle Ocho? Here’s where to eat like a local in Little Havana

The sign over Union Beer Store lights up with the message that many new Calle Ocho business owners say has brought them to Little Havana: I love Calle Ocho. CARL JUSTE cjuste@miamiherald.com

On any given day, I’ll get a text from a friend or a family member asking, “Where should I eat?”

If they’re in Little Havana, they’re in luck. Because I have lots of recommendations.

This is a list of my favorite spots, places where I actually eat, my go-tos for an average Tuesday when I don’t have the time to cook for my daughters or when I want to treat myself midweek.

All over Miami-Dade county, you can find great food, from unadorned comfort classics to menus meant for special nights out. This is my list for the Little Havana area.

If you want to see my full list, check out, ‘Here’s how to eat like a local in (almost) every neighborhood in Miami’

 

Cardon y el Tirano

Cardon y El Tiraon’s trio of “arepitas,” bite-sized arepas that are made to order, flash fried to crisp the outside while keeping the inside pillowy perfect. These are topped with ropa vieja shredded beef.

Cardon y el Tirano takes inspiration from classic Latin American dishes and presents them with a modern flare that made it one of the Herald’s best-reviewed (3 1/2 stars, Excellent, when I reviewed it). Tiny fried arepas topped with shredded beef, bite-size bacalaitos, picadillo “cigars,” and lechon dumplings, they’re a fusion of cultures meant to be shared. You’ll be tempted to balk when you see the dumpy strip mall with the coin laundry, but don’t. I celebrated my beloved’s master’s degree here. (Go Golden Panthers! Is that a thing? I don’t know, I’m a Gator.)

3411 SW 8th St, Miami

Doce Provisions

I was predisposed to love this place because it replaced a terrible pizzeria and took up the mantle from the dearly departed Little Bread, which made the most delicious twists on Cuban sandwiches. Doce (pronounced in Spanish, as in 12th Avenue) does the neighborhood proud by fusing the flavors you find on Calle Ocho with modern interpretations: Chorizo croquetas, shishito peppers, lechon asado buns, and shrimp or short rib mac and cheese that’ll make your eyes roll back in your head.

541 SW 12th Ave, Little Havana

La Camaronera

Yes, this is a horrible photo of the food that I devoured, but please bring your attention to the PEARL!

Four buddies and I spent the afternoon helping my cousin move into nearby Little Havana, and when we were done, we were sweaty, spent and starving. We hit La Camaronera, the spot where you can come as you are and order a killer minuta fried-fish sandwich (tail still on!) that is often imitated, never duplicated. I know it says “market price” on the board, but it’s always $7.35. Don’t sleep on the fried shrimp sandwich or the fried oysters, in which I once found an actual pearl. True story!

1952 W Flagler St., Miami

Mi Rinconcito Mexicano

Jocelyn Mendoza and Jaime Reynoso, owners of La Panaderia bakery located inside the Mi Rinconcito Mexicano restaurant, in Little Havana, display a tray of pan de los muertos.Pedro Portal pportal@miamiherald.com

You don’t have to drive to the Redland to find a Mexican place worth its salt. Rinconcito Mexicano is as authentic as Mexican cuisine gets in Miami, including the weekend-only pozole soup and cochinita pibil roast. A Mexican-Cuban friend of mine doesn’t love that they don’t heat up their tortillas, but I don’t mind. The meats — especially the carnitas and carne asada — are beautifully seasoned and roasted. And there’s no better way to start a Sunday morning than with an order of chilaquiles (smothered in salsa roja, verde or combo of both).

1961 SW 8th St., Little Havana

Union Beer Store

Craft beer bars come and go, but this spot in the heart of a resurgent Little Havana is the real deal. Great beers locally and from around the country are the reason it’s my actual local bar. If you love pro wrestling, bonus points, because that’s their theme here. I don’t like or dislike pro wrestling, but there may or may not be a 30-year-old cassette tape of my cousins and me doing impersonations of Randy Savage, the Junkyard Dog, Hulk Hogan and “Mean” Gene Okerlund.

1547 SW 8th St., Little Havana