This is what happens when a van full of foodies pulls up to the station on a Tuesday morning and whisks you away for a Miami Little Havana food tour. I had barely signed off the air before zooming to the other coast for an afternoon of exploration in this colorful Miami neighborhood. And the best part, it was for charity.
How the Miami Little Havana food tour happened
There are so many great charities in Southwest Florida. The Heights Foundation is one that I have been a part of for many years. Love Your Neighbor is their longstanding, annual fund raiser. One of the event’s auction lots was a cultural and food tour to Little Havana lead by Fort Myers chef and restaurateur Gloria Jordan. Gloria and her husband Brian own La Trattoria Café Napoli and Jordan’s Wine Bar and Cellar. She is from Cuba and used to lead tours to Havana. Trips like this one that I took around this same time last year.
Gloria and I often team up for charity auction lots that include food and wine dinners. She does the food, I do the wine, and we have a blast. In fact, it was a former winner of one of our dinners who purchased this Little Havana adventure and so kindly invited me to tag along. We took the Tamiami Trail not only because it was more direct to our destination, but also to stop at famous photographer Clyde Butcher’s Gallery. More on that, later.
Food Tour and other stops
Once in Miami, we headed straight to the iconic Cafe Versailles for Cuban coffee, pastries and croquettes. Rather than take a table inside, we ordered from the famous Ventanita coffee window. The pastries were perfectly crisp and full of things such as guava and cheese. The warm croquettes contained ham, chicken, or cod. The colada coffee, sweet and addicting was perfect with everything.
Versailles is on 8th street or Calle Ocho. It’s the main vein of Little Havana. If you go, concentrate on the area between 10th and 21st streets. The street has a walk of fame, full of stars bearing the names of famous Cuban’s. Think the Hollywood Walk of Fame in California. It’s lined with shops, galleries, bars and restaurants. Check out Futurama, an artist co-op of sorts, full of paintings, clothing, jewelry and more.
During our stroll down Calle Ocho, Gloria educated the group on Cuban culture, pointed out interesting facts about Little Havana and how it came to be. We stopped at Domino Park, the heartbeat of the neighborhood. The pavilion is crammed with people playing domino’s, a famous Cuban pastime. The buildings are colorful, the smells are intoxicating (sweet tobacco and grilled meats) and the sounds of music fills the air. It’s a vibrant place in every sense.
Lured by music we paused outside of Old’s Havana before making our way to the back garden for a late lunch. The black beans are fantastic. So are the Mojitos. Finally, here are my Miami Little Havana food tour photos.