Monday, September 16, 2013

Miami Culinary Tours - Little Havana Food Tour

With Mr. Pedro Bello
Bet you didn't know that Mr. Pedro Bello, the owner of Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co., is the most photographed man on Calle Ocho. Or that nowadays there is more than just Dominoes being played at Domino Park. Abuelitos can also impress the masses with their chess skills or try their hand at cards. Well I learned a lot of this and more just a couple of weeks ago at the Little Havana food tour offered by Miami Culinary Tours.

Street Mural

Calle Ocho
And we're off...
Miami Culinary Tours is a food tour adventure that features the very best Miami has to offer in all of its melting pot glory. Incorporating hidden gems that serve authentic cuisine with a scoop of history makes it an entertaining, delicious way to learn about the Magic City. Not only is it a must-do for tourists, but it is also a refreshing way for locals to reconnect with the city and its roots. I enjoyed the South Beach tour a few months ago and couldn't wait to check out its Little Havana counterpart. While I am a Miami girl all the way, I haven't been to Little Havana in quite some time and from the moment I parked and walked over to our meeting place, I have to say that I felt that Cubanometer spike up.

Domino Park
Steven, our tour guide, was a walking encyclopedia of interesting information from beginning to end. He pointed out the very window on 8th Street and 15th Avenue where the Bay of Pigs Invasion was planned so many years ago and the impressive Ceiba tree where many Santeria followers come to leave their offerings. But from the colorful past that made Little Havana the much visited eclectic neighborhood it is today, we found our way to the present, engulfed in stories of hope, promise and ultimately a new home.

Some serious cigar rolling at Cuba Tobacco Cigar Co.

Steven, our tour guide
Latin Walk of Fame
Although the focus of the tour was to get a taste of the Cuban food so central to Little Havana, we also visited several art galleries and had the opportunity to chat with the artists themselves. We got to see cigars being rolled in the age-old Cuban tradition that somehow escapes political opinions and the passing of time. And of course, as we walked through Miami's version of the Walk of Fame and admired the stars of Celia Cruz and Willy Chirino, we got a glimpse of the first theater in the U.S. to play English movies with Spanish subtitles.

El Pub and the signature chickens of Little Havana

Mural honoring Cuba in El Pub
Meat Empanadas
But what about the food, you ask? That definitely did not disappoint. We started at El Pub, and indulged in a flavorful and juicy meat empanada generously filled with picadillo, or ground beef. We also sampled a Toston Relleno, or fried plantain, topped with chicken. To enhance the experience, we sipped on a refreshing Presidente Beer. El Pub has an old-world charm to it, showcasing Cuban paraphernalia, such as old menus, that pay homage to the land. I half expected its 86 year old owner, who happens to work everyday, to walk in at any point and say hello.

Tostones Rellenos

Media Noche
From there, we walked on over to El Exquisito, a hidden gem that I found to offer one of the best Media Noches, or Midnight Sandwiches, I've put in my mouth. Buttery bread, lots of ham and a nice helping of pork smiled back at us, while we bit into the crunchy Mariquitas (Plantain Chips). As we strolled to our next stop, we visited Domino Park for a few minutes. I have to say this was a sentimental part of the tour for me, as I remembered the sweet times when my father used to come and play here. A few moments later we were munching on Guava Pastries and drinking a nice, hot Colada at Yisell Bakery.

Guava Pastries

Fruit at Los Pinarenos
Decisions Decisions
As you may know fruit are very important to the Latin community, so the tour wouldn't be complete if it didn't include a stop at a Fruit Stand. Los Pinarenos served us a cup of traditional Guarapo, or sugar cane juice. This was the perfect thirst quencher in the sizzling Miami heat, as we marveled at the selection of plump, fresh fruit they offered. You're wondering about dessert, aren't you? Well, that was a treat all on its own. Steven took us to Azucar Ice Cream Company, a cultural explosion that has been a part of Little Havana for roughly two years, and offers tropical flavors Cuban grandmothers would go nuts over: Abuela Maria, Cafe con Leche and Platano Maduro to name a few. It was interesting to learn that each time the owner would discover a new flavor, she'd test it by crossing the street and taking samples to the abuelitos at Domino Park. No better experts, huh? I loved the Dulce de Leche; it was a delightful artisanal confection I will be repeating very soon.

Azucar Ice-Cream Company

Bay of Pigs Monument
Little Havana
Welcome Committee

By the time we finished our tour, I was excited to return to a part of town I had somehow forgotten. Along the way, I came across several restaurants I can't wait to visit. I noticed Steven was great at giving tips to the tourists that asked for specific suggestions, so whether you're in town for a few days or call Miami home, this is one tour you'll want to check out. For more information, visit Miami Culinary Tours online.

Giveaway Time!

Do you want to experience this cultural, good-eating fun for yourself? Well I'm giving away a certificate for 2 people to participate in a Miami Culinary Tour and you can enter two ways. (Woo Hoo! More chances to win!)

1) Comment on this post: When was the last time you went to Little Havana and what did you do?

2) Tweet: I entered to #win 2 tickets to a @MIACulinaryTour from @mariasgoodtaste #giveaway

** Please make sure you are following @mariasgoodtaste on Twitter. Winner will be selected Wednesday, October 16th at noon!! Happy Eating!

Congratulations to Christina Armenti (@GetRealForLife on Twitter) for winning the gift certificate for 2 to Miami Culinary Tours. I will be giving away another certificate so stay tuned for the details starting this Friday, October 18th.


  1. What an AWESOME day you had! I am thrilled that you posted this because I don't live all that far from Miami, so I might be able to check out a few of these places. Thank you for sharing the info!

    1. Thanks! It was a lot of fun and a fabulous way to experience the history and traditions of one of the most colorful neighborhoods in Miami.

  2. Thanks for shraring information about Food Tours in your blog.

  3. Versailles and Catharsis are the only culinary treats I have tried in Little Havana. would love to explore this gem even more !

  4. I'm ashamed to say as much as I am in Miami, (always searching for a Cafesito) I haven't explored Little Havana much.After reading your posting I believe I've been missing out! I would love to opportunity and excuse to visit Little Havana and try the delicious empanadas you featured from the El Pub.

  5. The last time I went to Little Havana was two years ago in late October. I went to La Casa de Los Trucos to buy my Halloween costume! :)

  6. The last time I visited Little Havana was about 3 months ago. I would really enjoy attending the Miami Culinary Tour and partake in the different cuisine's :)

    With Love,

  7. I'm ashamed to say the last time I went was for the @305cafecito anniversary party. I think I'm definitely due back.

  8. I have never been to Little Havana, however, it is on my hit list!! Would love to take a culinary tour!!

  9. Last time I was in Little Havana, I went to Azucar Ice Cream.

  10. Last time I went to Little Havana I was going to visit an Atelier and got a couple of pastelitos on the way back home! I'd love to explore the different food spots in the area!

  11. Congratulations to Christina Armenti (@GetRealForLife on Twitter) for winning the gift certificate for 2 to Miami Culinary Tours. I will be giving away another certificate so stay tuned for the details starting this Friday, October 18th.

  12. I am so delighted to read your blog! I frequently write blogs and my recent blog is on food especially Spanish food. Have a look and let me know if we share the same taste.

  13. NICE BLOG!!! Thanks for sharing useful information about Little Havana food tour is sure to excite your palette.Taste your way around the city and learn about history and culture of the area...