After cruising through Star Island, we headed to Calle Ocho, which translates as “8th Street.” This 23-block-long section of Miami is also known as “Little Havana,” as it houses the largest population of Cubans outside Cuba.
I wanted some cafe con leche, and what better place to try it, outside Castro’s homeland?
Calle Ocho is a beautiful, vibrant community. Each February/March, the area stages a huge block party — the Calle Ocho festival — a colorful, frenzied celebration of Cuban heritage that includes a beauty contest, a cooking contest, and a domino tourney.
That said, although you see bursts of Cuban energy and art throughout the area, don’t expect to head to 8th Street and feel like you’ve been transported to another dimension. Though there are plenty of Cubans in the area engaging in Cuban activities…
…it’s still *just* a residential neighborhood.
That said, I think they’ve done a great job making the area their own.
They even have their own Walk of Fame.
Many of the local shops feature hand-rolled cigars, guayberas, plastic roosters (?), and Cuban music: but I was there for Cuban Coffee. We had heard that the Versailles was *the* place to eat in Little Havana, so we headed there. However, on the way, we saw the El Cristo and agreed that we had to stop.
At the walk-up window, we ordered two cafe con leches, one empanada, and a bag of plantain chips. This woman made our drinks in front of us. I can only assume that the two-by-four in the window was there to beat unruly customers.
The coffees and plantain chips arrived first…
… followed closely by the empanada.
Hot, sweet, and strong, the cafe con leche provided just the right pick-me-up to power us through the rest of the day. Maybe it was because of the feel of Calle Ocho, but this was probably the best cafe con leche I’d ever had. Moreover, both the plantain chips and the empanada were fresh and steaming, and I loved their bold flavors. If you’ve never had plantain chips dunked in mojo sauce, you’ve not truly lived. In short, El Cristo turned out to be an excellent spot to stop. Muy bien!
After eating, we swung by a small gift shop down the street, and saw the Latin American Motorcycle Association roll in. Though they looked threatening (especially the guy in the middle!), they were a bunch of kittens. Hi, guys!
Okay, enough shopping. Let’s go have some fun!