What to Eat in Miami: 11 Treats You Should Not Miss
Nothing in Miami is quite like it is anywhere else. This giant Florida city is, in many ways, a world all to itself. Sometimes referred to as the Capital of Latin America, Miami's culture and history have been shaped by waves of immigration from Central and South America. And, of course, these immigrants have left an indelible mark on the city's cuisine, too.
In Miami, you'll find southern American classics like fried chicken and key lime pie rubbing shoulders with Cuban sandwiches, pupusas, and burritos. Little Havana is obviously the place to track down Cuban cuisine like skirt steak ropa vieja and pulled pork sandwiches, but Miami is home to several different neighborhoods that have their own unique culinary specialties. Coconut Grove and Brickell are always worth a closer look.
Really, the only way to get to grips with all the delicious food Miami offers is to explore it for yourself. So drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Miami and dive right in. From glitzy seafood restaurants in Miami Beach to a delicious Cuban sandwich from a Little Havana family restaurant offering the best street food in Miami, you'll be spoilt for choice. And don't worry if you have special dietary requirements; the best vegetarian restaurants in Miami can help you eat meat-free in South Florida.
So what are you waiting for? Get ready to explore all the flavorful dishes this incredible city offers, and don't forget to save room for dessert.
Miami Food: Cuban Sandwich
A Cuban sandwich is one of the most iconic Miami dishes. This simple but delicious meal consists of pulled pork, ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles on a crusty Cuban roll. Head to Little Havana's El Exquisito for what many locals consider the best Cuban sandwich in Miami.
Cuba is famously less than 100 miles from South Florida, so it's perhaps no wonder that Miami has been a center of Cuban immigration for generations now. The origins of the sandwich aren't completely clear, but one theory says it was first invented by the indigenous Taino people of the Caribbean island, then adopted by Spanish settlers. What's more clear is that this delicious sandwich was brought to Florida by migrant cigar workers from Cuba, and it quickly took hold in Miami.
It's a hearty sandwich that is perfect for keeping you fueled up while you explore this vibrant city. Plus, it gives you another reason to visit the fascinating Little Havana neighborhood (not that you need one).
Miami Food: Fried Chicken
The United States doesn't get much further south than South Florida, but it's easy to forget that Florida is a southern state, especially in Miami. The unique culture of the southern US isn't as apparent here as it is in some other southern states, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You'll find plenty of evidence of the south's influence if you look for it, including some delicious southern fried chicken.
There are lots of great places to get fried chicken in Miami, but one of the best is Yardbird Southern Table & Bar. This popular restaurant has been serving up its signature southern dishes since 2013, and its fried chicken is some of the best in the city. The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and hot sauce before being dredged in a secret blend of spices and flour, then fried to perfection. It's crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, and it comes with a side of honey-hot sauce for dipping.
Miami Food: Key Lime Pie
Possibly the most famous food to come out of Florida, key lime pie is something you simply can't miss while you're in the sunshine state. This delicious dessert is made with key lime juice, egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk, and a graham cracker or pastry crust. It's tart and sweet, and it's the perfect way to cool down after a spicy Cuban sandwich.
There are many good spots to get key lime pie in Miami, but one of the best is Joe's Stone Crab. This iconic restaurant has been serving up fresh stone crab and the iconic pie since 1913, and it's well worth a visit. The key lime concoction here is light and fluffy, with a tart yet sweet flavor that will have you coming back for more.
Miami Food: Cuban Coffee
Another Cuban favorite that has made a definite mark on the local food scene is Cuban coffee. This strong, sweet coffee is made with dark-roast beans and brewed with a lot of sugar. It's then served in a small cup called a "taza."
Cuban coffee is the perfect pick-me-up, and it's something you'll see people drinking all over Miami. The ideal accompaniment to Cuban food, this powerful coffee is the perfect way to wake up in the morning after a long night out in Little Havana, with a shot of caffeine and sugar strong enough to wake the dead.
Miami Food: Pastelitos
Pastelitos are small Cuban pastries that are similar to empanadas. They are typically filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables, and they make a great snack or light meal. Pair them with a Cuban coffee for the perfect Little Havana breakfast before heading out to explore the city. You can get pastelitos filled with everything from cream cheese to coconut, so you're sure to find one that appeals to your taste buds. Sweet or savory - they've got you covered!
Miami Food: Arroz con Pollo
Arroz con pollo is a classic Cuban dish that consists of rice and chicken cooked together in a tomato-based sauce. It's a hearty and filling dish that is perfect for a casual meal, and it's one of the most popular Cuban dishes in Miami. Traditionally a cheap source of protein to keep agricultural workers fueled up for a hard day's labor, this popular food has transcended its humble origins to become a classic of Cuban cooking in Miami. In fact, you'll find different takes on this dish just about everywhere in Miami's dining scene, including on the tasting menu of more than one fine dining restaurant in downtown Miami.
Miami Food: Ropa Vieja
Ropa vieja is another classic Cuban dish that consists of stewed beef, peppers, and onions cooked in a tomato-based sauce. It's a filling and flavorful dish perfect for a hearty meal, and it's another of Miami's most loved Cuban dishes.
This is another dish that you'll want to go to Miami's Cuban district to enjoy. Although you'll find local chefs trying their hand at it throughout the city, it's probably best to sample it in an authentic Cuban restaurant beneath the Miami skyline. Paired with French fries, it's ideal for a hearty appetite and a great way to experience South Florida's Cuban-inspired food scene for yourself.
Miami Food: Cuban Burger
Different from the well-known Cuban sandwich, the Cuban burger or frita Cubana is no less delicious than its better-known cousin. This burger is made with ground beef, onions, and spices and is topped with shoestring fries to make for a potent stomach bomb that will keep you full for hours after eating.
You can find Cuban burgers all over Miami, but if you want to try the best, head to El Rey de las Fritas. This eatery has been serving up some of the best Cuban food in Miami for 50 years, and their Cuban burgers are famous all over town. Order one "con queso" (with cheese) to get the full effect.
Miami Food: Haitian Griot
The Cuban influence on Miami's food scene is impossible to ignore, but it's not the only Caribbean island that has contributed its unique traditions to Miami's culture. Haitian griot is a popular dish in Miami that consists of fried pork chunks served with a spicy sauce. It's a welcome change for a sea of Cuban dishes (even though they're delicious).
This dish is typically served with pikliz, a Haitian condiment made with vinegar, chilies, and onions. The spicy meal is sure to wake up your taste buds and is ideal if you want to try something a little different while in Miami.
Miami Food: Conch Fritters
The Florida Keys are a chain of islands off the coast of Miami, and they are famous for their seafood. Conch is a popular ingredient in Key West, and conch fritters are a popular dish made with this seafood. The fritters are deep-fried and served with a dipping sauce, and they make for a delicious and easy-to-eat snack.
Conch is hugely popular in the Bahamas, and it's from here that this food was brought to Miami. This versatile ingredient can be served in a gumbo or even raw, but when made into fritters, it becomes even more delicious. You'll find it in Bahamian and Jamaican restaurants throughout the city, but it's worth taking the short ferry ride to the Florida Keys to try the freshest conch in all of Miami. Pair the fritters with a crisp salad to provide some balance to your meal and give you a break from the often heavy Cuban cuisine you've probably been eating a lot of in the city.
Miami Food: Stone Crab Claws
Stone crab is a type of crab found in the waters off the coast of Florida, and it's a popular seafood dish in Miami. The claws are typically boiled or steamed and served with a dipping sauce, and they make for a delicious appetizer or main course.
Stone crab season runs from October to May, so if you're visiting Miami during this time, be sure to order some stone crab claws. They are often served as an entree but can also be found in starters and salads. Either way, they make for a delicious and refreshing seafood dish that is perfect for a warm day in Miami.
Miami isn't short of seafood restaurants, and you'll find stone crab on the menu at just about all of them during the season. However, Joe's Stone Crab in the South Beach neighborhood is widely regarded as one of the best places to try this classic Miami treat.
Miami Food: Alligator Bites
You know you're in the South when you find yourself eating reptiles. Alligator is a unique food in Florida, and alligator bites are a common appetizer in Miami. The bites are typically fried and served with a dipping sauce, making for a delicious albeit unusual appetizer.
Alligator meat is white and fish-like in taste, so it's not for everyone. However, if you're feeling adventurous, order some alligator bites the next time you're out for dinner in Miami. You can find them on the menu of most American and Cajun restaurants in the city. After all, eating alligator is a lot better than them eating you.
Miami's cuisine is heavily influenced by the huge Cuban population of the city. However, there's more going on in this city than just Cuban sandwiches. Culinary traditions from across the Caribbean and beyond are represented in the city, and the best restaurants in Miami embrace this rich heritage to create something wonderful. On your next trip, stay away from the chain restaurants and try something local and authentic to get a real taste of this fascinating city.
And if you overindulge in all the tasty food there is to eat, don't worry. The best hikes in Miami will help you burn off those unwanted calories and get some exercise, so you don't need to feel guilty about eating your way through the city. This really is a place that offers just about everything, so don't be afraid to dive in and enjoy it.