June 2019: It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say Little Havana is in the midst of a renaissance. Over the last couple of years, the iconic Miami neighborhood has seen a wave of growth that’s brought in tons of new art, restaurants and, of course, bars—while still hanging on to its historic charm. We’ve kept most of the old goodies on our list of best Little Havana bars—said goodbye to Lekoke, which is temporarily closed for renovations—and proudly welcomed in a few new additions. Among them are Café La Trova, the much-hyped nostalgia-tinged Cuban restaurant that’s garnered praise from the likes of GQ and Washington Post, and Los Altos, a decked-out lounge hidden behind a false wall inside a Mexican candy shop. Happy exploring!
Several things are true of the city’s famed Cuban neighborhood. For starters, it’s home to the best Cuban food in Miami—hands down. And if you’re looking for hip-shaking rhythms and opportunities to salsa all night, Little Havana boasts the most renowned live music venues in Miami. Plus, if it's Friday night and you’ve wrapped up dinner at one of Miami’s best restaurants but don’t quite want to cut the night short, you won't find a more exciting crowd or tastiest cocktails than what's on tap at the best Little Havana bars.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Little Havana
Best Little Havana bars
What is it? Today’s Ball & Chain is a recreation of a 1930s hotspot that once occupied the same space and welcomed jazz superstars like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker to its stage. Across from the historic Tower Theater, Ball & Chain has its own storied past filled with Jewish and Cuban community influences.
Why go? The bar program, created by the top mixologists at the Regent Cocktail Club, is a smattering of classics (margaritas and mojitos) and new-wave drinks unique to Ball & Chain. We recommend sampling a few Cuban-inspired cocktails: the Mojito Criollo (made the classic way with the mint leaves left intact for enhanced aroma, and more sugar), the Canita (white rum, lime, house-made honey syrup, guarapo or sugarcane juice, sugarcane stick) and the Pastelito Daiquiri (pastelito-infused aged rum, lime, simple syrup, and a side of pastelitos or guava pastries).
What is it? Café La Trova is the delicious and much hyped recent byproduct of a most fruitful partnership: James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein, her chef/restaurateur husband David Martinez, and nationally acclaimed cantinero Julio Cabrera. The elevated dinner-and-a-show concept has garnered attention from national outlets like GQ and Washington Post.
Why go? The old-Cuba style fits right in with Little Havana’s nostalgia-tinged nightlife scene. Cabrera’s cocktail menu takes you back in time from pre-Revolutionary Cuba to present-day Miami: channel the island’s most famous midcentury expat with a Hemingway Special (rum, maraschino, grapefruit and lime), drink to Havana’s famed Hotel Nacional (rum, apricot liquor, pineapple and lime) or sip on a Yin & Tony, an updated gin & tonic with an amusing phonetic moniker.
What is it? This nautical bar (Nancy was the name of a ship that raised the first American flag in a foreign port after the Revolution) is serving up inventive cocktails in the heart of Little Havana.
Why go? You won’t find Cuban sandwiches or cafecito at this neighborhood watering hole, but seafaring-themed drinks are aplenty. Feeling adventurous? Order the Smile You Son-Of-A-Bitch, a not-so-scary-tasting tipple named in homage to the movie Jaws (it’s even got a plastic shark in it!). The Mutiny Milk Punch is a sophisticated and surprisingly light cocktail with hints of chocolate and lemon.
What is it? Little Havana's only true beer bar is the brainchild of David and Cici Rodriguez, owners of the Miami Brew Bus and cofounders of Kush Wynwood.
Why go? The duo's experience helming beer-centric businesses is evident in the Calle Ocho establishment, featuring rotating taps (check out the chalkboard menu to see what's new) and double coolers filled with cans and bottles of local, American-made and internationally brewed varieties. To order, grab your favorite and give it to the bartender to ring up—simple as that. Union Beer also has vintage arcade games to keep you busy between sips.
What is it? To find Los Altos, you’ll have to do a little searching. This somewhat secret bar is located above the Calle Ocho taco joint Taquerias el Mexicano, which has recently been revamped by the Ball and Chain team. You can find Los Altos (hopefully) up the stairs behind a false wall inside a Mexican candy shop. Just ask around if you’re slightly lost.
Why go? Inside, expect an upscale speakeasy heavy on velvet and leather with lots of Mexican-inspired details. The cocktails take inspiration from Mexico as well and there’s plenty of tequila and mescal options to choose from. Los Altos is currently only open Friday and Saturday. Don’t forget to buy some candy for the road on your way out.
What is it? Most things set in Miami are actually filmed in LA, but whenever someone shoots in the city (Chef, Ballers), this place seems to make an appearance. Maybe that’s because the Little Havana lounge offers an authentic Latin music experience in a chic, intimate space—think tight round tables huddled before a low stage and walls lined with black and white portraits of Latin icons.
Why go? Hoy Como Ayer regularly brings huge salsa artists and keeps a steady rotation of local Latin funk outfits, so you’re sure to catch a great act any night. Check the schedule online to see if there’s cover.
What is it? This homey tavern boasts an impressive collection of local brews and well-known craft beers. Consistent with its ethos of educating customers, the menu offers beer pairing suggestions for its eclectic selection of Venezuelan-influenced tapas and vegetarian Latin fare.
Why go? Edukos is just half a mile from Marlins Park, making it an ideal stop for a pre- or post-game beer.
What is it? During the day, this sliver of a space along Calle Ocho operates as Agustín Gaínza’s personal studio and exhibit space. But on weekend nights, the gallery transforms into a lively wine bar and restaurant run by the artist and his wife.
Why go? La Taberna del Pintor, the artist’s tavern, is a homey place to sip a glass of wine, nibble on charcuterie, listen to live music and get to know more about Cuba’s artistic ex-pats. All of Gaínza’s paintings hanging on the wall are for sale and well worth the splurge.
What is it? Every season is oyster season at Little Havana’s charming seafood shack. The Miami-style, New England–inspired joint offers six varieties of East, West and Gulf Coast oysters daily. From Prince Edward Island’s Cooke’s Cove Malpeque to Florida’s Apalachicola Bay, the day’s selection is written on the chalkboard menu.
Why go? Sit at the bar during happy hour (daily from noon to 7pm) and watch your fresh oysters get shucked while sipping on a mojito ($5), select beer and wine ($4) or sangria ($5).
What is it? Like its name suggests, Old’s Havana is a glossy tribute to the Cuba of yesteryear, complete with black-and-white photos, vintage memorabilia and a soundtrack of Cuban classics that range from rumba to boleros (and is played live on weekends).
Why go? The food is slightly more contemporary, mixing in Spanish tapas and ceviche with arroz and frijoles, as are the mojitos, which can be ordered in flavors such as mango and coconut. Owners do a good job at providing a traditional Cuban experience, which, for Little Havana, means tourists are aplenty here.