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
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. 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).
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. 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!). Ben's Milk Punch is a sophisticated and surprisingly light cocktail with hints of spice and cinnamon, which comes served in a corked glass flask.
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. 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.
This neighborhood wine bar has more than 300 varieties available from regions as far-flung as Australia and New Zealand. Its menu of small bites and dishes, however, speaks more to its Little Havana location. You'll find Latin favorites such as tostones (a crispy fried plantain) topped with shredded beef and seafood pasta, among other tasty dishes. If Lekoke’s $5 corkage fee wasn't enough to make you stick around, the welcoming staff and homey atmosphere will keep you sipping here for hours.
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. 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.
This tavern, which boasts an impressive collection of local craft beers, is just half a mile from Marlins Park, making it an ideal stop for a pre- or post-game beer. In addition to brew, the two-story gastropub also serves Venezuelan-influenced tapas, such as arepa chips ($7). But the menu also has some curveballs, like the Miami poutine, a dish of crispy fingerling potatoes covered in gravy and pecorino romano cheese ($10). Each dish comes with a suggested beer pairing.
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. 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.
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). 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.