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The best Miami food to eat like you actually live here

Skip the tourist traps and check out the locals-approved, best Miami food instead

By Virginia Gil and Falyn Freyman |
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Sanguich de Miami
Photograph: Courtesy Sanguich de Miami

July 2019: Miami is still a pretty young city, and our collective palette is ever-evolving. Thus, we’ve taken care to consider the city’s expanding tastes, adding three new items to our list of the most quintessentially Miami foods. We’re in the thick of summer now, so it’s no wonder fresh ceviches, healthy juice bars and ice cream have finally claimed their space on this list. Peep our updates below, which include nostalgic scoops from Cream Parlor, plant-based super-foods from Love Life Cafe and mouthwatering citrus-cured ceviche from Sabor a Perú.

People think Miamians spend their days noshing on Cuban food and taking swigs of cafecito every chance they get. Well, this is only partly true. We certainly eat our share of Cubanos but a 305-ers’ diet is also heavy on Miami stone crabs, arepas and more of the foods that represent our coastal lifestyle and the city’s melting pot of cultures. Miami is a place where eating around the world is as easy as hopping in your car and driving to Little Havana or Wynwood, and that’s just what locals do when they’re craving these only-in-Miami eats.

Our favorite ways to eat like a local in Miami

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Joe's Stone Crab, Restaurants and cafes, Miami
Photograph: Alys Tomlinson

Stone crabs

This Miami delicacy is available from October 15 through May 15, and you better believe we mark our calendars every year in anticipation of stone crab season. Joe’s Stone Crab is the old standby, but when lines get long—and trust that they do—plenty of other restaurants in the city offer fresh claws worth digging into.

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Cuban coffee
Photograph: Shutterstock

Cafecito

If you’re not fueling on cafecito, you’re not surviving in Miami. A tiny thimble filled with sugary Cuban espresso is how locals caffeinate, especially at 3:05pm, Miami’s official coffee break as designated by the city. You can get a cafecito just about everywhere in Miami, but our favorite is the ventanita at Versailles, standing elbow-to-elbow with Cuban expats, old-timers and tourists while we sip and snack on a pastelito or two.

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El Palacio de los Jugos
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Wally Gobetz
Restaurants, Cuban

El Palacio de los Jugos

icon-location-pin Flagami

Combo platters for one that can easily feed a small army, Cuban food sold by the pound and fresh-fruit juices that cost less than your drip coffee at Starbucks—Palacio de los Jugos ticks off every box of what we want from a cheap and delicious cafeteria. It’s also a produce market stocked with tropical fruit and seasonal veggies, and boasts multiple locations across the city. Does it get any better than this?  

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Cuban sandwiches
Photograph: Lucie Hugary

Cuban sandwich

Just like New Yorkers do with pizza and bagels, Miamians have discerning tastes when it comes to Cubanos—so much so that we ranked our favorites in the city. What makes a great Cubano? Is it the cheese-to-ham ratio? The bread? It’s both, plus a smattering of other variables we’ll leave up to taste-testers to decide. Some of our favorite restaurants for Cubanos are Sanguich de Miami, a new classic; Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop in Wynwood, one not just hipsters can agree on; and Sarussi Subs, if you’re craving something out of the ordinary (read: secret sauce).

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La Moon salchipapas
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kike D.
Restaurants, Colombian

Colombian hot dogs

icon-location-pin Brickell

After a night of drinking, no food will bring you back to life quite like a Colombian hot dog. La Moon’s SuperMoon Perro is this transformative dish that barely resembles a hot dog—partly because the weiner is hidden below a mountain of cheese, sauces, fries and a fried egg. It’s messy and delicious, and while it might seem like a lot for one person, so was that pitcher of margaritas you just put away. The best part about La Moon? It opens till 5:30am on weekends. 

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Under the Mango Tree
Photograph: Yelp/Rose W.

Juice bars

The proliferation of juice bars isn’t unique to Miami, but we certainly make it a lifestyle here (it is bikini season year-round, after all). Whether it’s fuel for a workout, part of a detox cleanse or simply a refresher from the intense heat, juice and its many variants (acaí bowls, protein smoothies, cold-pressed shots) make up an important food group for locals. Stop by Love Life Cafe in South Beach for a rainbow of plant-based delicacies, or try Juicense in Coconut Grove, where you can choose from a variety of juices, smoothies and nut milks plus customized cleanses.

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Frita a Caballo at El Mago de las Fritas
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Gourmadj

Fritas

Everyone’s heard of Cubanos but most people don’t know that Cuba has another famous sandwich: the frita. It’s essentially a Cuban hamburger made with a spiced beef-and-chorizo patty stuffed inside a Cuban roll and topped with shoestring fries. The city’s two frita giants are known as the king, El Rey de las Fritas, and the magician, El Mago de las Fritas. The latter, which claims to only use beef in its patties, was made famous by a string of celebrity clients, including President Obama and Guy Fieri, among others.

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Doggi's Arepa Bar
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Andi I.

Arepas

These days you can find arepas in just about every major city in the U.S. But thanks to Miami’s growing population of Venezuelan expats, ours are decidedly better than the rest. Doggi’s Arepa Bar is the place to go for authentic cornmeal arepas with traditional fillings like reina pepiada (chicken avocado salad), while Edukos in Little Havana turns the sando on its head with modern ingredients like a bang-bang shrimp and Philly cheesesteak.

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Ceviche
Photograph: Courtesy Flickr CC/Bart Everson

Ceviche

We’re partial to the more traditional take at Sabor a Perú on Biscayne Boulevard, but Miami is chock-full of both upscale and casual eateries serving up super fresh, mouth-puckering ceviche made with seafood sourced straight from our coast. For a Japanese-inspired take on the citrus-soaked dish, stop by one of SuViche’s five Miami locations. In South Beach, 33 Kitchen at Time Out Market serves an elegant, pared-down fish ceviche made with a maximum of five locally sourced ingredients that explode with flavor.

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Pastelito
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kim

Pastelitos

Instead of coffee and a doughnut for breakfast, Miamians start their day with a cafecito and a pastelito. Flaky and crispy instead of dense of doughy, the traditional Cuban pastry comes in an assortment of flavors—think fillings like guava, coconut and nutella—and shapes—the triangle ones are a sweet-and-savory combo of cream cheese and guava jelly. Like Cuban coffee, pastelitos are ubiquitous in Miami, though you can never go wrong with Versailles, which bakes theirs from scratch on-site; Gilbert’s Bakery, a favorite if you prefer your pastelito on the doughy side; and Breadman Miami for unique combinations, like coconut-chocolate and ground beef with sweet plantains.

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