If you’re planning to leave the turquoise blue water of Miami to run off to the sister beaches of the Caribbean this summer, consider sampling the perfected flavors of some of its most pristine cuisines locally before you go. Below are 4 places you can experience authentic Caribbean food in Miami.
El Exquisito Restaurant / Origin, Cuba
Being devoted to the art of cooking is one reason El Exquisito Restaurant’s Cuban owners Juan Coro, and his uncle, have gained a loyal following in Miami’s Little Havana. Tucked near the Tower Theatre, the restaurant is known for its deliciously authentic Cuban food in the heart of this enclave ever since it opened in 1974. For a true taste of Cuban culture one must only stop in here and have a coffee—but some food first.
Diners are treated to appetizers like Mariquitas (banana chips), sandwiches from the classic Cubano to Medianoche (the Cubano’s sister made with sweet bread), and meat entrees like Ropa Vieja (shredded beef) and fall-of-the-bone Lechon Asado (roast pork), fresh seafood platters, as well as sides like white rice and beans, sweet plantains or petite fry chips, along with daily specials Diners can sit cafeteria style or casually at tables. Coffee from the Corta Dito to the traditional café con leche are winners.
Clives Café / Origin, Jamaica
This little gem has been dubbed a diamond in Miami’s Little Haiti, known for its personable and laidback owners, as well as its cool vibe despite its small interior—it is unpretentious. Named ‘Best Jamaican Restaurant’ by the Miami NewTimes, given its institutional status while located in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood since the mid-70s.
Cooking ‘made with love,’ as the family-run establishment says on its website, Clive’s (named for the owner’s son) opened by Pearline Murray and her late husband Clifford, has been serving its authentic Jamaican food for nearly 40 years. Dishes range from oxtails and beef patties, to deliciously spicy jerk and curry chicken, as well as curry goat and rich stews—complete with a cool glass of Jamaican gingered Sorrel. Clive’s also serves its entrees with rice and beans, plantains or even fried chicken and mac-and-cheese (from its former diner days serving local factory workers)—taking a flavorful spin on traditional Jamaican cuisine and Caribbean staples that’ll warm the heart, too.
Tap Tap Restaurant / Origin, Haiti
Looking at its colorful walls adorned with tropical murals from Haitian artists local and abroad, you’ll need to just grab a handmade chair to feel the vibrancy of Haiti come through in just the atmosphere of Tap Tap Restaurant, situated just a short walk from Miami Beach on 5th Street. Relaxed compared to the bustle of the beach, Tap Tap Restaurant features a no-frills attitude in its simple décor that makes customers feel instantly at home and on vacation all at the same time.
From appetizers like Arka (Malanga fritters) dipped in watercress dipping sauce to diverse entrees such as the Kribish Kreyol (spiced oxtails to plump shrimp in rich coconut sauce) accompanied by a mix of rice and beans, patrons are sure to get their fill in rich flavor. The dishes aren’t cheap but considered worth their weight. Also, try a mojito—it’s been known to be the best in South Beach for a few years running.
Bahamian Connection Grill / Origin, Bahamas
Family-owned since it originally opened in the late 70s as a restaurant, the owners of Bahamian Connection Grill have always incorporated the support of their wives and children in the restaurant’s establishment over the years, especially after its founding by family Patriarch Arlington ‘Big Links’ Ingraham, who was born in the Bahamas. Located at the Bahamian Connection Village near Miami’s midtown.
The food is the real deal, from his ‘famous’ recipes for Bahamian boiled fish and grits, to buttery Johnny Cake reminiscent of Nassau, and steamed, tender and well-seasoned conch included in rich stews and tangy salads. This local place accompanies its entrees with staples such as peas and rice, greens, mac-and-cheese, and slaw—sometimes you’ll find live music, too, all within this authentic spot situated in a quaint, central neighborhood.