visit like a local: five cuban dishes to try in miami

i can't speak to the academic rigor that went into this statement, but I can say that I believe it to be true - it's said that the food in Miami is the closest you can get to real Cuban food, yes, including Cuba itself. There are a lot of politics involved in just, kind of, saying something loaded like that, but ask any coffee lady behind the counter at a ventanita in Miami or waiter at La Carreta or Versailles (just two of Miami's very delicious and very authentic Cuban restaurants) and they'll agree. You just can't get this stuff anywhere else. 

Pooh-pooh you're thinking, you can get it in New York, you can get anything in New York. You're wrong. I looked. You can't get a perfectly flaky pastelito or a loaf of lardy Cuban bread that's just right in New York. When you ask for a cafesito they look at you like girl, you've got it twisted. 

Here are five Cuban dished you need to try when visiting Miami: 

Croqueta 

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I once heard the croqueta described as a "breaded and fried ham smoothie in the shape of a turd." This isn't totally correct because it also comes in chicken and fish, but other than that - nailed it. Eat it wedged between two Saltine crackers or on their own. If you're feeling particularly gluttonous - ahem, like really delving into Cuban culture, get it in a Croquetta Preparada; that's a Cuban sandwich with croquettas inside - the Cuban equivalent of putting french fries in your Wendy's Frosty. 

Pastelito 

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The pastelito puts every other pastry to shame. Eclairs, cannoli, strudel and every other flaky confection is positively put to shame by the pastelito. Whether or not you have a sweet tooth you'll want to try one of these. Carnivores, try them de carne or filled with ground beef. Otherwise, I recommend the pastelito de guayaba y queso - it's cream cheese and guava in one tasty triangle. Pastelito flavors are distinguished by shape, any good Cuban can reach into a box and know that when they pull out the long rectangular shape with pointed ends and a sticky drizzle of sugar they're getting the cream cheese or the square is guava. 

Cuban Bread

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Cuban bread, not unlike the great culinary forces in the world, is the epicenter of the cuisine. Don't skip the complimentary crispy, buttery bread that comes before your meal at some restaurants (you can always count on it at Versailles). The texture is like a very stale, almost crouton-esque morsel. Eat it, eat it all. Then, make your way to a bakery and ask for a loaf of pan Cubano the fresh, soft counter-part to the flaky appetizer is the perfect break for sandwiches or to eat alone. It's soft, it's layered, it's cooked with lard. 

Media Noche 

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Cuban food is all about mixing sweet and savory. If you don't like this combination, it's avoidable, get a pan con bistec, a thin steak sandwich, but if you're willing to give the sweet/salty combo sandwich a try get the media noche. Named the midnight sandwich because it's a classic late-night staple, it's a Cuban sandwich, pork, ham, pickles, mustard on a sweet loaf that comes in a yellow hue. There are a lot of delicious Cuban sandwiches to try, enough to merit a whole Cuban Sandwich Guide post, but for a short list of five things to try we decided to go with the sweetness that is the media noche. I like mine with extra pickles - that's just me. 

Cafe Cubano

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Did you see the episode of the Kardashians when Khloe gets addicted to Cuban coffee? No? Oh, that's ok. It was the single (and probably the only) endearing thing we've ever seen them do, because the minute you try this you'll be a cafesito-crack-head too. It's sweet, so, so sweet, it's strong, stronger than any coffee you've ever had and it comes fixed in a variety of ways. For the newbie, you may want a cafe con leche, coffee with milk, a milder version of the pure espresso that comes as a colada (with mini cups on the side for sharing - take that as a hint - even the most caffeine addicted junky doesn't want to drink this whole thing (although I'll admit, I do it all the time)). Another suggestion is the cortadito, a blend of espresso and evaporated milk that's sweeter than the cafe con leche. It doesn't really matter what you get, they'll all be delicious and boy will they give you the jolt you look for in a cup of coffee. 

croqueta via rachelunleashed (who has a pretty comprehensive post on croqueta comparisons in the hunt for the perfect Miami croqueta), pastelito via miami new times, bread icuban.com, media noche via kimsunee