Miami's food scene is like nowhere else in the world. The city's heritage is familiarly associated with Cuban roots, but the Magic City is a melting pot for all kinds of Latin American cuisine. For years, South Florida has been home to Latin American immigrants who have brought their own unique dishes and traditions to the table, and our taste buds can thank them. All across the region, restaurants have benefited from such diversity, creating a true privilege for Miami locals and tourists alike to taste authentic, distinctive dishes you'd be pressed to find anywhere else. Here is a list of 10 delicious dishes that are Miami staples, even though their origin might be another place, but there is no place like the Magic City to indulge in their flavors.
Chicharón is prepared using slices of pork belly–skin, fat, and meat–and cooked until crisp. Some pieces can be soft, meaty, salty, or crispy, but it's all best when served fresh. This pork decadence derived from Spain, becoming a tradition in many of its former colonies like Mexico and The Philippines. There are many ways to serve Chicharón; some restaurants will add dried sheets of wheat dough. Miami Cuban and Latin Restaurant El Palacio de Los Jugos are accredited to have one of the best preparations of Chicharón in South Florida.
The stone crab in Florida is larger, smoother, more orange, and more delicious. Florida's stone crab season begins mid-October and ends in mid-May, so hurry; you don't want to miss this delicacy. The only part of the crab that is harvested is the claw, and live ones are returned to the water with claws regenerating in 1-2 years. Their meat in their orange shell is flaky and white with a sweet taste, and you definitely want to eat it fresh dockside. You may enjoy this delicious dish at one of South Florida's most iconic and historic restaurants, Joe's Stone Crab. They serve this dish with a signature mustard sauce and you can almost end the meal with a slice of key lime pie.
Arepas are known as corn cakes made from corn dough and molded into a flat, circular shape. These fluffy cakes can be filled with beef, egg, or cheese, making for a flavorful bite. The arepas were initially dated back to the pre-Columbian era when the harvested corn would be made into a gift for the gods. The preparations of this dish vary widely, but they are most commonly a popular item for street vendors around Miami. Doggi's Arepa Bar, located on Coral Way, is a great place to try this authentic snack. You may find this delicious dish at many fantastic Venezuelan and Colombian restaurants. If you are in Wynwood, head overt to Jattö and indulge in their delicious arepa topped with whipped cream cheese, capers, pickled shallots, dill and EV bagel.
Ceviche is a delicacy that has grown in increasing popularity over the years, and for a good reason. This delicious dish, often spelled seviche or cebiche, is seafood prepared in an ancient cooking method that uses the acidic juice of citrus instead of heat. Each restaurant seems to have its own take, and it's up to you to decide on your favorite. This is usually served as an appetizer, so it's the perfect opportunity to step out of your comfort zone before ordering that burger. Although you may find ceviche almost everywhere in the city, some of the best ceviche in Miami are served at Itamae, Ceviche 101, Seaspice, and Como Como.
Ah, the Cuban sandwich. Probably the most recognizable cuisine, this simple dish is the charm of South Florida. The sandwich's origins tend to be traced back to the Taino tribe in Cuba, and not much else has changed. There's not much to the recipe than bread, pork, ham, and heritage. However, they may add a slice of salami if you head to Tampa. In Miami, you'll likely get pieces of mojo, smoked ham, swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and Cuban bread. Try the iconic Havana Harry's for an authentic bit of goodness.
Churrasco, or Brazilian barbeque, began its roots in the 1800s by Brazilian cowboys known as gaúchos. These horseback riders lived in rural areas with plenty of meat at their disposal. They would prepare roasted beef on skewers for large gatherings. Throughout these gatherings, they would come around and slice off the meat slabs, unlimited helpings for everyone. Now, many Brazilian steakhouses throughout South Florida continue this tradition. Head to Texas de Brazil to experience a churrasco; turn your card green, and you'll be served endless sizzling beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and Brazilian sausage, but be sure to wear pants with an elastic waistband.
Mofongo is a dish made by smashing fried green plantains and is usually served with garlic, olive oil, and chicharrón. This mixture is often put together in a pilón–mortar, and pestle–before being stuffed with meats or vegetables. History attributes mofongo to enslaved Angolans brought to Puerto Rico in the 1500s. Now, their dish is found in many variations at Cuban restaurants all over the Magic City.
This fried fish is served whole in the style of the Caribbean. Once the scales are removed, the fish is doused in a floury batter and marinated for over an hour. Once the flavors are sealed, the fish will be placed in hot oil to fry until golden brown. This isn't your typical fish and chips, however, as the flavors of the Caribbean are used to give it an authentic taste. This delicacy is typically served with black beans and Caribbean flavor rice.
While this list contains many native dishes from around the world, key lime pie is as American as it gets (apple pie is from England, after all). The famous dessert was created in the 18–s when Key West fisherman kept key limes on board to prevent scurvy. They would mix the juice from the key limes with sweetened condensed milk and pour the mixture over Cuban bread. When they headed home, their wives fancied the dish by baking it in a pie crust. Called lime pie then, it soon was sold at every restaurant and tourist stand, even frozen on a stick for easy strolling around Duval street. The homegrown pie has no set recipe, and you can find variations across South Florida. This tangy yet sweet delicacy is a must-try topped with whipped cream or meringue. For a slice of this delicious staple, head over to The Bazaar by José Andrés served in three artistically plated portions with torched meringue, graham cracker crust, and key lime filling.
Some run from alligators, but Floridians fry them into tiny bite-size balls. This dish uses the rib meat of our favorite giant lizard and is said to taste a lot like chicken. If you're looking for some street cred from your friends back home, trying a bite of gator might be the task for you. Head to The Pit Bar-B-Q for some of the tastiest gator bites, accompanied by a zingy sauce for dipping enjoyment.
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