If you read my piece on 12 cool things to do in Miami, you’ll know that a trip to Little Havana is a must for first-time visitors.
Aside from the lively Cuban bars, the quirky cigar shops, Calle Ocho Walk of Fame and giant rooster statues that fill the streets, there’s one thing you can’t miss out on – and that’s eating some authentic Cuban food.
Step forward Versailles restaurant.
If I remember rightly, we heard about Versailles restaurant from the taxi driver who drove us from Fort Lauderdale Airport to our hotel. Dubbed ‘the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant’, there’s a serious amount of hype behind this place. It’s been serving Miami’s Cuban community for more than four decades and apparently, has always been one of the key meeting places for the Cuban community. On occasion, you may also spot a gathering of press here, looking for the community’s take on current social issues (it was the unofficial town square for Cuban exiles in Miami).
So, when we arrived to a growing queue of hungry diners, we were expecting the real deal.
Where is Versailles restaurant, Miami?
You’ll find Versailles restaurant at 3555 Southwest 8th Street in Little Havana, Miami. Word of warning, Calle Ocho is a very long road. So, if you’re thinking of walking here from the main tourist spots of Calle Ocho, expect around a two-mile journey (probably around 45 minutes on foot from the likes of the Calle Ocho Walk of Fame and Máximo Gómez Park).
It was a hot afternoon and we were pushed for time, so we hopped on one of the local buses which got us there in around 15 minutes.
What can visitors expect at Versailles restaurant?
Although it looked like there was going to be a long wait for a table, once we’d given our name to the waiting staff at the door, it was only 15 minutes or so before we were led to our table. I imagine this place gets quite busy in the evenings, so if you’re coming to Versailles for dinner, be prepared for a slightly longer wait.
Inside, the restaurant is a charmingly retro space where green waist-coated waiters dash around with plates piled high with Cuban food. It’s super relaxed (no dressing up required) and there’s a lively atmosphere.
They key thing is you’ll find both tourists and Cuban locals eating here which is always a good sign.
The food at Versailles restaurant, Miami
The menu at Versailles restaurant offers an extensive list of appetizers (including classic empanadas), soups, salads, sandwiches (including the famous Cuban sandwich), seafood and various grilled, fried, char broiled and barbequed meats.
You’ll also find a children’s menu, chef’s specials on various days of the week and an abundance of classic Cuban sides such as plantain, black beans, moros rice and cassava.
If you’ve ever had Cuban food before, you’ll know it takes on a hearty, no-frills style and that’s definitely the case at Versailles.
My dish, the chicken Versailles, was a flattened piece of half chicken marinated in what is known as Cuban Mojo – a pungent sauce of garlic, citrus and oil (bring the mints for afterwards, it’s powerful!). It was served with a mountain of Moros rice – a Cuban staple of black beans and rice – as well as (my favourite) fried plantain. With a squeeze of lime over the top, it was really quite tasty.
BC’s dish was the classic Cuban style roast pork. Again, this is a hearty dish that’s marinated in the same Cuban Mojo sauce. It had a slightly crispy skin and was served with the Moros rice. BC wasn’t a fan of the boiled yuca which comes with this dish and found the dish was a bit lacking in flavour, but the meat was nicely tender and juicy. Plus, you can’t argue on the value for money you get here for such generous plates of food ($10.95 for the pork and $12.95 for the chicken).
People around us were tucking into all sorts of feasts of double-decker sandwiches, baguettes, paellas and stews. Meanwhile, a table next to us were defeated by a huge spread they ordered for their main but managed to squeeze in several Cuban desserts and cakes from the bakery (they must be good!)
After a hearty breakfast at Miami East, a trip to the Salty Donut in the morning and such huge portions here at Versailles, we didn’t stretch to dessert, but it was good to try out one of Miami’s legendary restaurants.
Our waiter was super friendly too, even when I forced him to have his picture taken.
Will you get world-class food at Versailles restaurant? I wouldn’t say so. Is it refined? Certainly not. But is it an interesting place where you’ll get a taste of typical Cuban cuisine and a glimpse of Miami’s historical Cuban culture? Absolutely.
If you don’t manage a meal here, check out the bakery next door. As I mentioned in this post, it’s a great place to try the authentic Cuban coffee, pick up some Cuban pastries and perhaps even hear some stories from some of the local community.
3555 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL 33145-4196 Tel: +1 305-444-0240
Have you been to Versailles restaurant in Miami and if so, what did you think?