I recently had the pleasure of hosting my little brother, Moose, and his girlfriend, Hannah, here in South Florida. Originally, we had all mentally planned for some outdoor activities, but Mother Nature had other plans. So we quickly decided we would instead head down to Miami, and visit Little Havana. Little Havana is the Cuban neighborhood in Miami. The main street is called "Calle Ocho," by both Latinos and gringos. It means "8th Street." It's likely you've heard this area being referenced in one of Pitbull's songs. It is filled with cigar shops, restaurants/bars, ventanitas (coffee windows), and basically all things Cuban.
What I love about Calle Ocho is the history. Most parts of South Florida are new (at least in comparison). New and flashy is fun, don't get me wrong - and I wear those neon colors proudly! But it's awesome to have an area in Miami where you can be surrounded by deep history and culture, which Little Havana provides. The people, the food, the music, the cigars, the decor... it really does feel like you've been transplanted someplace else, even though you're just a few miles from Brickell.
In this neighborhood, you'll see tons of different variations of Cuban tile all throughout. I loved trying to spot all the variations - I find them to be beautiful. You'll also see a lot of domino references because on 8th and 15th is Domino Park. It's fun to take a glimpse at the older gentleman in these tense domino matches.
As far as food goes, man oh man... it is SO good. Muy autentico! As my Cuban friend put it, "you really can't go wrong." We opted to go to Ball and Chain, a spot with tons of history, and known for their excellent Cuban food and live music. We conveniently walked in right as happy hour was beginning - love when that happens.
We ordered a handful of apps which included: Cuban Spring Rolls, Queso Frito, and Mariquitas de Maduros. All three were addicting, but my favorites were the spring rolls, and the mariquitas de maduros. Moose and Hannah (and Moose's friend, Greg, who ended up joining us) all ordered drinks which they enjoyed - I only took sips because I was driving, and thank goodness for that, because they were strong! :) Also - forgive the low quality phone pics... it was monsooning so I didn't want to risk my Nikon getting drenched.
I normally don't talk too much about the specifics of my work on blog - but I definitely have to this time. I've been doing marketing for luxury apartments for some time, and one of the deals I've worked on this past year is a property called Intown, which is located on Calle Ocho. We paired off with a local South Florida interior design team, and I have to say - they nailed it.
The first picture is a snapshot of the clubroom. I love the image that was blown up on the wall. Also, if you look closely, you'll spot some Cuban tile along the wall of the bar that was done so elegantly. But my favorite design element in this property had to to be the enormous light fixtures (there's two) outside of the clubroom. It's the type of fixture that really can't be done just anywhere, it has to be done in the right setting and atmosphere - but the vibe and style of it aligned so seamlessly with the brand of this property.
Generally speaking, I think that Calle Ocho is a place that anyone coming to visit Miami should check out. It's so different than the rest of Miami, and culturally quite remarkable.
There are three things I still would like to do in Little Havana:
- See a film at Tower Theater - historic theater that shows foreign, award winning, and independent films.
- Attend Carnaval Miami on Calle Ocho - yearly festival.
- Go to Versailles.