The exiled Cuban community in Miami takes to the streets as it learns the news of Fidel Castro’s death. Cuban immigrants who left it all behind searching for safety from the communist regime flock to the Versailles Cafe.  They do so to enjoy great food from home and update themselves on the latest news from the Island. The Versailles Cafe has become the Cuban exile epicenter in Miami. And it’s got great food too!

Best Cuban Food outside of Cuba

Celebration in Calle Ocho

It finally happened. Fidel Castro has died. I wish my parents and grandparents would be alive for this. I pray for a free Cuba in the very near future!

“Celebrating the end of evil! Viva Cuba!” shared my friend Mercy, a first generation Cuban American in Miami. Then she adds: “No, our parents never taught us to rejoice over the death of anyone, but this is a moment many in our family would have cried witnessing.”

cuban-exile-celebration-in-front-of-versailles
So what is the exaltation in the streets of Miami about? The happiness over Fidel Castro’s death in Miami shows the hopefulness that his passing will lead to changes in the island. The exiled community knows it. It senses a wave of opportunity.

Versailles Cafe in the background – white building – video courtesy of Brainiac

It also marks a day in which the suffering of many comes full circle. They lost loved ones at the hands of Castro. It is a story that has been told and told again by many Cubans. Without fail, I have heard it ever since I have been traveling and then living in Miami.

cuban-patriotic-symbols

Photo credit: Taty Pradilla

A Vibrant Culture in the Heart of Miami

The hope of true freedom is what the joy is all about. Paired to an outpouring of  love for Cuba and the USA.  These loudly resonate as cafécitos are served and salsa music spills out onto the street.

But, what does this have to do with travel? Many Cuban Americans have sworn off visiting the island nation until the dictator no longer exists. And now the day has arrived! While they get around to booking their trips, packing their bags and telling their loved ones in Cuba that they are coming, let’s take a culinary tour of Cuba in Miami.

Photo credit: @NirView

Versailles Cafe: The Cuban Exile Epicenter In Miami

Versailles is know as la casa del exilio (home of the exiled) and it is significant beyond its food. Plenty of political hopefuls make it an important stop. It is the place to be seen for artists who drop by or start their night here.

For locals, it is THE place for Cuban food. Located at 3501 SW 8th Street since 1971.

Versailles is in the heart of little Havana, right on Calle Ocho, where the biggest annual street festival of the city takes place. I love this place because it is just so easy to feel the Cuban embrace when you are there.

cuban-food-at-versailles-yuca-with-mojo-on-the-corner

Chicharron tops lechon which is accompanied by yuca with mojo, a garlic based suace and moros (rice and black beans)

Versailles is THE place to enjoy great Cuban food and sit in for passionate political conversations about Cuba and the United States. The state of Fidel’s health was always a big topic of conversation here. As you eat a pastelito with a cortadito at the ventanita or sit inside for a plate of delicious Vaca Frita (fried shredded beef) your senses will take in the loud Caribbean Spanish that is always filled with words of warmth like mama or mi amor (my love) that will address you as your order is taken.

Photo credit: Versailles Cafe

Masas de puerco. chunks of pork

Become Part of the Cuban Extended Family

The food is delicious and I can just hear a Cuban abuela encouraging us to eat it all. Versailles is a family oriented place despite the political connotations.  My son just loves his cafecito and he devours his favorite ham croquetas.  We finish our meal with a coladita (espresso Cuban style.  Coffee In Miami Guide here.

cafe

Of course, you will also find in the menu the infamous mojito in all its varieties, all served with a stick of sugar cane for you to bite on.

Watermelon Mojito Photo ocredit: Versailles Cafe

Watermelon Mojito Photo ocredit: Versailles Cafe

My favorite thing is that there is no rush at Versailles. You can just hang around the ventanita or sit for a while longer at the restaurant to take in the beautiful art deco pieces. You will feel the sense of days passed that seem to be at a standstill while the topic of the day is heatedly discussed. Before you know it, you will welcomed with open arms to this cornerstone of the community.

So be it coffee time,  politics, a lazy afternoon stroll, artistic interests, art deco hunting, cultural learning or gastronomic curiosity, if you are in the Magic City, you definitively should stop at Versailles Cafe, the epicenter of the Cuban exile experience in Miami.

Have you had Cuban food before?  Which is your favorite dish or snack?