I spent my first Halloween back in the States in Miami. It’s a city I’d never visited and I had an opportunity to fly down to join Brendan as he wrapped up a week-long work conference. That first afternoon I arrived, I had free time alone so I decided to head to Calle Ocho, or Southwest 8th Street, considered the main artery in Little Havana.
First up was a stop for a late Cuban lunch at Tinta y Café on Calle Ocho. I hadn’t had Cuban food in about six years — there were limited restaurants in both of my previous cities, Philadelphia and Sydney. I’ve also just recently started eating pork again after a nine-year hiatus.
After a chicken empanada appetizer, I decided to go for it and try the El Guajiro, a pork sandwich smothered in Swiss cheese and mojo de la casa on crispy bread with a side of plantain chips. It took a minute to adjust to having this kind of meat for the first time in almost a decade, but after a few bites, I found it moist and sweet. I polished off the whole plate — and still had room for a sweet guava empanada from a nearby bakery (it was $1, which was a bonus).
The rest of the afternoon, I strolled Calle Ocho, a Florida Heritage site known as a neighborhood for Cuban expats/exiles. I admittedly didn’t get very far — I’d walked about 25 minutes from my hotel in sandals, in the heat.
But I walked far enough to get a sense of the area, the Cuban restaurants and bakeries, convenience stores, coffee counters and shops. What I noticed most were the colors.
I only spent two days in Miami and headed to Miami Beach Friday afternoon for some beach time before spending our third day in the area in Key Largo. I’d love to go back and check out more of the city and the surrounds, beyond the glitz and glamour for which it is known.
Have you been to Miami? Did you like it, hate it, feel meh about it?