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Eight Hour Layover at Miami Int'l Airport - Will Cab For Good Food

mariacarmen May 6, 2011 01:37 PM

My flight next month (on a Tuesday) leaves me at the airport from 2:30 to 10:30 p.m. I'd like to take a cab somewhere reasonably close and try some good Cuban food. Should I just head to Calle Ocho? Versailles? I'd like a Cubano, for sure, because I've never had a "real" one - despite spending some time in Miami Beach in my late 20s (a LONG time ago). But I'd be willing to get one to go and then going somewhere for a sit-down meal, and/or a cocktail at happy hour with good food? I looked on mapquest and found that the airport is only about 4 miles to Calle Ocho. But is that my best bet? I'd like to spend the afternoon walking about a bit, too....Won't have luggage on me, just a carry on. I am familiar with Cuban food, having grown up in L.A., but it's been years, since we don't really have Cuban in San Francisco (couple places, nothing great to speak of.)

and is this thread still helpful?:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/637384

Any help i can get on this would be most appreciated!

  1. CFByrne May 6, 2011 02:41 PM

    try this thread
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/569581
    Lunch at Miami Airport

    And these too, they all are about what you are asking:

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/735988

    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/766021

    3 Replies
    1. re: CFByrne
      mariacarmen May 6, 2011 04:08 PM

      Thanks, CFB, but i saw those. I don't really want to eat at the airport. As for the Midtown Mall post, none of those places listed in that post are Cuban nor appear to serve even a semblance of a Cubano..... Really don't want to spend 8 hours in a mall-type place, even tho it's not considered a "mall-mall"..... i looked at the list of shops and it sounds pretty mallish to me.

      thanks tho...

      Can anyone tell me if Calle Ocho is just a bad idea?

      1. re: mariacarmen
        Miss Needle May 6, 2011 05:47 PM

        I think Calle Ocho is a bad idea without a car. Over 15 years ago, I took a bus from South Beach to Calle Ocho to explore the Cuban area. I didn't realize how spread out it was. Walked for a couple of miles before realizing that I wasn't seeing much and decided to head back to the beach. Drove through parts of Calle Ocho a few days ago -- still pretty spread out.

        If you want a cuban sandwich, there's Cafe Versailles at the airport. Can't vouch for the food though.

        1. re: Miss Needle
          mariacarmen May 6, 2011 09:54 PM

          ok, very good to know, thanks!

    2. janetofreno May 6, 2011 10:04 PM

      This doesn't help much because I don't have a specific recommendation, but when I was in a similar situation a few years ago I found that it only took about 15 minutes (and not too much money) to cab it to South Beach. There are certainly plenty of places to eat there, and more places for a good mojito, and its a very pleasant place to walk as well.....

      1 Reply
      1. re: janetofreno
        mariacarmen May 6, 2011 10:08 PM

        that is helpful, actually. it's been over 20 years since I've been to South Beach, so it might be cool to see how it's changed. Thanks!

        -----
        South Beach Cafe
        121 5th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      2. Frodnesor May 7, 2011 06:21 AM

        Calle Ocho is not a particularly scenic walking area. If you want a combination of a Cuban meal and a place you can stroll and kill some time, I'd suggest going to Coral Gables, and eating at Las Vegas Cuban on Giralda Ave. It's no better - or worse - than any number of other Cuban places in town, but I think most folks are hard-pressed to name any real stand-outs in that department anyway, other than that there are certain places that do certain particular items well.

        And the Gables is a great place to walk around - nice streets, lots of shops, etc. You might also want to stop into The Craft, just down the street on Giralda, a nice new gastropub type place. They just opened and I've only been once but it shows promise - had an excellent fried clam dish, good "Buffalo-style" sweetbreads, and a very good beer selection.

        -----
        Las Vegas Restaurant
        112 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

        5 Replies
        1. re: Frodnesor
          mariacarmen May 7, 2011 11:07 AM

          hmmm. i was thinking South Beach, and eating at Puerto Sagua - i read up on it and it seems like my kind of place - not looking for posh. Thanks for the tip about the gastropub, but i'm really looking for something i can't find in San Francisco, if only for a day. Tho i do love sweetbreads, and fried clams! Is Coral Gables a "fancier" area than South Beach, or vice-versa? I don't really want fancy.... On Mapquest, CG seems to be a bit closer to Miami Int'l Airport than SB - do i have that right?

          -----
          Puerto Sagua Restaurant
          700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

          1. re: mariacarmen
            Frodnesor May 7, 2011 12:46 PM

            Coral Gables is more posh, South Beach is more young and hip (or so it thinks anyway). Restaurant-wise, the Gables has gone from being fancy and high-end, to being invaded by chains, to lately being a place for more modest-styled and inviting restaurants.

            I wasn't so much suggesting Craft as a place to substitute for your Cuban craving (which you can satisfy at Las Vegas, which is by no means posh, though not nearly as divey as Puerto Sagua) as much as a place to get a drink, and maybe another little bite, afterwards.

            Meanwhile, South Beach is not nearly the dining destination it used to be, as most places became more and more tourism and "scene" driven. The truth is, the best concentration of good eating these days is not in either South Beach or Coral Gables - it's in the central Miami area that includes Midtown, the Design District and the Biscayne Corridor. Though these are not nearly as "walk-around" friendly, and all of which may be irrelevant if you're fixated on Cuban.

            Coral Gables is much closer than South Beach (about 4-5 miles vs. 10-11)

            -----
            Puerto Sagua Restaurant
            700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

            Las Vegas Restaurant
            112 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables, FL 33134

            1. re: Frodnesor
              n
              Nick May 7, 2011 04:35 PM

              I haven't been to Las Vegas, so I can't make the comparison to Puerto Sagua. I have eaten at the latter, however, and I think it's decent. Nothing against Coral Gables, but if I had an afternoon to kill, I would rather walk around Miami Beach, and given the fact that you used to live there, it would definitely be a kick to see how it's changed. Plus you can go for a swim. How many other people on your connecting flight will have done that?

              1. re: Nick
                mariacarmen May 7, 2011 07:11 PM

                haha - love that idea! i didn't live there, but i had a BF there so I used to visit quite often. I'm heading to Bolivia, tho, that night, and it'll be their winter, and icy cold, so i think much layering (and a disposable bathing suit, apparently) will be in order. I was kind of thinking, like you, Nick, that I'd rather walk around Miami Beach than Coral Gables. Tho i do like Frodnesor's idea of getting a cocktail and another snack before re-boarding. I've got 8 hours so not too worried about time. Thanks, Nick, and Frodnesor, for your input!

            2. re: mariacarmen
              u
              uwsister May 9, 2011 06:52 PM

              I liked Puerto Sagua quite a bit - I would be totally happy with that. My husband used to live in South Beach in mid-90's and it was one of his favorite spots. I will say I've never really been out of South Beach (I know) so - what do I know? ;)

          2. j
            justaddwater May 8, 2011 11:24 AM

            If it were me, I would do one of two things. Hop a cab to Versailles, spend a couple of hours picking at the food and admiring the scenery, stock up on goods at the bakery (the guava pies, in particular, they are the best in Miami and they have all the goods like croquettas, papas rellenas, galletas menenciere) then get back to the airport with at least two hours before the flight, those lines can be unbelievable.

            You could also cab it to Bayside, there is at least one cafeteria there that has cuban sandwiches, get one to go and have a real meal at Los Ranchos. Get the churrasco and lots of gallo pinto. You can then spend 3 or 4 hours here walking around and checking out the boutiques and its on the water, but no beach.

            http://www.baysidemarketplace.com/

            -----
            Los Ranchos Restaurant
            135 SW 107th Ave, Miami, FL 33174

            9 Replies
            1. re: justaddwater
              Frodnesor May 8, 2011 01:06 PM

              Bayside is a miserable tourist trap. If you're going to take a taxi to downtown you may as well go a few extra miles and go to South Beach.

              1. re: Frodnesor
                j
                justaddwater May 8, 2011 02:33 PM

                mmmmm.....she's a tourist! I think there are some harbor tour boats coming out of here, that could kill an hour or two.

                I live in Coral Gables and wouldn't recommend someone with such limited time and no car come here. What are they going to do, walk up and down miracle mile and window shop for bridal gowns?

                1. re: justaddwater
                  mariacarmen May 8, 2011 03:21 PM

                  i am a tourist, but i also spent some time in Miami, and i actually do remember Bayside. i like the idea of Versaille, however, and getting things to take with me. Maybe then i'll hop in a cab and head to South Beach for that swim! At least I have lots of options. thanks, all!

                  -----
                  South Beach Cafe
                  121 5th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                  1. re: justaddwater
                    m
                    mikek May 8, 2011 04:18 PM

                    Forget about the term tourist trap - Bayside is a cesspool of food, culture, etc.

                    I would go to South Beach and do Lincoln and check out all of the architecture that is getting rave reviews from around the world, people watch, etc.

                    -----
                    South Beach Cafe
                    121 5th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                    1. re: mikek
                      j
                      justaddwater May 8, 2011 05:38 PM

                      Yes. The cesspool is one of the city's top attractions, not the place where men dress as women and everyone is amused.

                      1. re: justaddwater
                        m
                        mikek May 9, 2011 09:35 AM

                        It is a top attraction - for cruise patrons, people who want to shop at kitschky stores and eat at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. or Chilis. People hardly even go there before Heat games and it is right next door. If someone is seeking out advice on chowhound about foods local and unique to Miami, there is a safe assumption that Bayside is not what said individual is looking for at all.

                        And if you are referring to Lincoln as the place where men dress as women, it is not the Birdcage anymore. Right on Lincoln you have the new building that houses Shake Shack that is world famous, and the new Symphony Hall was designed by Frank Ghery. Both buildings along with Lincoln, in my not-so-humble opinion, offer much more of an attraction and real glimpse of what is going on in Miami, rather than a mall to appease unwitting tourists.

                        Have you set foot in Bayside in last decade? You would really feel comfortable telling a friend to visit there for a taste of things Miami? I only hope your friends come to post on here to avoid such a fate.

                        Maria - though it is not Cuban, I would also consider eating at Tap Tap, as it may be unlikely that you can find Haitian food in SF.

                        1. re: mikek
                          taiga May 9, 2011 10:50 AM

                          I ride my bike through Bayside every so often. I would make it my last choice. Coral Gables is nice but staid; there are good places to hang out and eat though and it is closer to the airport. You could visit Patagonia, Graziano's, Pasion del Cielo for coffee, and Books and Books as well as Frod's great suggestions. However, if time permits, go to Miami Beach. David's II is as decent as Puerto Sagua, and walking to see the Setai, the Delano, the shore club, the New World, and the new parking garage with Alchemist worth its weight in gold.

                          1. re: mikek
                            mariacarmen May 9, 2011 11:02 AM

                            Thanks Mikek - i have to tend to agree with you (no offense justaddwater!), i don't like malls at all, nor chains, and, being from San Francisco, I would have no problem at all seeing men dressed as women interspersed with beautiful new and old buildings of architectural interest (as Taiga also mentions below.) I remember loving the Deco buildings in the late 80s and I'm sure I'll love them - and new buildings - now. And thanks for the Tap Tap tip, as you are correct, we don't have anything like Haitian food here. I'll add it and David's II to my options list along with Puerto Sagua. Besides, I'm still, all these years later, remembering the beautiful light over Miami Beach. I understand it may be your rainy season mid-June, but I'm still really looking forward to my one day there!

                            -----
                            Puerto Sagua Restaurant
                            700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                            1. re: mariacarmen
                              Veggo May 9, 2011 07:16 PM

                              I vote SoBe for the early hours you are laying over, CG at sunset. When Sobe really comes alive you will be over the tepuis in Venezuela.

                2. dmo305 May 10, 2011 05:53 PM

                  Sounds like you are leaning towards the Beach option (good option) but if you decide to stay on the mainland, closer to the airport, you might want to consider El Palacio de los Jugos on flagler and 57th avenue. You will get your Cuban food fix and this place is uniquely Miami. Not far from either the airport or Coral Gables

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: dmo305
                    mariacarmen May 11, 2011 11:38 PM

                    Thanks! who knows, my SF to Miami flight may be late and I won't have as long a layover as planned and so may need to stay closer to the airport.

                    1. re: mariacarmen
                      Dapuma May 17, 2011 03:50 PM

                      i would go to Tap Tap get a mojitio with 5 star barbancourt and reboard the plane happy!

                      1. re: Dapuma
                        mariacarmen May 17, 2011 04:23 PM

                        i'm planning to board the plane happy, don't you worry! Tap Tap looks really great! especially the grilled conch or the goat stew.....

                        1. re: mariacarmen
                          Veggo May 17, 2011 04:42 PM

                          The grilled conch will have been frozen, from T&C, but that is the best you can do. And grilled with garlic it's good, just not ceviche.

                          1. re: Veggo
                            mariacarmen May 17, 2011 04:46 PM

                            oh, yes, didn't think of that. but since i have never had conch, and have always wanted to try it... i've never had goat stew either, just goat tacos.

                            1. re: mariacarmen
                              Veggo May 17, 2011 04:47 PM

                              easy answer - both!

                              As Janis said....GIWYC.

                              1. re: Veggo
                                mariacarmen May 17, 2011 05:00 PM

                                PLUS the cubano from Puerto Sagua! it's a long flight to Bolivia....

                                -----
                                Puerto Sagua Restaurant
                                700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                                1. re: mariacarmen
                                  Veggo May 17, 2011 05:05 PM

                                  For those items I always bring my 1.7 liter cooler in my carry on, sans ice or ice packs, but they always graciously give me ice on board.
                                  Buen provecho, and enjoy some interesting empanadas, and the railroad!

                            2. re: Veggo
                              CFByrne May 18, 2011 05:28 AM

                              I'd venture a guess that 99% of the conch you'll eat in SFla is frozen, from T&C or elsewhere. Not a problem.

                              More important is the grade. You can get some cheaper stuff out there, but it perhaps was not handled nor cleaned as well.

                              Relaible restaurants in it for the long run will opt for higher quality - if they have to pay more and charge more, so be it.

                              1. re: CFByrne
                                Veggo May 18, 2011 06:44 AM

                                Taking queen conch is illegal anywhere in Florida. I am familiar with the conch farm operation in Provo, T&C (my family had a home there for 15 years), and it is a good, clean operation. A.P. Bell in Cortez sells it wholesale in 5 Lb. boxes, and Mid-Peninsula Seafood in Pinellas Park has cracked conch as a menu item, and both source it from the Provo farm.

                    2. k
                      KImKinMIA May 25, 2011 01:37 PM

                      Being you have 8 hours, keep in mind that South Florida has some of the most reasonable car rental rates of anywhere. Consider renting a car and driving to a cuban restaurant and then perhaps taking a nice drive over to either Key Biscayne or South Beach to enjoy Miami views, beach etc or as planned a taxi will work.
                      As far as non fancy Cuban cuisine w/o pretention etc. As a Miami native, I'd highly recommend Villa Havana (3398 SW 22nd St Miami, FL 33145 ) basically on Coral Way which is a 10 minute drive from the airport and a short drive to either Key Biscayne, Coconut Grove or South Beach for a nice stroll after your meal. Villa Havana is technically located in Coral Gables but further down Coral Way in closer proximity to Downtown and more of a place locals go to really enjoy some great Cuban cooking. The decor is unremarkable but the food is as memorable as a sunday dinner at a cuban friend's Abuela's house and totally worth the visit. I'd recommend trying the ropa vieja, the arroz con pollo, the house snapper or the creole snapper chunks and definitely get the black beens and rice because theirs are the best! Here's a link to the menu -http://southflorida.menupages.com/res...
                      ps in spanish Villa Havana is pronounced more like Vee-yuh Ha- ban-a if you use a taxi. It's one of the hidden gem type of unassuming restaurants in Miami. I'm confident that you'll really enjoy the food.ps - small tip - It might be good to call ahead for ordering the Arroz con Pollo ((305) 446-7427 because it is so amazing that I'd hate for you to miss it and sometimes it's only served to those who called for reservatiion for it.

                      -----
                      Villa Havana Restaurant
                      3398 Coral Way, Miami, FL 33145

                      1. d
                        DPGood May 25, 2011 01:46 PM

                        Good suggestion about renting a car. I would do that and go to the Oasis on Key Bscayne. It's the real thing for Cuban Food.

                        -----
                        Oasis Sandwich Shop
                        19 Harbor Dr, Key Biscayne, FL 33149

                        1. mariacarmen Jun 6, 2011 12:11 PM

                          Hey everyone, reporting back from La Paz, Bolivia, after having spent a glorious 5 hours in Miami Beach. PHEWWWWW - HOT! had to stop and buy some cooler clothes, then headed right into Puerto Sagua for a delicious cubano and a Presidente beer. Sat at the counter, perfect afternoon, totally hit the spot. It was exactly what i was looking for. Then i hit the beach for a good hour of sunning on the white sands. Then walked over to Tap Tap for a Negroni fizz - i just have them add a bit of tonic to my negroni - and a delicious, garlicky charcoal grilled conch with the rice-bean mixture - although it wasn´t really beans, just black-bean colored rice, with peas, or maybe gandulas$ sorry, no question mark on this key board! good french bread alongside. love that place. It was a PERFECT mini one-day vacation before my la paz trip, and i thank you all for your suggestions and great tips. Thanks again!

                          -----
                          Puerto Sagua Restaurant
                          700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mariacarmen
                            u
                            uwsister Jun 6, 2011 10:32 PM

                            Sounds perfect!

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