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Upscale Cuban restaurant in Miami or Miami Beach?

Visiting Miami for a few days, and I'm interested in Cuban food for dinner, but I'm sure most of the best food comes from hole-in-the-wall type places.

I'm looking for a nice dinner, nice ambiance, good service, decent wine list, white tablecloth type place. Cost isn't a factor, I don't mind if it's expensive or even "over-priced".

So, are there any good upscale Cuban places like that in either Miami or Miami Beach? I don't mind if it's not the most authentic Cuban food in the city, as long as it's good and meets the above criteria.

Thanks!

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  1. Maybe Bongos/Larios on South Beach. Food at Larios has always been good and the location speaks for itself, I don't do the club scene.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Ha, I don't do the club scene either!

      1. re: Veggo

        Having had the pleasure of actually dining many times in Havana (the real one, not the Little One), I would not recommend Bongos. I'm new to the area and will report back when I find something suitable.

        1. re: El Chevere

          I have dined numerous times in the Miramar and Vedado sections of Havana, plus the Marina, and it was rarely a pleasure. There is better Cuban food on Calle Ocho than in Cuba.

          1. re: Veggo

            Did you dine at La Cocina de Lilliam, La Guarida, El Aljibe, Doctor Cafe, the restaurants at Club Hemingway and La Casa--to name a few?...to me, Bongos is commercialized, Sysco supplied, Americanized Cuban cuisine...I am definitely open minded to trying better places in other area, perhaps in the area you mentioned. I was a bit underwhelmed at Bongos--at least the one at the AA Arena, where I ate.

            Open to other suggestions.

            Thanks

            1. re: El Chevere

              Unfortunately, some of the best Cuban food is not in fancy upscale locations, which is what the OP is looking for. Equally true in Palm Beach County. Larios is at least a great location and was quite good in its early days, especially Sunday dinners with lamb shanks. I have not been in a while as I have outgrown the SoBe scene.

      2. I really like what they're doing at Bread & Butter in Coral Gables. I've only been for lunch, and they have a somewhat more expansive dinner menu. It's not super fancy - more gastropub than white tablecloth - but it's modern and contemporary in style (both atmosphere and food) but still very much grounded in Cuban cuisine.

        Otherwise, I've not been in ages, but there was a time that Ola on Miami Beach would fit the bill.

        1 Reply
        1. The only place that comes to mind is the longstanding Yuca on Lincoln Road but I have no clue who is in the kitchen.

          I've heard good things about Catharsis on Calle Ocho but I don't think it's 100% Cuban

          1. I second Bread + Butter but if you're on the Beach and want a Cuban restaurant with food along the lines of what you might find in Little Havana, try Sazon on 73rd and Collins.

            1. Is Versailles still around? When we were there probably 20 years ago, it was the place for Cuban-Americans to see and be seen. And we liked the food also.

              3 Replies
              1. re: c oliver

                Yes they are around but they are certainly not upscale...

                1. re: tpigeon

                  But it's not divey either. We thought the vibe and the food were good.

                  1. re: tpigeon

                    And that's Calle Ocho, heart of little Havana.
                    Probably the best Cuban restaurant in Palm Beach county is Havana, but with it's location on the Dixie highway, some of my friends' wives will not go there after dark, to my disappointment. Upscale Cuban is a tough one.
                    I'm wantin' my Sunday braised lamb shanks!

                2. Versailles still around? Seriously? Versailles is a landmark restaurant in South Florida....

                  I would politely disagree that Versailles isn't upscale.....The tablecloths are there....Waiters wear jackets and ties.....and the food is very good.....

                  Versailles isn't a hole in the wall establishment......Not in a strip mall in Hialeah....It's on one of Coral Gables main drags......

                  If you're here for a short time....want very good Cuban food....and want to get Miami's latin buzz....Versailles is the place.....

                  EMac
                  Ft. Pierce, FL....

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: LargeLife

                    Glad it's still like it was when we ate there probably 20 years ago. It was clearly a place where, on the Sunday we went, was where families came to dinner for lunch. A real see and be seen kinda place. The movers and shakers in the Cuban-American scene were regulars.

                    1. re: LargeLife

                      Versailles is not a hole in the wall, but it's also not what I'd consider a white-tablecloth place. Yes it's got mirrors and chandeliers everywhere, but it's also got formica tables and paper placemats and laminated plastic menus. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just not sure it's what OP is looking for.

                      1. re: Frodnesor

                        Thanks, Frodnesor...You are correct. I plan to return for Versailles for lunch, but I'm looking for fancier for dinner.

                    2. Havana 57 is my favorite new Cuban.

                      1 Reply
                      1. I think for upscale Cuban that has the authentic flavor in south beach, one should go to Polo Norte. It's not quite upscale as it has a more of a clean diner feel but it's certainly a step up from Puerto Sagua. I say upscale because you have places like Yuca and Bella Cuba that feels upscale but the food is nothing authentic. And then you have other places where the places look nice but the plating or food falls flat like David's Cafe or Havana 1959 (decent plating but when I went they couldn't even make Cuban coffee, Miami style). I haven't checked Abuela's though.

                        But at Polo Norte, they even make their own potato chips, plantain chips and any side dish. And they do make the food look good on the plate. The added bonus is it's authenticity cannot really be questioned as it is a local chain based in the Cuban capital of Hialeah.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mialebven

                          Thanks, but I'm definitely not looking for a "clean diner feel". I was pretty clear that I was less interested in "authenticity", and more interested in "upscale atmosphere".

                        2. I forgot to provide a conclusion for where I went...

                          I ended up going to OLA in Miami Beach, and liked it so much, we went back the next night. I preferred Miami to the Miami Beach "scene", but I thought OLA was great food and great service.

                          I went to Versailles for a coffee, and I liked it a lot, but yeah, it's not what I would call an "upscale" place.

                          I should point out, I'm not trying to be snobby, I like holes in the wall at times. This was a time where I didn't want formica tables, and laminated menus.

                          My wife went to YUCA for lunch one day, and liked it, but not the same as OLA.

                          I should add that Bread+Butter looks great, and I'll definitely try that next time I'm in Miami. I'm still trying to stay on the mainland side, after all.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: johnblacksox

                            Good to hear a good report on OLA, it's been off my radar for a long time now but was great for a time several years ago. The raspado de pato was one of my favorite dishes for a while.

                            Oddly, there is nothing on the website now indicating it's a Douglas Rodriguez place. Instead it talks about Horacio Rivadero, who is one of his disciples - and who recently opened The District in the Buena Vista neighborhood. Presumably D-Rod is no longer involved in it.