Since the early influx of Hispanic and Cuban immigrants, coffee culture has long been a part of Miami. Only in the 305 could we have a movement like 3:05 Cafecito, proclaimed by the City of Miami, as a coffee break meant to happen at 3:05 p.m. And though the Magic City's coffee scene has evolved thanks to craft shops such as Panther Coffee and Alaska Coffee Roasters serving single-origin imports, a sweet, strong colada is what many locals crave for a caffeinated jolt.
Below are some of Miami’s top ventanillas to get your cafecito on, where finding a quick cup of java never has to cost seven bucks.
10. Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop
Enriqueta's remains a constant in the ever-changing Wynwood. Owner Jose Pal can often be seen at the register checking out regulars, and his daughters Leidys and Belkis are said to know patrons by name. Neighborhood residents visit for croquetas and breakfast items, and the signature sandwiches bring in blue- and white-collar customers alike. The cafecito window gets busy mostly around lunchtime, when tourists and locals happily wait in line for café con leche or a colada ($1.90).
9. Mary's Coin Laundry & Cafeteria
Since 1982, Mary’s has been giving Grovites a place to wash their clothes. Since 2001, however, that wash-and-fold also comes with a place to grab some food and a café con leche ($1.35) — which comes in handy when you're doing laundry at 3 a.m. The place is open 24 hours a day, and on any given weekend, you can spot after-hours clubbers sobering up on sandwiches and croquetas. There's also a display behind the counter offering items such as cigarettes and aspirin — must-haves for any late-night denizen.
8. Latin Café 2000
Known for its quick, tasty Cuban food, Latin Café 2000 offers croquetas, cafecitos, and timely service to busy Hialeans. In addition to staples such as bistec de palomilla, there's also a healthful menu called El Cubanito Saludable, or the Healthy Cuban. The Hialeah location is being remodeled, so patrons can enjoy a new look with their café con leche ($1.54) and colada ($1.44) in the coming weeks.
7. Versailles Restaurant
Versailles has long been hot spot for social debate and the essence of cafecito culture in Miami. Often seen as the unofficial town square for Cuban exiles, the restaurant opened in 1971 and has become one of Miami’s most famous eateries and a must for every visitor and local. La ventanita at Versailles is the ground zero for coffee culture in Miami, and the vasito will surely wake you up with its strong yet sweet taste. Sidle up to the window for a café con leche ($1.54) or colada ($1.44).
6. La Carreta
Though there are multiple locations, the La Carreta in Hialeah on West 16th Avenue is the right place for conversation and people-watching. Located next to a seniors' apartment building, the place is patronized by viejitos in guayaberas who enjoy the ceremonial tradition of coffee time. The shots of caffeinated adrenaline are available even for a late-night fix because this locations closes around 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. A café con leche costs $2.50, and a cortadito runs $1.85.
5. Casavana Cuban Cuisine
Casavana has been sating locals' cafecito cravings since the early 2000s. It’s easy to spot the Cuban eatery from the moment you park, as swarms of police officers and customers can be seen huddled at the ventanilla to get a taste of café con leche and coladas ($2.25 each). At the Miami Lakes location, ask for Rosie, one of the ladies working there. She's a favorite among the customers for her hospitality and ability to remember people’s names.
4. Islas Canarias
Established in 1977 by Raul and Amelia Garcia, Islas Canarias has earned its stripes in Miami, but it’s the restaurant's reputation for the best dollar croquetas and cafecito that has everyone raving about this Miami institution. In the Miami episode of Parts Unknown, Anthony Bourdain broke bread here and, in true Miami fashion, shared a cafecito ($1.89) with local chef Michelle Bernstein. Besides, what other eatery has its own holiday? July 19 has been proclaimed Islas Canarias Restaurant Day, adding to this spot's long list of Miyami street cred.
3. El Exquisito Restaurant
In the heart of Little Havana, El Exquisito has been at the forefront of Miami coffee culture since its inception in 1974. On any given day, professionals and Cuban papis from the nearby Domino Park can be seen rubbing shoulders at this ventanilla for café con leches ($2.16) and coladas ($1.50). In 2012, the Coro family revamped the establishment with a fresh look, and now up to 100 people can fit at this historic location.
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2. La Palma
As soon as Miami's weather dips into the 70s, customers flock to La Palma to enjoy its popular churros with hot chocolate and coladas ($1.77). Repped by locals as a great place to stop for late-night munchies, the 24-hour window has been satisfying all-nighters and early risers with Cuban fare for more than 30 years.
1. Los Pinareños Frutería
Enjoy your cafecito break alfresco at this large outdoor walk-up window with barstools. Inside, Los Pinareños resembles typical markets in South America, where boxes overflow with all types of tropical fruits. The sapodilla shakes and tamales have made the Calle Ocho location a huge success, but be sure to bring your pesos, because this place is cash-only. After you savor the last drop of your café con leche ($2) or a colada ($1.25), take a stroll inside to view the vintage photographs and get a cup of favored sugarcane juice to go.
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