In this city, we tend to take a lot for granted. The beach, the lack of blizzards, and Cuban coffee are examples. You think it's easy to find a cup of Cuban rocket fuel in Chicago?
A colada is like the Big Gulp of Cuban coffee. Instead of a single shot of espresso served in a tiny plastic cup, a colada contains several shots and is usually served in a small styrofoam cup. A cortadito, similar to Italy's macchiato, is like a colada with a splash of milk -- although you'll see some creative versions on this list.
Cuban coffee may be ubiquitous in the Magic City, but all Cuban coffee drinks are not created equal. In our quest to highlight the best in town, we spoke with two Cuban coffee experts, Alberto De La Cruz and JennyLee Molina.
Molina, the public relations maven behind the #305cafécito campaign, actually got Mayor Tomás Regalado to issue a proclamation declaring 3:05 p.m. as "Miami's Official Cafécito Break Time" and brought national attention to our potent potion on NPR.
See also: 305 Cafecito Time at Enriqueta's
De La Cruz, managing editor of the Babalú Blog, a digital magazine "about all things Cuban," explains his long history with Cuban coffee: "I was born and raised in Miami and have been drinking that dark elixir since my mother used to dip my pacifier in her tacita de café."
Not surprisingly, the two mostly agreed on which restaurants offer the best Cuban coffee, couldn't get through an interview about coladas and cortaditos without mentioning croquetas, and agreed that Havana Harry's is probably the worst place to grab a cup of liquid crack.
Here's what the two had to say about where to go for the best coladas and cortaditos in Miami:
Molina: Oh, there's a cortadito especial, like a colada, but with splashes of evaporated milk and condensed milk, topped with powdered cinnamon, that is out of this world. You can't have just one; it's a two cortadito affair.
De La Cruz: If I had to describe the Cuban coladas at La Carreta with just one word it would be "consistent." No matter which location you happen to visit, you can always depend on the colada to be hot, sweet, and good, like it's supposed to be. An amazing feat when you consider they have locations all over South Florida -- even the coladas at the Mercy Hospital satellite location are good.
Molina: Although this joint is Colombian, it serves delicious cafécito. Straight or con leche (cortadito), it's as good as homemade. And right off the 71 Street Causeway, so perfect on your way to the beach or on your way back.
De La Cruz: Only one reason to stop for a Cuban colada at Islas Canarias: the croquetas!
Molina: The place is legit, bro. It's a shame they aren't closer to me...or perhaps a blessing. You can't find a better cafécito and croqueta combo in the 305.
Molina: I like the consistency of quality, plus it's smack in the middle of downtown and, equally important, it's open 24/7 -- perfect for a late night or early morning pick me up -- before the drive home.
Molina: Growing up, all my birthday cakes were from this place! So naturally, my favorite location is the one in Miami Lakes. I have to say I'm especially excited about the new Coral Gables location because the Miracle Mile area needed a good go-to place for cafécito.
De La Cruz: Although I generally avoid Versailles because of its touristy factor, I have never had a bad Cuban colada there. You have to put up with tourists and wrestle your way past locals who think having a Cuban coffee is a two-hour affair standing at the counter, but the café is always good.
Molina: It's Miami's quintessential ventanita and the espumita is always on point.
De La Cruz: Decent Cuban coladas, if you ever get to place your order.
Note: This longstanding bakery in West Miami is widely recognized for making the best Cuban bread in town.
De La Cruz: Wonderful Cuban coladas by a fun staff. As a bonus, the lunch deals are as impressively delicious as they are impressively cheap.
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Molina: It is officially my favorite spot for cafécito. I'm there daily and the cafécito never, ever disappoints. Belkis and Leidys are sisters and run that window like a well-oiled machine; you can taste the love in coffee. I recently discovered "the Frank Martinez" which they named after the 100 Fires Cigars Wynwood owner who is there daily as well. It's not on the menu, but it's basically an evaporated milk cortadito with cinnamon and sugar.
Regardless of where you choose to refuel, we think that De La Cruz sums up Miami's café community perfectly: "What I love best about Miami, in comparison to the rest of the world, is that you are never more than five minutes away from a good Cuban colada."
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