Southwest Eighth Street, which runs from the edge of Brickell near Biscayne Bay straight west into the Everglades, is for many reasons considered the heart of Miami. In the latter half of the 20th century Little Havana grew up around it as hundreds of thousands of Cubans fled Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Today, as the Cuban population dwindles in comparison to an influx of new immigrants from around Latin America, Calle Ocho remains an important part of the fabric of Miami. Restaurants and galleries open on the last Friday of each month for Viernes Culturales. The night often coincides with an epic Critical Mass ride that covers about a mile of Calle Ocho, with revelers cheering on thousands of cyclists. While nearly every regional cuisine from Central and South America can be found somewhere along this stretch, there are plenty of noteworthy, non-Latin eateries. If you're ever driving along (probably stuck in traffic) jonesin' for something other than a pan con lechon, arepa, cachapa, pupusa or sancocho, all is not lost.
5. French pastries at Alliance Française
The Alliance Française was founded in Paris in 1883 as a worldwide non-profit, cultural and educational center. The organization maintains 1,100 chapters in 138 countries, including 146 US locations. A glitzy Miami location, covered in blue white and red opened on Calle Ocho in 2008. Inside they offer French classes for novices to native speakers in addition to a well-stocked pastry case with everything from pan au chocolat to mille feuilles.
Lebanese brothers Ali and Anwar Sebai have run this small Middle Easter market, bakery and café for the past five years. Inside they serve everything from shish kebabs to lamb shanks and shwarma made according to their mother's and wives' recipes. If a simple falafel doesn't entice you, go for a lamb brain wrap, with tzatziki, lettuce, tomato and peppers twisted up in a home made pita.
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3. The Pasta Factory Company
Located in a giant pink building near 57th Avenue The Pasta Factory has been dishing out freshly made noodles both wholesale and by the bowl since 1977. Richard and Carmen Sanders brought the concept with them when they emigrated from Argentina. Here they serve almost of the Italian-American classics for less than $10.
2. La Sandwicherie
The iconic South Beach sandwich shop must've noticed all of the inebriated college kids and young professionals stumbling around Brickell on the weekends and saw an opportunity. As on the beach La Sandwicherie in Brickell is open late with sandwiches piled high with veggies. We won't tell you which one to order, only to request extra honey mustard dressing and cornichons.
1. Hy Vong
If there's something on 8th Street besides Latin restaurants it's Asian food, mostly in the form of bastardized, glistening, MSG-laden Chinese. Hy Vong is a happy diversion from all of that. The Banh Cuon, steamed pork rolling cakes, and the beef with rice noodles have been listed among our favorite 100 dishes in years past.