Calle Ocho Music Festival

The Calle Ocho Music Festival happens every year in March in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami. We did not plan our trip around this festival but we happened to discover that it would be during our trip. We decided we should check it out since we wanted to see and eat in Little Havana anyways. The festival is the largest Latin American music festival in North America and it is free to attend. It takes place along several blocks on Calle Ocho. There are stages set up every couple blocks with live music. The festival is very crowded and can be a bit crazy as with any concert or music festival. We didn’t spend any lengthy amount of time at any one stage but when we did pass by the stages the music we heard was all very good. There were larger crowds around each stage and lots of people dancing and having a good time!
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We were really there for the food! There are street venders along both sides of the street selling all sorts of wonderful food! You can find any kind of Latin American food you want at this festival. We saw Mexican, Argentinian, Puerto Rican and Cuban to name a few specifics. We spent our time walking down the street in search of great street food to try.
We had some really awesome carne asada- that was the star of the afternoon for us! We saw this meat grilling on a tipi shaped wood fired grill (pictured below) and decided we had to stop at this food stand. We got the steak which came with fried plantains, something similar to coleslaw with fresh cilantro and potatoes. It was a lot of food but we did manage to try a few other things as we walked. We also tried a sweet corn pie which tastes like a corn pudding that is fried like a pancake and then some cheese is melted in-between two patties like a grilled cheese. We also had a fried empanada. Shredded chicken was the only filling in the empanada we had. It was not bad but we were expecting a filling more like what we had in Chile where there was always meat and cheese inside not just the meat. We felt like it would have been better with cheese as well as shredded chicken. This is just our preference and of course different cultures make their empanadas differently. We also only only tried them from one food stand so maybe others had different fillings.
While at the festival, you can see Domino Park and the iconic Calle Ocho rooster statues which you always read about when researching what to do in Little Havana.  It is good to know that a lot of the businesses and restaurants in Little Havana are closed during the festival. You can buy beer and other drinks from some of the bars in the area and from other street vendors. But if you are looking to sit down inside for a meal or a drink you will likely need to leave the festival to find something. We sat and enjoyed our carne asada at the Cuban Memorial Boulevard Park. This is a small park just off Calle Ocho with a memorial to those who fought for Cuban independence. It had a few benches with seating.  A lot of the street food available is easier to walk around with while you eat. You can also find less crowded areas along the sidewalk to stop and eat your food if needed.
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One big thing we definitely noticed was the lack of bathrooms. We were expecting at least one or two areas with porter potties or something since it was such a large festival. We passed a few restaurants that had signs saying $2 or $3 to use the bathroom. We finally came across a couple porta potties tucked back away from Calle Ocho. Those were free to use but were out of toilet paper. There happened to be a vendor selling soft drinks and water right next to these porter potties. He did have napkins he was charging for if you wanted to use some in place of toilet paper. So especially if you are drinking while at the festival just be aware that finding a bathroom may not be as easy or cheap as you expected.
We took an Uber from Miami Beach to the festival. Uber ride share is a great option to help keep your Uber costs down. Do be mindful that the festival is very crowded so the traffic getting there can be a bit crazy. Our Uber driver was able to drop us off within a block or two of the festival and then made sure we knew where we were going. A tip if taking an Uber away from the festival when you are ready to leave-  walk a block or two away so that you can more easily be picked up away from the crowds. If driving yourself to the festival be prepared to pay for parking and we would recommend getting there early before traffic gets too crazy.
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We had a great time at Calle Ocho! Whether you are there for the food, the music or just to have a great cultural experience it is worth a visit if you are in Miami in March. Again be prepared for big crowds. Knowing some Spanish is helpful when ordering food. If you don’t know any Spanish you can certainly point to what you want and still get by. We never felt unsafe or unwelcome while we were there. We saw lots of other tourists as well as locals. Our Uber driver recommended keeping your wallet in your front pocket and for women keeping your purse or bag close to you to avoid pick pocketing. We would second this recommendation and recommend not bringing a large purse or bag, just a small cross body bag for women is a good idea. Again we had no problems but this is just good advise whenever you are somewhere with a large crowd.
Check out or other posts for more information on the Miami Beach area:
-TFWYs
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A Foodies Guide to Miami Beach

There is a lot of great food in Miami Beach! This is a very international area where you can find all kinds of different food. Of course Cuban food is a must! But outside of that pretty much anything you want, you can find. Miami Beach and South beach in particular gets a reputation for being an expensive destination. You can spend a lot of money on mediocre food here for sure. Also you can find great, authentic food for cheap if you know where to look.
A general rule for food in South Beach- Ocean drive is the main street near the beach and it where a lot of the Art Deco buildings are located. It is lined with restaurants and bars with outdoor seating. It is tempting to sit and eat, drink and people watch here but we would advise against it. You will find okay food catering to tourists who will most likely never be there again. A lot of the restaurants are serving very similar menus, nothing unique about each place. If you eat here, the food won’t be bad but it also won’t be great and you will pay way more than you would like. We ate on Ocean Drive our first lunch in the area before we really got our bearings. We shared one dish and drank just water and ended up spending approx. $50.
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First lunch on Ocean Dr.
This area is also big for night life. A lot of these restaurants and bars have live music at night. The Art Deco buildings are all lit up at night which is also fun to see. We  walked along to see the lights and ended up stopping into one bar to see some of the live music and get a drink. We are not big on going out, the party scene is not really our thing, but we thought while in South Beach we should enjoy some of the night life. We looked over the menu and quickly did some math on drink prices. A draft beer was $16 and so was a small cocktail. Most of these places serve giant cocktails in a large fish bowl type of glass. They charge $38-40 for one of these. If you are both going to get a drink you spend almost as much on two draft beers or two small cocktails so we opted for one giant cocktail to share. We got a mojito and again the drink was not bad but it was just your standard premixed mojito, nothing special about it so in our minds not worth $40. One last note is that there are a lot of street vendors walking around trying to see various goods as you are in the restaurants. A polite “No thank you” will get them to move on but don’t be surprised if you are haggled a few times. So if you feel like you must spend some time on Ocean Drive we would recommend doing one night for a drink or two at one of the restaurants/bars during some live music, nothing more.
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Now that all that is out of the way, time to talk about the great food we do recommend. Walking even one street in away from Ocean Drive and the beach you can find some really wonderful food and much more affordable prices.
La Ventana Traditional Colombian Food- We loved this place, we walked by and it smelled awesome!  There is outdoor and indoor seating available. We tried what we could call a sampler platter, listed on the menu as “Picada for two people”. It offered traditional Colombian sausage, blood sausage, pork chicharon, grilled chicken, plantains, potatoes and came with three traditional salsas to try. Everything was amazing! We were super excited to try the blood sausage since it is something we hadn’t had before and you can’t readily find in the U.S. It was our favorite thing on our platter of food. The restaurant also offered multiple other dishes and tapas options so if you wanted to try one or two of the things from this large sampler platter you could order just those things as tapas.
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Las Olas Café- This is a Cuban cafeteria/café serving food all day long as well as espresso and freshly squeezed juices. There is a window you can just walk up to on the side walk and order coffee, juice and food to go or you can go in and sit down. The place is quite small with only a few tables and was crowded each time we went. For lunch and dinner there are multiple traditional Cuban foods you can chose from. These are already prepared and kept warm on hot plates and visible behind the counter so you can chose what looks good. They also have empanadas and other Cuban pastries. We went here twice for breakfast and once for lunch, needless to say we loved it! It is your typical small, neighborhood place that you can tell locals keep coming back to. We had a breakfast sandwiches the first time we went for breakfast and they were huge! We both only ate half and saved the other halves for the next day since we had a microwave in our Air BnB. The next time we had breakfast there we ordered one breakfast combo (since we had seen how much food this was the previous time we were there). This comes with a coffee or an orange juice, two eggs however you want them cooked, french fries or home fries, a choice of bacon, sausage or ham as well as Cuban toast on the side for about $7. We enjoyed both breakfast options that we tried and really enjoyed the espresso as well! We had americianos for our espresso each time we were there. They had all your standard espresso drinks as options as well. The last time we ate here we ordered a Cuban sandwich to go and ate it on the beach. This was by far the best Cuban sandwich we have ever had! We got one to share because again the portions are large. That was definitely enough food for lunch but it was so good we could have easily both finished our own. We would highly recommend this place. Great food, great atmosphere and affordable prices.

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My Ceviche and SoBe hostel bar- My Ceviche is a small, hole in the wall kind of place with small counter you walk up to and order from. There are a few tables outside on the sidewalk. If those are taken the SoBe hostel is right next door which you can eat at as long as you order a drink from their bar. My Ceviche offers ceviche, tacos and poke bowls. We devoured our ceviche without stopping to take a picture, sorry! But it was awesome! We also had ahi tuna tacos which we did stop and take a picture of before eating. The food was really good, fresh and affordable. You could also easily take this to go and enjoy your food on the beach.
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Gelato Go- For a good desert Gelato Go is a great option. We stopped here after our dinner at My Ceviche on our way back towards Ocean Drive to see the Art Deco buildings lite up. You can try three flavors if you order a large (you will get one scoop of each). They have fresh fruit flavors and more creamy and chocolaty options.
Babylon- Babylon is a Turkish restaurant with great food and also a very nice outdoor patio area. The patio is light up with string lights at night, not the best for getting great photos but it makes for a nice atmosphere for dinner. We would recommend the stuffed cabbage appetizer for sure! We also shared a Turkish meatball dish which was really good.
Taquiza- This taco shop is a bit further north than the places we have listed so far. It is near 14th street, an easy walk along the beach if you are staying further south like we did. It is a block off the beach and has both indoor and outdoor seating. They offer a variety of tacos. The tacos are priced individually so you can order as many as you want and whatever kinds you want. They had chicken, shrimp, veggies, crickets, carne asado beef, beef tongue, barbacoa, pastor and carnitas. We’ve had a lot of pastor in our travels to Mexico, and this pastor was the best we have found in the U.S.
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Puerto Sagua- This is another Cuban diner serving food and espresso all day. There are tables you can sit at or there is a large counter area you can sit at. We had breakfast and coffee here one morning. Their breakfast is your traditional diner breakfast, they have several breakfast combos including eggs, hashbrowns or home fries, breakfast meats, cuban toast and a coffee included. Their café con leche is amazing! They bring you a cup nearly full of steamed milk and a small metal craft of espresso. You then pour the espresso into your milk so you could use less if you don’t like your coffee very strong or if you aren’t a big espresso drinker.
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Lucali’s- As foodies we were surprised we hadn’t heard of Lucali’s before our friends filled us in, thanks @thepassportpair for tip! The original is in Brooklyn and people stand in line for hours waiting to try the pizza. You can watch this YouTube video to see why: pizza in its purest form . There is a restaurant in Miami Beach and so of course we had to try this pizza. The menu is straight forward, just pizza, calzone and a few side dish options. You can add basil and garlic to your pizza free of charge. You can also add peperoni, Portobello mushrooms, red bell peppers, onions and hot peppers each for a additional charge. The crust is thin and crispy, the sauce is delicious and the toppings add just enough favor without overpowering something else. Keeping it simple pays off for sure! We added garlic, basil and Portobello mushrooms to ours. It was a pretty big pizza and we ate it all while we were there! You can also get a good look at the pizza oven and see them rolling out the dough and making the pizzas while you eat. It is really impressive to watch. Well worth the short Uber trip away from the beach (the South Beach Trolley also goes right there!). The best pizza we have ever had hands down! We will be working this spring and summer to perfect our own pizza dough making skills at home in our pizza oven!
One last tip for eating in Miami Beach is that most of the restaurants include an 18% gratuity in the bill. They typically don’t tell you this when they bring you the bill. So if you aren’t paying attention you could end up giving a double tip.
For the best cocktails in Miami check out our blog post- The Broken Shaker – Best Cocktails in Miami Beach
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment if you have other great foodie destinations in Miami Beach!
-TFWYs

The Broken Shaker – Best Cocktails in Miami Beach

First of all we loved this place! We went twice during our trip and probably would have been there more if we had stayed closer to it. This restaurant/bar is inside the Freehand Hostel. They have a pool with a large garden area around the pool full of lawn chairs and benches for seating. The pool, restaurant, and bar are all open  free of charge, even if you are not staying at the hostel.

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The pool is open all day and there is an all-day food menu. We are not sure if you can order drinks at all before the Broken Shaker is open. The Broken Shaker’s hours may change but while we were there they opened at 1 PM on the weekends and 5:30 PM during weekdays. They have a set cocktail menu with a short list of cocktails that are changed out seasonally and every month but also it is a full bar so whatever you want they can make you. The first time we went we just sat down and had a waitress come to us with menus and we ordered cocktails off the menu.
The second time we went, we walked up to the bar to order our drinks. We told the bartender we liked Rye Whiskey and asked if he could recommend something. He made us an amazing Monte Carlo. We had dinner with our drinks on our second time here. They have your usual bar/pub food options, but maybe a bit elevated. We shared a double cheeseburger with fries and it was probably one of the best burgers we have had. If you are in Miami Beach this place is a must! If you are wanting to relax with a good cocktail this is your place!
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-TFWYs