Un Verano en Little Havana

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The horns of El Gran Combo play as you walk down the buzzing streets of Little Havana, a little slice of Cuban culture tucked away in the melting pot of Miami, Florida. Little Havana is located on Calle Ocho, or 8th Street with the hub of the neighborhood sandwiched between SW 12th Ave and SW 17th Ave.

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Cuban flags are hung proudly, the smell of cigars fills the air, and you can find pastelitos, croquetas or cafecito at just about every corner. The Little Havana neighborhood, originally inhabited by Cuban immigrants who fled Cuba and settled in Miami has maintained it’s original flavor while undergoing an artistic renaissance of sorts- a meshing of old and new generations.

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Murals have popped up all over the walls of Little Havana, a tribute to the graffiti culture that Miami is known for.

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Last summer, Becks commissioned 15 murals to be painted by local Miami artists in the neighborhoods of Little Havana, Little Haiti, Hialeah and Wynwood. On our recent trip down south, we found these gems by 2 Alas, Don Rimx and Magnus respectively.

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As we wandered the streets, we stumbled upon the cutest chocolate shop Guayaba y Chocolate on 16th Ave, a new addition to the neighborhood and a perfect example of the art influx.

front diadelosmuertosThe owners of the shop, Venezuelan chocolatier Alejandra Bigai and her cousin Maria Waleska have curated a chocolate shop that is unapologetically Hispanic. From the Spanish name, to the art on the walls, you can feel their cultural pride in every nook and cranny of the space.

The chocolate shop aims to unite chocolate lovers and art lovers alike. They rotate art by local artists every couple of months and are currently featuring Cuban-American artist Annie M.  of the nearby Futurama Gallery, known for her brightly painted clothes.

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Chocolate and art lovers can call the shop and reserve a chocolate painting session where you and your friends can paint your own bon bons. Think Painting With A Twist, but a canvas you can eat- we’re sold. The second Wednesday of every month, Guayaba y Chocolate closes it’s doors at night and hosts a concert accompanied by chocolate samples and rum tasting (sign us up!). Tickets are available through Eventbrite, check out their website  for more details.

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Does your sweet tooth hurt yet? Our apologies, because our next stop is the Azucar Ice Cream Company just down the block on 15th Ave.

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Homemade ice cream inspired by Cuban flavors like cafe con leche, flan, rum cake and yes, even platano maduro.

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Amy had the Domino, named after the black and white tiles that you’ll get plenty of across the street at Domino Park. In non-Cuban, it’s cookies and cream. I had my all-time favorite and their most popular flavor, the Abuela Maria. Vanilla ice cream with chunks of GOYA Maria cookies and guayaba (spotting a trend here?). Also, say yes to the guava drizzle- trust me.

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Last but not least, we wouldn’t be the Rhum Girls without rum. Enter Ball & Chain, literally right next door to Azucar.

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This local bar is a neighborhood staple, originally opened as the Ball & Chain Saloon in 1935. Ball & Chain evolved to become one of the most illustrious performance venues in the 1950s and hosted musical sensations like Billie Holiday, Count Basie and Chet Baker.

Be it boleros through the speakers, live Cuban jazz off to the side of the bar or Pineapple Sundays with local bands jamming on the pineapple stage outside, music continues to be the heartbeat of Ball & Chain.

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Music… and rum. Their three page drink menu features Cuban classics like mojitos and daiquiris, and they have a more than decent rum selection.

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While we were there Amy enjoyed the Havana Regal, a newer addition to their menu which boasts Chivas Regal Extra, fresh lemon and lime juice, angostura bitters, simple syrup and fresh mint. I had the long time classic, the Calle Ocho Old Fashioned. It’s classic cocktail meets Cuba and it makes me feel like Ernest Hemingway every dang time. Bacardi 8 aged rum, Demerara sugar, tobacco infused bitters and a tobacco leaf. Can you see me on the Pilar, wind in my hair, cigar in my hand yet? Good, so can I.

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And with that, we end our tour. We love you Miami, but especially you, Little Havana.

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Cheers!

XO, Vic


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