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Best Things to Eat in Miami

By: Lena Katz

Miami is a dynamic, multicultural food city boasting one of the strongest Caribbean and Latin American culinary scenes in the country, with a tropical climate that allows year-round produce, not to mention abundant seafood from the surrounding waters. Here are the best local foods — and where to find each.

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Cubano — Havana 1957

Ham, Swiss cheese, sliced roast pork and pickle chips are heaped two inches thick between thin slices of fresh Cuban bread, spread with mustard and butter; then the sandwich is grilled in a press, so the outside is crisp-toasted and the inside gooey with cheese. The Cuban sandwich is the ultimate ham and cheese melt, although no one can agree on who does the very best version. (In fact, there’s an annual festival and statewide contest.) Havana 1957 does an Americanized portion — i.e. too big for one person to eat,— with a side of fritas that practically demand you slake their saltiness with sangria.

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Paletas — Paletas Morelia

Prepare to love the frozen fruit pop like you haven’t loved it since you were four years old. Artisanal makers here have elevated it to a flavor-bursting edible art form that often manages to stay on the healthy side, but sometimes veers into super-chocolate fantasy land. The pops at Paletas Morelia are handmade with fresh fruit, ingeniously filled with creme or liqueur, often garnished with a slice of their main flavor ingredient — whether that be a Key lime slice or an Oreo. Varieties include strawberry cheesecake, pineapple-mint, mango, coconut and banana with Nutella inside. Oh, and there’s a Belgian chocolate pop filled with Irish creme, for when you want to act like a kid again but also keep your buzz going.

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Ceviche in Leche de Tigre with Peruvian Corn — Pisco y Nazca

It’s not quite fair to claim ceviche as a Miami signature, but it is fair to say this city is the only one outside Peru to widely offer Peruvian-style ceviche in peppery "tiger’s milk" — a lime- and fish stock-based marinade. The ceviche can feature many kinds of seafood, often enhanced with chunks of yam and some choclo, or large-kernel white Peruvian corn, which is nutty and starchy. Authentic Peruvian restaurants such as South Miami favorite Pisco y Nazca usually kick off meals with another variety of corn called cancha; toasted or fried crunchy with plenty of salt, it’s addictive but only makes you thirstier and more ready for your leche de tigre.

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Photo: Blue Shell Media

Pastelitos — Pastelito Papi at Ariete and Chug’s

These flaky glazed Cuban puff pastries are a ubiquitous Magic City snack. Guava cream cheese is the standard, but they’re made with other sweet and savory fillings. They’re easily available at the airport, in Publix, in neighborhood bakeries all over the city and in their ultimate form at glossy New World restaurant Ariete for Sunday brunch. This last mention seems improbable, until you know that Ariete sous chef Giovanni Fesser has become so famous for his gourmet pastelitos that he now goes by the Miami superhero name Pastelito Papi. Since his pastelitos have outgrown their Sunday-only role, they’re also available all days at Ariete’s new offshoot Chugs, a Cuban diner in Coconut Grove. Try the PB&G, a clever mashup of guava and PB&J.

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