Feasting on Cuban food was on the to-do list for my trip to Miami last month. As I wrote before, I would have loved to check out the iconic neighborhood of Little Havana. However, I also wanted to be able to walk to as much as I could so the latter won out (Little Havana would have been quite the haul from the hotel I was staying at in South Beach).
Puerto Sagua is touted as one of the best Cuban restaurants in Miami Beach (remember when I said before that Miami Beach is actually a separate city from Miami). Luckily for me, it was only a 10 minute walk from the Marriott Stanton where we stayed. We headed there after checking in and even at a more non-traditional lunch hour (it was past 1:30 PM), the place was packed, appearing to be a mixture of locals and visitors alike.
There’s nothing fancy about this place-the interior looks like it’s from another era (Puerto Sagua has been operating for decades), and the room where we sat (the non-dining room area, where there was a counter people could sit at), didn’t feel air-conditioned. Yet the food was good, cheap, and quick. Everything you want in an ethnic restaurant, am I right?
Due to that pesky thing called the “embargo,” Cuban beers obviously cannot be sold in the United States. However, one can get Cuban style ales and that’s what D had-a beer called “Hatuey” to be exact. (Back when it was still made in Cuba, Ernest Hemingway actually featured Hatuey beer in The Old Man and the Sea.) Today, Hatuey is produced in South Carolina.
We started off by ordering the mariquitas, Cuban style plantain chips which we had also tried on our food tour with Miami Culinary Tours. I like plantains cooked up in any variety but in the form of chips, they’re especially delicious. I was just amazed they could slice them so thinly. They also came with mojo sauce for dipping (this garlic/citrus flavored sauce is ubiquitous in Cuban cooking and cuisine). There was more than enough for two people to comfortably share.
As I love croquetas and also since they’re a major PIA to make, I ordered one of these (it consisted of a ham and cheese filling). This was okay-certainly nothing like those I had at the Cuban restaurant Rosa Blanca in Philadelphia or especially the ones my Spanish host mom used to make. I had contemplated getting an order of six but am glad I stuck with just the lone one.
D selected the Cuban sandwich which is made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread. Puerto Sagua offers two sizes of the Cuban sandwich-regular and large. He opted for the latter (I of course had trouble finishing my regular sized portion).
I opted for the medianoche sandwich for my main course. The medianoche is extremely similar to the more well known Cuban sandwich except that the bread it’s on is significantly sweeter, a soft, sweet egg dough bread similar to Challah rather than crustier Cuban bread. Medianoche means “midnight” in Spanish and the sandwich got its name as it was served right around midnight to workers who were just finishing and also club goers in need of some nourishment. Paired with the mariquitas, it was a delicious meal and one I never get to have in Pittsburgh.
This was our first of many terrific meals in Miami and all I have to say is that our dining adventure in the Magic City got off to a great start by eating at Puerto Sagua.
700 Collins Avenue | Miami Beach, Florida | 33139