Explore Miami’s History Through A Multicultural Food Scene

Plus 10 restaurants that locals love

The Vacationeer
A sunny beach in Miami, Florida

Miami, Florida, is a city of multitudes. “The Magic City” exemplifies the American multicultural melting pot, bringing together diverse communities at one of the hottest tourist spots in the United States. Miami is jam-packed with history and culture to explore, from the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens to Freedom Tower.

While museums and cultural centers are a great way to learn about local history, consider taking a tour of Miami’s food for an authentic taste of the city. After all, Bon Appétit named Miami the culinary destination of the year. Here are five neighborhoods, each with a distinct cultural history, for you to explore for a taste of Miami.

A bowl of joumou, a type of Haitian stew 

1. Little Haiti

Little Haiti is a Miami neighborhood infused with Afro-Caribbean culture, from the bronze statue of General Toussaint L’Ouverture — the father of the Haitian Revolution — to the Caribbean Marketplace near the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. However, one of the best ways to experience Little Haiti is through its restaurants.

Where to eat: Naomi’s Garden Restaurant & Lounge started as a vegetarian food truck in the 1970s and has since become a community staple of Haitian-Caribbean food. Relax on an outdoor patio and enjoy hefty portions with vegan options.

Or try Chef Creole for another Haitian hidden gem that’s been around for decades. Dig into savory seafood and oxtail soup for unforgettable flavors.

Outdoor restaurant seating along Ocean Avenue in Miami, Florida 

2. Little River

Little River, named for the eponymous river to the north, was established in the 19th century as an agricultural community. Since then, it’s grown into a vibrant neighborhood and was revived in 2014 as an art district.

Little River is also home to the Cathedral of Saint Mary, established in 1929, which offers services in English, Spanish and Kreyòl, reflecting the area’s diverse membership.

Where to eat: You may recognize Jimmy’s Eastside Diner from the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight.” Located east of Little Haiti, the friendly neighborhood eatery offers all-day breakfast in a classic, cozy diner. Jimmy’s has served comfort food since the 1960s.

Find the B&M Market & Rhoti Shop by its splashy, red-and-yellow-painted exterior and block-lettered menu. Sample tasty Guyanese and West Indian food, such as jerk chicken, curry and rhoti — a soft and flaky flatbread used to sop up spicy sauces.

A hand holding up a Cuban sandwich to the clear skies of Miami, Florida 

3. Little Havana

Get a taste of Cuba in Little Havana, Miami’s Cuban-American quarter. Stroll along the colorful Calle Ocho, spot Little Havana’s Walk of Fame, watch seniors play dominos at the park and see why Miami is home to so many Cuban immigrants at the Bay of Pigs Museum.

Where to eat: Versailles claims to be the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant since 1971. No, you didn’t misread that. While the Palace of Versailles is home to French history, Miami’s Versailles is a gathering place for local Cuban expats. Try Cuban classics like tres leches cake, croquettes and Cubano sandwiches.

For a sweet treat, visit Azucar Ice Cream Company for artisanal ice cream and sorbet inspired by Miami’s diverse culinary scene. Savor sorbet with tropical flavors like passionfruit and mango or creative flavors like Cuban coffee, sweet plantain, coconut flan and chocolate with cayenne pepper.

Exterior of McAlpin Ocean Plaza, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club in the Art Deco District of Miami, Florida 

4. Miami Beach

Stroll along the boardwalk of Miami Beach, located on barrier islands between the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. While the beach is the area’s main draw, it’s also home to the Art Deco Historic District, the world’s largest collection of early 19th-century art deco architecture.

Stay at McAlpin Ocean Plaza, a Hilton Grand Vacations Club or Crescent on South Beach, a Hilton Vacation Club steps away from Miami’s vibrant Ocean Drive.

Where to eat: After soaking in the sun at Nikki Beach, head a few blocks away to Joe’s Stone Crab. Joe Weiss emigrated from Hungary to Miami Beach and opened the restaurant in 1913. At first, Joe specialized in fish sandwiches, but he pivoted and became one of the first restaurants to serve stone crabs. Since then, Joe’s has hosted famous guests like Amelia Earhart, Will Rogers, J. Edgar Hoover and Al Capone. Insider tip: Grab a slice of key lime pie.

Or take a pizza-making class at Pummarola for a foodie thing to do in Miami Beach and learn how to make Neapolitan pies from scratch. If you prefer to vacation without cooking, enjoy wood-fired pizzas and calzones inspired by the owner’s grandmother and her restaurant near Naples.

A plate of soul food like fried chicken and collard greens 

5. Overtown

Historic Overtown is a Black heritage neighborhood near downtown with a history almost as old as Miami itself, from the Harlem Renaissance to the modern-day renewal of Black history and culture.

Catch a Lyric Theater show where stars like Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin performed on Little Broadway. The Lyric Theater is also the home of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation, which collects and preserves artifacts of Black history, including works from Purvis Young, an Overtown artist known for his murals around the city.

Where to eat: Jackson Soul Food captures the spirit of Overtown onto a plate. Jackson’s opened in 1946 and has since served Southern classics like fried catfish and meatloaf. Of course, no soul-nourishing meal would be complete without sides like macaroni and cheese, collard greens, fried okra and candied yams. Or feel like a member of the family at Lil Greenhouse Grill. Whether you people-watch from an outdoor table or spend a romantic evening with your loved one, enjoy good eats like chicken and waffles, barbecue ribs and the seasonal cake flavor.

Read “7 Miami Vacation-Worthy Festivals And Experiences” for inspiration for your next romantic getaway or family vacation in South Florida.

HGV Newsletter Sign Up

The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

Popular Articles