Little Black Book

The Insider's Guide to Miami's Little Havana Neighborhood

by Rami Zeidan
Life Photo courtesy of Life House.

If you haven’t explored Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, then you’re missing out. We tapped Rami Zeidan, founder of the new hotel chainlet Life House, to give us a rundown on what's what.

MIAMI – I've been spending time in Miami since 2011 when I worked for Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Sydell Group, and TPG Capital covering the local hotel market. In the last eight years, I've seen the city evolve into a bustling metropolis that extends well beyond South Beach. Miami’s continuing growth and diversity inspired me to start Life House, a collection of locally rooted lifestyle hotels with a tech-first approach. Our first outpost opened in Little Havana last December, and our second hotel opened this summer in South Beach’s South of Fifth neighborhood. With plenty of work to tend to and the best mix of good weather, outdoor activities, creativity, and cost of living, Miami has quickly become my second home. Here are the spots in and around the Little Havana neighborhood that I find myself visiting over and over again.

Parcela at Life House Little Havana
528 SW 9th Ave.; +1-866-466-7534
Forgive me for starting with one of my spots. But thanks to vintage furniture and Afro-Cuban accents, our lobby cafe feels like a little oasis circa 1950s Cuba. Designed for guests and locals to eat, work, and hang out, we serve an all-day, vegetable-forward menu inspired by Havana's urban agriculture movement and the rich flavors of Little Havana's Latin cuisine.

Viernes Culturales
Calle 8; +1-305-643-5500
On the third Friday of every month, the neighborhood’s famed Calle 8 comes to life with music, dancing, domino games, local arts and crafts, and cigar rollers. It’s basically a party on the famous street to celebrate Little Havana’s rich Cuban roots and culture.

Cafe La Trova
971 SW 8th St.;+1-786-615-4379
Just a few blocks from our hotel, this authentically Cuban restaurant and cafe from Julio Cabrera has a fun and energetic atmosphere, not to mention delicious cocktails and great music. Every once in a while, the bartenders will grab instruments from behind the bar and play along with the band.

Tower Theater
1508 SW 8th St.;+1-305-237-2463
One of Miami’s oldest cultural landmarks now plays host to English and Spanish indie films, cultural programming, and the Miami Film Festival.

Calle 8 on the right Friday. Photo courtesy of Viernes Culturales.
Photo courtesy of Cafe La Trova.

El Exquisito
1510 SW 8th St.;+1-305-643-0227
Not to be confused with the nearby chocolatiers who go by the same name, this El Exquisito is a no-frills joint that serves the best cafecito in Little Havana (an express shot with a bit of whole cane sugar).

Ball & Chain
1513 SW 8th St.; +1-305-643-7820
Everything about this place transports you straight to Cuba. The iconic 1940s jazz club has been restored and reimagined into the live-music hotspot it is today. Go for an authentic experience and stay for the mojitos, live music, and dancing.

Photo courtesy of Ghee Indian Kitchen.
Photo courtesy of Sacred Space.

Ghee Indian Kitchen
3620 NE 2nd Ave.; +1-786-636-6122
Over the years, I've developed a real love and enthusiasm for authentic Indian cuisine. At this relaxed restaurant, chef Niven Patel serves a brilliant menu that combines authentic Gujarat-inspired cuisine with locally sourced ingredients, putting a delicious, modern spin on some of my favorite dishes.

Sacred Space
105 NE 24th St.; +1-786-621-5006
A beautiful space and community for body, mind, and soul wellness; I highly recommend attending a class. My favorite is Bianca’s Sunday Sacred Soul Kundalini Yoga class — the perfect combination of physical stimulation and mindfulness, culminating in therapeutic sound healing. Since wellness is an important part of the ethos of Life House, I’ve also tapped Bianca to work with us on health and wellness programming for our Miami hotels.

Futurama 1637
1637 Calle Ocho; +1-305-407-1677
The gallery in the heart of Little Havana showcases Cuban visual artists in a space that is also home to twelve studios. They often host openings and different happenings where passersby can interact with local artists and learn about their work.

Lagniappe House
3425 NE 2nd Ave.; +1-305-576-0108
A unique setting for live music and wine, this jazz house and wine garden feels like the setting of a friend’s backyard party. You seat yourself, food and drinks are DIY (you create everything from your own wine cooler), and enjoy great music that often spans jazz, nu-disco, and funk.

Photo courtesy of Life House.
Photo courtesy of Life House.
Photo courtesy of Life House.

Where to Stay

Life House Little Havana
528 SW 9th Ave.; +1-866-466-7534
Call me biased, but I created the Life House concept to feel like the ultimate home away from home for our guests. We combined small comforts, like luxury linens and amenities, with public spaces designed to be inviting places you’d want to hang out, work, eat, drink, and network with friends and fellow travelers.

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