Having grown up in a Cuban household in Miami, Cuban food is a huge part of my life. From having never-ending plates of home-cooked "arroz con pollo," to going to a Cuban restaurant with my abuelos every weekend, I've had my fair share of Cuban food in this city, and know where the real deal can be found. In this Hispanic-laden city, where there is a Cuban restaurant or bakery on literally every corner, it's pretty hard to narrow it down to "the best" since they're all pretty darn good. But here's where you can find the best Cuban food in Miami that's student budget-friendly.

1. El Exquisito

This hidden gem is located in the heart of Little Havana, across from Ball & Chain and Azucar Ice Cream. In a street filled with tourist trap restaurants, this is the place to stop and grab a warm meal with a home-cooked feel. The restaurant is small and filled with multiple paintings hanging on the walls, truly representing the Cuban culture. Their bistec empanizado is off the chain; it's just breaded palomilla steak with marinara sauce, pork, and beautifully melted cheese on top. But don't sleep on their tostones rellenos, which are plantains stuffed with your choice of picadillo or camarones...mmm!

2. Versailles

When something big happens in Cuba, we all know where to go to celebrate—Versailles. This Calle Ocho restaurant and bakery is best known for being the spot where Cuban exiles gather to reminisce about their times in Cuba, and to discuss current politics while sipping on their cortaditos ordered through their famous ventania.

For me, this place has become the usual spot to go to after a late night outing to grab a delicious sandwich. Take a bite out of their Medianoche, a sandwich with egg bread, ham, pork, cheese, mustard, and pickles, topped with papitas, and thank me later!

3. Islas Canarias Cafe

I bet you think you've had the best croquetas ever...but you're wrong. Those sad little party platter croquetas you had at your cousin's 10th birthday party have nothing on Islas' croquetas. Their original restaurant is located on Coral Way, but they also have a recently renovated cafe with a young chic look to it, with walls filled with vintage plates, utensils, and lots of coffee tins. Simply walk up to their ventania and ask for as many of their beautifully hand-rolled and flavorful croquetas as you'd like, and your life will be officially made. 

4. Palacio De Los Jugos

If you're looking for a place to grab fresh Cuban food to take home, this place is definitely it. It has an outdoor cafeteria- looking setting, where people line up and receive excessive amounts of food to take home. My personal favorite is their lechon with congri y yuca herbida, which is pork, black beans with rice, and boiled yuca. You can also enjoy some fresh pressed juice at one of their counters, ranging from different fruits such as mango and watermelon, as well as sugar cane juice, otherwise known as guarapo

5. Havana Harry's

Big portions? Count me in! Havana Harry's is known for their huge but affordable plates and their desserts. This restaurant has more of an elegant feel to it compared to the other casual places listed. Their menu is filled with tons of different plates to order, it's so hard to pick just one every time I go.

My usual order is the vaca frita (fried beef) marinated in lime garlic, served with a heavy portion of fried rice, which comes with a fried egg on top. Even if you can't finish off the entire plate, you still have to try their dessert. Order the tres leche (cake soaked in evaporated milk and condensed milk) topped with dulce de leche, placed on top of a vanilla shake...too good!

6. La Palma

Rather than going for a basic chicken noodle soup on a cold day, why not make the line for La Palma's churros y chocolate caliente? La Palma is known for being open 24 hours a day, every single day, and for their famous outdoor counter facing 8th street. On cold days (well...at least what us Miamians consider "cold" weather), it seems like most of the city lines up for their famous churros and hot chocolate. Oh, and this isn't just any hot chocolate; it's thick and creamy, and perfect for dipping that sugary, fried dough stick.

7. La Carreta

La Carreta is known for it's 8th street location, with one of the famous "Rooster Walk" sculptures right outside their door. Back story: these roosters were placed along Calle Ocho back in 2002 by various artists in the neighborhood, and this specific rooster sports the Cuban flag. The employees here fit the Cuban theme with their white guayaberas and red neck ties—the total Cuban package!

They serve all the basic Cuban dishes you can think of, my go-to being the chuletas de cerdo con arroz y frijoles (pork chops with rice and beans). You can't ever go wrong with that plate. Their breakfast is also something you don't want to miss out on, because who wouldn't want to start their day with some croquetas, toast, scrambled eggs, and cafe con leche?  

8. Casa Cuba

This Cuban restaurant located on Sunset is the perfect location for your Sunday brunch. It has a light Spanish feel to it, with an interesting arch as you walk in, and a bar filled with multicolored tiles. Their menu has the usual dinner entrees, and a chef's special with many different options such as duck and octopus, if your're up to trying new things.

They also offer tons of seafood options; their Paella de Mariscos is totally worth the extra couple minutes wait. Their Frituras De Abuela De Bacalo (fried codfish fritters) are incredible, served hot with a side of their parsley sour cream and cilantro sauce. 

9. Vicky Bakery

Let's talk pastelitos! If you're looking for some of the best pastelitos and cafecitos in Miami, you have to stop by Vickys. Fun fact: there's one located right on FIU's MMC campus! At the FIU location, not only do they have every Cuban pastry and sandwich option out there, but they also have a wide selection of local beers. It's a super cool spot to stop by in between classes to meet other Panthers while enjoying some pastries.

No worries, the pastelitos here are definitely not those disappointing half-filled dry ones you'd buy at a grocery store; these are fully filled with any filling you pick. My personal favorites? Guava and coconut. 

10. Sergio's 

This restaurant's Cuban food comes with a modern flair. It's a casual dining spot where you can go with family or friends to have a full meal, or even just to hang out and grab a couple of tapas with a glass of wine. They even have a menu called "La Flaca," which has usual Cuban dishes, but with fewer calories.

One of their interesting tapas includes pizza and croquetas. A pizza topped with ham croquetas and mozzarella cheese? That sounds like the pizza of my dreams! They also have their own take on nachos, otherwise known as the "Cuba-Nacho"—fried plantains, black bean hummus, and you can't forget the guac. Cuban dishes in a bowl, rice and beans, and vaca frita - oh my! By the way, they just opened up a Sergios right on FIU's campus. You're welcome, fellow Panthers.

These are just a handful of the incredible places to grab Cuban food in Miami. Whether you're craving sweet or salty, this list is sure to satisfy all your Cuban cuisine desires. Grab your friends or family, and explore all our Cuban food in Miami.