When I ask my friend Zach, a Miami local, where I should go for Cuban food, he has only one response:
Puerto Sagua. A Miami staple since 1962, Puerto Sagua is the spot for down-home Cuban classics. The
restaurant’s clientele is about a 50-50 mix of locals and tourists. “If you’re in Miami, do Miami!” hostess
Nikki Marcelo says to me with a smile when I arrive with Jenna, my best friend of 26 years.
We have a long night ahead of us, so we start with a definitive beverage: café con leche. As is custom,
we pour the hot coffee from a tiny silver pitcher into the white ceramic mug of warm milk, clinking gently
with a silver spoon when we stir. The milk is frothy, the coffee strong.
Before our food comes, we’re given little white paper bags filled with silver utensils. We start the meal with
yuca fries, which come in a neat little stack and a delectable lemon-garlic dipping sauce. The yuca
crunches on its own, a soft, buttery tang added by the sauce.
Our waiter recommends the classics: they’re known for Ropa Vieja, he says, which comes with rice and
plantains. We also sample their Cuban sandwich. The Ropa Vieja is tender and juicy, the plantains sweet,
the sandwich toasty, melty. We wish we had more room. But Jenna isn’t done yet. “I just wanted the
pickle!” she moans, popping a green circle into her mouth with a crunch and a smile.
And actually, we do have room. Because how can you leave an iconic Cuban restaurant without trying
their flan? It arrives in all of its ooey, gooey, caramel-y goodness, and while we say “Just one spoonful!”
we know we’re lying to each other. It’s too good to resist, jiggling first on the plate then floating on our
Located in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood, Baby Jane is named for the 1962 Bette Davis-Joan Crawford
film “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” A red neon sign illuminates the bar with the words “I’m not your
baby,” from Scarface. It’s a beloved after-hours cocktail venue for locals and restaurant industry folks
alike because it’s open mega late on the weekends (5 a.m. on Fridays on Saturdays), its kitchen open
until 3 a.m.
Manager Paul Halstead hooks us up with some serious snacks and sips from their Asian-inspired menu.
First, a “Red Velvet” (Mi Campos tequila, yuzu, lime, peach de vigne, agave, topped with Malbec) which,
as a Jewish person, I imagine tastes like Christmas. Next, a “Fresco to Death” (Jalapeno-infused Hendricks gin, mint syrup, lemon, and cucumber juice), as refreshing as it is spicy. Add to that some tuna
poke tacos, bao buns, and dumplings and we’re living our best Baby Jane life.
There’s always live music inside Lagniappe, but instead we grab a bottle of wine, then find a table outside
amongst the mix-and-match furniture and string lights. “This is a great alternative to drinking alone in your
apartment!” Jenna laughs. “You can pick whatever wine YOU want. Pinkies up!” We clink glasses and
purchase a taleggio wedge from their charcuterie fridge–the kitchen will make you a cheese board for
only a few dollars more. Arrive on the earlier side, too: the place fills up after 9.
Not far from Laginappe is Gramps, a bar for dancing and pinball and cheap drinks. Known for its eclectic
vibe, the famously hip(ster?) Wynwood bar draws both guys in button-down shirts and girls in Doc
Martens who will never, ever date them. Our buddy Paul from Baby Jane also recommends pizza from
the truck embedded inside the venue.
There are two outdoor seating areas at Gramps, one by the dance floor and one away from the dance
floor. At the latter, a woman inside a giant orange will serve you “Many Drinks, Various Prices” and the DJ
plays chiller 2000s indie tunes I definitely had on mix CDs in high school. We pose for the ‘gram on
wooden benches that look like watermelon and orange slices.
We sit by a giant neon flamingo under a spinning disco ball. ”When is South Florida not leaning into its
own kitsch factor?” I wonder. Jenna buys us shots, because of course she does, while OutKast, The
Fugees, and Mariah Carey play on the dance floor. She runs into someone she knows from college but
cannot for the life of her remember his name.
In the back, there’s an entire Christmas-themed mini bar with drinks served inside T-rexes wearing Santa
hats that are so great you and your best friend may or may not try to steal one and/or succeed. It’s a cool
concept, but beware the basics: “Literally have seen so many basic bitches post from the Christmas
miracle drink pop-up,” Jenna texts me a few weeks later. “But we ain’t basic…we trend setters, sexy boss
bitches that like fancy cups.” I couldn’t agree more.