Café Versailles

Spend any amount of time in South Miami and you will quickly notice that it is very rich in its diversity of cultures. South Beach in particular, is a flavourful mix of cultures that come together in this exotic paradise. As you walk on the beach or go for a stroll, you will hear many of the different languages of the world. This mix of cultures makes this place all the more interesting as it draws in people from all over the world.

One such culture that that adds to the spicy dish that is Miami, and cannot be ignored is that of Cuban Americans. One can’t help but notice the influence Cuban’s have on South Florida and in particular, Miami. In fact, one has to understand the role Cuban’s have played in making up this diverse community called Miami in order to really get a sense for this place. Alongside the blonde, and blue eyed Floridians with permanent beach tans, Cubans are at the heart of Miami.

And there is no better place to get a pulse on the Cuban community, than the Versailles Cuban Restaurant. Soon after it opened its doors in 1971, Versailles quickly became the gathering place for Miami’s Cuban exiles.

Go their for the best Cuban food in town, the best “cortaditto” (espresso with milk), and deserts you just can’t resist. My favourite is the dark caramel flan, which I have on a few occasions driven over the bridge from South Beach into town for.

Upon my first visit to Versailles,I walked into the traditional open window café where you come as close to Cuba while in the U.S.A. I was greeted by a local that immediately welcomed me to this cultural meeting place. “Benvenido” he said, welcoming me to this place, as though he was the owner of the establishment. I later realized that he was just a patron, but that this was no ordinary place. This place was special and was home to the community of Cuban American’s.

I don’t want to sound overly pariotic, I am a Canadian after all, but this place embodies “the American dream’. And although the Cuban men in double pocketed white shirts spend hours in front of the old open café window, talking politics, one can’t help but appreciate the freedom that has made America what it is today.

Every time I am down here, their is a story, still to this day, of the ordeal and danger that Cubans take on as they appear on the local news with images of dozens of Cuban escapees huddled together in makeshift rafts. We see the ones that thankfully make it to the American shore, but Versailles Café pays honour to the men and women that never had the chance to realize their same freedom.

The Versailles restaurant and café is located in Little Havana and worth the visit. On most afternoons, a charming older gentleman dances to the sounds of Cuba with his lovely mannequin partner, that never misses a step.

I recommend the Versailles Classico, and you cannot leave without having a café Bustello cortaditto with a dark mouth watering caramel flan.


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