1548 SW 8th St.
Miami, FL 33135
Miami, Florida has a very significant Hispanic population and, as you can imagine, the long history of migration from Cuba has left a lasting impression. Little Havana, on Eighth Avenue (“Calle Ocho,” as it’s more commonly termed locally) is an expansive nod to the local culture. Little parks where folks play dominos. Shops of hand-crafted goods. This neighborhood is a beloved gem in the city.
Inevitably, when a gem has a reputation like that, it will sometimes see its struggles from both the onslaught of visitors and the tourist traps looking to grab some of that hype. El Pub Restaurant, I fear, suffers from a little of both.
The food here isn’t bad! Of course, the challenge is getting it. Some of the things that I like.
- Beef empanada: Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, with minced beef and veggies. When it’s served fresh, it’s a flaky, wonderful experience. Nice for two or three people.
- Chicken empanada: Similar to the beef option, this one is fried so its outside is flaky, and inside the chicken and the spices are packed with flavor. Great!
- Croquettes: Often, this dish is formed into a ball, but these have the flavor nonetheless. These croquettes are packed with diced ham and some other fillings to give them a heavier flavor. Notably heavier than your average appetizer, so again this one might be worth sharing with a group just to sample it.
Where the place struggles is in its service. Drop in on an off-hour, or during the week, and you may find it a bit frustrating. Service drops by briefly and doesn’t return. I saw people waiting for 10 or 20 minutes to even get a menu. The waiter didn’t think to drop off water until meals were finished.
The problem at the end of the day was that there were just too few people working, but a lack of organization compounds that. And you’re left feeling dissatisfied with the whole experience. Yes, the food is good. But if you’re frustrated with everything else, then you’ll feel deeply dissatisfied.
This block is packed with genuine Cuban food experiences. It might be good to pass on this one.
- Food here is best when shared — to be sure, everything is good, but you’ll want to try as many different things as you can, so walk into the experience with that expectation.
- Speaking Spanish will help you at this place significantly. Otherwise you’ll feel a little frustrated. For a place that touts itself for a tourist experience, its staff are remarkably poor at doing so.
- Avoid off hours, when the restaurant is under-manned.