5 Places to Eat for Cheap in Miami

February 13, 2014

I am always hungry. And if that weren’t a problem, I am always hungry for something new. If you like to order ‘the usual’, I am your biggest nightmare when it comes to picking a restaurant.

Miami is known as the big Latin melting pot. All the Hispanic countries are represented here and let’s not forget the Oriental influences as well. So it should come as no surprise that the city is filled with limitless choices of restaurants, food trucks and dives of all known cuisines.

While going to the trendy restaurant that opened the previous weekend was a luxury I rarely indulged in, I pinpointed the little places that had authentic flavors and prices that didn’t hurt my student wallet.

These are some of my favorite restaurants in Miami that locals raved about.

Versailles Café

3555 SW 8th Street
Miami FL, 33145

Versailles Café was the very first place I visited when I moved to Miami. After arriving from the airport from a 5 am flight my uncle said “Welcome! Do you want to go unpack?”

“Coffee”, I grumbled. “I need coffee.”

The restaurant has been opened for more than 50 years, a true landmark of Little Havana located right on Calle Ocho. Even though they serve some of the best Cuban dishes, I always opted for the café right next door. A cafecito sweetened with brown sugar was always too much of a temptation for me to resist.

But truly, the coffee is just a lovely side to the true guilty pleasure. The guava and cream cheese pastries. 

From: TechFoodLife.com

In my country, Puerto Rico, we call them pastelillitos de guayaba, and wondering if Cuba did it better, I ordered them, almost in a challenging manner. I won’t (nay, will never) say it is better, but the flaky light pastry crumbling easy to find the middle of fruity guava layered over the creaminess of the cheese… I definitely felt like I was home.


321 Johnson Street
Hollywood FL, 33019

It means Mother Earth and it is the name of the goddess in Incan mythology who oversees harvesting and life on earth. Now, it is also a restaurant in Hollywood Beach that serves the greatest Peruvian food I’ve ever tried.

It’s the kind of place you discover while taking a stroll down the Hollywood Boardwalk near Fort Lauderdale. The place is small but cosy and decorated with wooden artefacts of Incan and Peruvian culture.

The menu has many selections of grilled meats with onions like the popular Lomo Salteado con Cebollas – Sautéed Beef slices with Onions, but for the longest time, I had wanted to try one of Peru’s delicacies, Ají de Gallina – Shredded Chicken in Yellow Sauce. 

From: PerennialPastTimes.com

The yellow sauce is made of yellow pepper paste and milk. To the creamy sauce, they add walnuts, shredded chicken, slices of boiled egg and thick slices of potato. Served over white rice, it is comfort food at its best.

Sawaddee Thai & Sushi
6968 Bay Drive
Miami Beach FL, 33141

You will check your GPS twice when you arrive, wondering, hoping you typed the wrong address. But I promise, it’s worth it.

Sawaddee is literally a whole in the wall on the corner of Bay Drive and 71st Street, just a couple of blocks from Miami Beach. No more than ten people can sit in to have a meal. Sometimes it’s packed and other times it’s completely empty. Most of its clientele comes in for a few minutes, grab their take out and head out the door. 

I am new to the Thai cuisine, but I am a sucker for curries. The dish that kept me going back was their beef green curry. The sauce was creamy and a bit sweet from the coconut milk and they add whole basil leaves that perfume the dish. The dish is very filling with big pieces of eggplant, green bell pepper and zucchini. It is served with steamed white rice that absorbs the curry sauce perfectly, taking you to what can only be known as a curry comma. It’s much more pleasant than it sounds.

 9545 NW 41 Street
 Miami FL, 33178

Tucked away in a mini mall in Doral, it is easy to miss this fantastic Colombian restaurant. Since 1974, they have been serving authentic Colombian dishes from various regions of the country. All the dishes are plentiful and packed with flavor. But you will probably not be able to resist when everybody suggests you should try their empanadas and by all means, do not resist. 


If you are new to Colombian cuisine, this is the perfect crunchy introduction. Served as appetizers, these empanadas are made of yellow cornmeal dough and filled with potatoes, pork or beef and tons of fresh vegetables like red bell pepper, white onions, tomatoes and garlic. The tiny pockets are deep fried until golden and crispy and taken immediately to your table. They come with lime wedges to squeeze over the empanadas, to brighten up the flavor, and with two homemade piques (hot sauce). The red one, made mostly of tomatoes, garlic and peppers, is for the cautious ones. The green one, made with tons of cilantro, green chiles and onions, is for the brave ones.

49 SW 11th Street
Miami FL, 33130

The place in trendy Brickell is small yet modern, with orange lamps and steel chairs. And the fusion of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine is just as modern and delicious.


While the Peruvian dishes are gorgeously prepared, I have only tried the sushi menu so far. And I can’t complain. While they serve more well-known rolls like the California Roll and Spicy Tuna, they specialize in custom creations. 

Tropical Roll at the back, Jalapeno Roll on the right corner

The Tropical Roll, one of the fancy ones, is made of crispy shrimp with cucumber and avocado, topped with thin slices of mango and finished with eel sauce and flakes of coconut. Yet my favorite for its simplicity is the Jalapeno Roll. Starting with the traditional flavors of white fish and avocado, they tweak it to the Latin side with fresh cilantro and topped with a thin slice of raw jalapeno and a dollop of torched spicy mayo. It is a fiery explosion for your taste buds.

Do you know of any other great places to eat in Miami?

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