Calle Ocho has been partially renamed Celia Cruz Street, and with good reason. This was not my first visit, but it was for Chuck. We actually came here twice during our stay: the first time, we could not find anything that I remembered, so Chuck consoled me by saying they had probably shut the place down! (Imagine Calle Ocho disappearing???). I also didn't remember the fact that it ran one way from about SW 25th down, and then it becomes two way as you go further up. But by then, you've lost Little Havana.
I had visions of crusty Cubanos with jamon for four days before we were able to find the right coordinates. We had a late flight back to California on our last day, and decided to spend late morning in this area. You can't imagine my relief when I started to see "El Pub" restaurant again, the panaderias, the bodegas with their groceries and sundry wares, and the $1 and menos stores which I comb avidly, since there is no such thing in Marin County.
Every year, when we came to visit our family in Fort Lauderdale, we would make the 45-minute drive to Miami just so that I could get my latest Latin music fix at Lily's. Have you ever been to that place?? It's the most amazing music store I've ever been to; additionally they now sell instruments.
What was really gratifying was to see that the men's domino club had become a historical site, and that it now had a respectable enclosure around it, and an official name: Maximo Gomez Park. We went inside, very quietly, so as not to disturb the players. No one really speaks, but you can hear the slapping down of the tiles on the grids. Amongst the players was a woman, and that was a first time thing for me. I noticed that they had also added chess to the games being played.
I was hunting for art (for a change), and came upon the Santos Fine Art Gallery. Mr. Santos was seated near the window, painting. When we went in to admire his work, he was chatting on his cell phone. There were original oils, and limited edition prints, as well as photographs. He ships! Go to Santos and browse.
Hunger pangs led us to El Cristo Restaurant, formerly called El Pescador. I already knew what I wanted, and I was determined to have Chuck try it. The restaurant is quite large, very clean, and our server was an angel. We both had the Cubano special, and the photo below says it all. We saved some of it for the flight home.
There is a mini sidewalk star collection where you'll find the names of Gloria Estefan, Julio Iglesias and other celebrities. It's directly in front of McDonald's (they really ought to take that down!). Oh yes, for the cigar aficionados, you'll have a field day here.