Fans of Cuban culture in Miami look forward to Fridays for a variety of reasons. What thrills me is that the Friday special at most Cuban restaurants is lechón, a mojo marinated, slow-cooked roast pork dish that’s served with sweet plantains, black beans, and white rice. Tender, savory and delicious, lechón induces a near coma-like afterglow that helps usher in the weekend unlike almost anything else consumed on a Friday. Fight back the aftereffects with a strong Cuban coffee or give in to the buzz with a mint, rum, and sugar-fuelled mojito.
On Calle Ocho in Little Havana, the last Friday of every month is Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), a celebration of the art, history, and food of the island. It’s a chance to mingle with the ex-pats who call Miami home. The multicultural monthly event brings together a diverse array of residents, locals, and tourists who visit 13 art galleries, the historic Tower Theater, and discover a broad range of participating restaurants. Spanning Southwest Eighth Street from 14th to 17th Avenues (a short drive from the Mandarin Oriental, the Epic, and the Four Seasons hotels), the festival takes place from 6:30 to 11 p.m.
South Beach celebrates salsa on Friday nights. The friendly instructors from SalsaMia.com conduct two-hour dance classes in traditional Cuban rueda at 8:30 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Yuca Restaurant at 501 Lincoln Road. Beginners and advanced dancers can stop by with or without a partner to brush up on their fancy footwork and then stay for an evening dance party with music by Tony Succar & Grupo Mixtura. If a few mojitos don’t bring out your inner Ricky Ricardo, you can always stop by Mango’s Tropical Cafe (900 Ocean Drive) to watch the professionals shake their bon-bons. Hotels near Yuca on Lincoln Road include the Albion, the Cadet and the National.
The Miami Design District kicks off ”Havana San Juan Fridays” with a monthly mambo bash that includes live performances and free dance classes from 9 to 10 p.m. The party is a tribute to Joe Cuba and features a dance performance by Mambo Yoli and Harry Anton. Musical guests David “El Maestro” Solero and Freddy Lugo and his Rumberos turn the Grass Lounge into a 1960s New York dance hall for one night only. Havana San Juan parties take place on the first Friday of every month at 28 NE 40 Street. Hotels near the Design District include the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay and the Doubletree Grand Hotel.