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We have got our own Latin Quarter in Little Havana

If you don't want to wait til March for Calle Ocho and a shot of Cuban culture with your cafecito, here are some essential stops in and around Little Havana:

Casa Unidos de Elian: It's the house where Elian Gonzalez stayed when the then- 5-year-old Cuban boy was at the center of an international custody battle. The standoff ended when U.S. agents raided the home and seized him in 2000 and sent him back to Cuba with his father. The home has been renovated by his uncle, turned into a combination shrine and museum.

Elian's clothes still hang in the closet, and the holes where agents kicked in the door haven't been repaired. The inner tube he came to Miami in hangs on the wall. The house (2319 NW Second St.) is open whenever someone is home, so it's hit-or-miss since there's no public phone number. Admission is free; donations are accepted.

Domino Park: At Domino Park (Southwest Eighth Street and 15th Avenue), signs warn players not to drink, smoke or bet. The domino tables have drink-holders anyway, to make them look like the domino parks in Cuba, but they're empty. Dozens of old men wearing sunglasses and caps speak Spanish as they play under tents, accompanied by the sounds of clattering domino pieces. Watch and enjoy -- but don't interrupt a game to ask questions.

El Titan de Bronze Cigars: Named after a Cuban general, this family-owned cigar company (1071 SW Eighth St., 305-860-1412) has been in business since 1995. Almost any type of cigar is for sale, ranging from about $4.65 to $13 for the longest. Employees roll cigars using hand cream to soften the wrapper, and some even smoke as they roll.

El Palacio de los Jugos: One employee said El Palacio De Los Jugos (The Juice Palace) is what a Cuban market was like during the island's golden days. Always chaotic, the market (5721 W. Flagler St., 305-264-4557) sells almost any type of Cuban food, drink or produce imaginable. Juices, the main attraction, are $2 per cup and $7 for half a gallon. The mamey juice is the most popular, a thick juice that tastes a little like papaya or guava. But papaya and guava juices are also available, as well as pineapple, carrot, beet, and other combinations.

La Moon: This Venezuelan restaurant is popular with the post-clubbing crowd: Thursday through Saturday, it's open from 8 a.m. to 6 a.m. and until at least midnight every day except Sunday. Have an arepa con queso or a Supermoon Perro, a hot dog with cheese, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, potato chip slivers, sausage, bacon and a quail egg.

It can take 15 minutes during slow times just to get takeout, so beware the long wait during busy times at the restaurant (144 SW Eighth St., 305-860-6209).

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Source: The Miami Herald

We have got our own Latin Quarter in Little Havana