The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine: Cortaditos, Stone Crabs and Empanadas

The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine

The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine: Cortaditos, Stone Crabs and Empanadas. The culinary history of Miami is a reflection of its culture–spicy, vibrant and diverse. And though delectable seafood has always been a staple in South Florida, influences from Latin and Caribbean nations brought zest to the city’s world-renowned cuisine. Even the orange, the state’s most popular fruit, migrated from another country. Join local food author Mandy Baca as she recounts the delicious history of Miami’s delicacies from the Tequesta Indians to the present-day local food revolution.

Winner of International Academy of Gastronomy’s 2014 Prix de la Litterature Gastronomique.


Lemon City and Allapattah: The Forgotten Cities


Coconut Grove was not the only settlement in the early days of Miami. Lemon City, now more commonly known as Little Haiti, was considered Miami’s first agricultural hub, as the small farming community of the 1890s set up vast luscious farms consisting of lemon groves, lime trees, guava trees and sugar-apple trees. Geoffrey Tomb notes, “Lemon City was the largest community on the Southeast Florida mainland in 1895, and now, 101 years later, there’s no trace. It’s been obliterated. A year before Miami’s incorporation, the 1895 population of Lemon City was 300.” Buena Vista, located just outside of Lemon City, was also active in the growing of tomatoes. After the arrival of white settlers, black Bahamians were pushed out of Coconut Grove and moved into the areas of Lemon City, Cutler and Perrine.

Allapattah (the Seminole word for “alligator”), now mainly a warehouse and industrial neighborhood in Miami, was also once an importance agricultural hub with many dairies and traditional farms. The land boom of the 1920s did not change the neighborhood as dramatically as the rest of the city, and it continued to thrive quietly until the 1960s, when a major hurricane destroyed most of the area and forced many to move elsewhere. During this time, a true melting pot emerged, as it became a popular area for residents looking for affordable housing in close proximity to the downtown area. Yankees, Jews, Latin Americans and Asians from a variety of countries and Italians all lived alongside each other. One of Allapattah’s first restaurants was the aptly named Regent Emporium, located next to the Regent Theatre. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the Hurricane of 1926. The placement of I-95 in western parts of downtown Miami led to a displacement of many black Americans from the nearby neighborhood of Overtown into Allapattah. Today, the area’s residents are a mix of black Americans, Dominicans (Allapattah is sometimes referred to as “Little Dominican Republic” because of its high Dominican population), Hondurans, Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans, along with other Latin American residents of varying countries. Currently, the neighborhood’s largest contributor is The Produce Market, which is Miami’s largest open-air food distribution center.