FLORIDA KEYS COFFEE LOVERS ADVENTURE: LA VENTANITA
Ventanita (ven-ta-nee-ta) means "small window" or “little window". In the State of Florida, specifically in and around the Miami area, "ventanita" means one thing - VERY GOOD COFFEE . Along with good coffee there is of course a myriad of mostly Cuban style pasties and food. The coffee offerings are traditionally Cuban. Any ventanita will offer Cuban cafe (cafecito), cafe con leche, cortadito, colada, and our favorite, the buchi (a plain strong hot shot of espresso. Written “buche”’at some places).
A ventanita today may be quite different from the first ventanitas that popped up in the late 50's, however the idea is simple - use a small open window with easy access to pedestrian walk-up traffic for a quick order of a beverage and grab-n-go food. A ventanita today may include not only Cuban fare but also may offer other food and drink items from other Latin American countries, the U.S. and even Mexico. The ventanita today is very American if you think about it. It is located in the USA, its origins come from an immigrant need, it uses mostly Italian espresso machines, the person serving at the little window can be an immigrant from Honduras or Mexico or anywhere in the Caribbean, or a second, third or fourth generation Cuban-American. Even the coffee isn’t 100% Cuban (Can you say embargo?). The espresso coffees used are the basic ones found in the Latin American section of a supermarket located in areas with a hefty population of Spanish speaking peoples. The more diverse the population and the more dense, then the more choices! We have found that the magic of the ventanita is in this mix.
Our FLORIDA KEYS COFFEE LOVERS ADVENTURE is for the coffee fan! The adventure here lies in having the open mind and palate ready to experience what gets placed in your hand from the other hand through that small window. Below is a list of the ventanitas (Picture followed by name) visited in the Florida Keys for this assignment. They are not rated or reviewed, but simply listed for the true coffee lover not wanting to miss an opportunity to fire those neurons. We only picked places that stuck to the definition of serving Cuban style coffees (Buchis and more) through a small window. Some of these places you will see are on wheels (food truck) so they made the list, and some Cuban restaurants/cafes served cafe but they didn’t have a classic ventanita, so they were not mentioned in this list.
If on your travels you visit a ventanita that we missed in the Keys, then please reach out so we can add it to the list. We love good coffee and we love to support locally owned businesses. Encourage your friends and family to order at a ventanita versus a big chain company. You can practice a little Spanish or do lots of pointing ;)
PICTURE NOT AVAILABLE (YET)
PINECREST BAKERY - KEY LARGO
DENNYS LATIN CAFE - KEY LARGO
SUNRISE CUBAN MARKET AND CAFE - TAVERNIER
CURLY'S COFFEE AND MARINA - MARATHON
This place offered espresso, but no Cuban style offerings. However, since they rent paddleboards and kayaks they made our list. Way to go!
LA NINA RESTAURANT - BOOT KEY
N/A - CONCH KEY
100 MILES TO CUBA - BOCA CHICA
DELUNA’S CAFE - STOCK ISLAND
RIVIERA COFFEE & SANDWICH SHOP - KEY WEST
Mr Riviera shared his knowledge of the ventanita. He even commented that in Cuba, the locals called them “kiokitos”. Probably derived from “quioske” or “kiosk”.
PARADISE CAFE - KEY WEST
This place had really good Mexican style breakfast tacos!
CORNER SANDWICH SHOP- KEY WEST
More Mexican influences with really nice service.
THE BEST COFFEE IN TOWN - KEY WEST
SANDY'S CAFE - KEY WEST
THE CONCH AND THE CUBAN CAFE (ANA'S) - KEY WEST
This place continues to stay strong to the Cuban style while also being in a busy part of Key West. A gem that caters to both tourists and the local latin population.
FERNANDY'S CAFE - KEY WEST
CUBAN COFFEE QUEEN - FRONT STREET KEY WEST
FRITA'S - KEY WEST
CAYO HUESO CAFE- KEY WEST (FORT ZACHARY TAYLOR)
This was supposed to be a highlight as it bears the name of the old spanish name for Key West (Literal translation "bone cay") and its on the beach! Unfortunately, their version of a buchi (espresso) came from a stainless steel thermos and was poured luke warm. So sad :(