Looking for Local Life
December | 2015
December 8, 2015 — Now that I'm done playing "tourist" it's time to seek out the locals.
My friend Michelle who has family in Miami, suggests I go to Versailles, a popular eating establishment where she says I will find some of Miami's old Cuban community, sitting around tables talking politics and business. She's correct.
I arrive at the edge of the dinner hour, and happily find there is no line.
After I'm seated, I ask the waiter about the restaurant's significance to Cubans in Miami and here's what he says: "For decades, Versailles has been ground zero for the Cuban-American exile community in South Florida. The restaurant has been a gathering point for anti-Castro protesters and the press wanting to cover their opinions."
The Miami Herald writes:
[Versaille] is where local Cuban exiles have gathered for years to plot against and to topple Fidel Castro (at least with words). This is where U.S. presidents, governors, legislators, mayors and commissioners come to court the Cuban vote and be photographed sipping that potent brew of café served by waitresses who call you by terms of endearment: "cariño," "hijo mío," "mi amor." This is where the nation’s television cameras converge to gauge Cuban-exile reaction when crooner Juanes is singing in Havana or militant Luis Posada Carriles is acquitted in Texas. This is where the media will surely be staged one day for The Big Party the day the tyrant (Fidel Castro) finally falls. Television networks have already reserved space around the restaurant to stage their live trucks here when The Day comes.
The waiter further tells me: During Fidel Castro's hospitalization in August 2006, the news media set up a small tent city outside the restaurant in case news would break from the location. Cuban-American politicians, including those from out-of-state like New Jersey Senator Robert Menéndez, often hold fundraisers and rallies at the restaurant.
Versailles serves the best food I've had on this trip. I order a Cuban Sandwich, a cuban beer and finish the meal with some cafecito con pastelitos.