By Matt Hasbun
Over the last seven decades, Miami has overflowed with immigrants from all over the world. Specifically, the influence from Latin and Carribean cultures has been undeniable. On any given day, you can find yourself transported to Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Colombia by simply stepping into a restaurant.
Miami has long been a hub for a variety of cultures. Growing up in South Florida, I had the luxury of experiencing different communities that are rich and diverse. One of the many aspects that always stood out to me was the universal connection of food, and that someone can find their new favorite restaurant on virtually any street in Miami. What makes these establishments so special is their ability to transport their patrons to the origin of their food through authenticity and hospitality.
The restaurant industry has been an economic powerhouse in Florida for decades. In fact, 12% of the state’s employment in 2019 came from restaurants and that number is projected to grow by 14.1% by 2029 (Source: National Restaurant Association). Miami’s restaurant scene can quite literally be viewed as the heart and soul of South Florida. Many people, including myself, have found their first places of employment in one of these restaurants, learning the importance of connecting to a community through a great plate of food.
One of the most accessible ways of properly experiencing an unfamiliar culture can be to sit down and indulge in an authentic meal. Although the spotlight is often on the high-lux eateries of the city, the mom-and-pop establishments are viewed as the lifeblood of the community and can compete with the more famous names on a gastronomic level.
As it did for most industries, Covid-19 hit the restaurant industry incredibly hard. During the height of the pandemic last summer, nearly 16,000 restaurants closed permanently nationwide. (Source: ABC News) Miami was no stranger to these hardships and many beloved establishments found themselves closing their doors. However, it was evident that the community wanted to do all they could to keep these local businesses alive any way that they could. Take-out orders increased drastically and many fundraisers were held in order to assist establishments in need. After a year of extremely difficult circumstances, many restaurants have been able to make it to the other side. Miamians can take pride in knowing that their support was a huge reason that local businesses could stay afloat, and even bring back a few that were thought to be permanently closed.
All in all, the plates of food that are shared on a daily basis in Miami mean so much to an entire community of people. I will always strongly recommend to anyone to experience Miami’s food scene not only for the taste, but also to get a glimpse into a community that prides itself on hard work and genuine connection. Miami has changed greatly throughout the years but the one thing that remains certain is that the city will always welcome its newcomers with a warm embrace and a heavy plate.