Versailles Cuban Restaurant "A Symbol of Cuban Culture in Miami" Turns 50!
Versailles Cuban Restaurant has always been the epicenter of authentic Cuban cuisine in Miami. The establishment that’s reached the status of legendary as it turns 50 is celebrating it with a bang… and a mojito!
Versailles was founded by Cuban ex-pat and entrepreneur Felipe Valls Sr. back in 1971, which was quite a feat at the time considering Valls Sr. owned a slew of auto parts dealerships back home in Cuba. What started out as a modest coffee stand (on Eighth Street and 35th Avenue) grew into a bustling restaurant and a well-equipped, authentic Cuban bakery that today occupies an entire city block.
Over the years, the world-renowned restaurant has mastered unusual alchemy. Being a community landmark, Versailles Restaurant is both a tourist destination and political hub. Thousands gather outside in solidarity for Cuban causes periodically making it the prime location for Cuban protests and celebrations alike.
Since Cubans go where Cubans are, Versailles is the go-to destination for everybody arriving from Cuba, as well as tourists who want a slice of rich Cuban history. However, the crowds inside and out are nothing new and is almost natural for Versailles, which has become a point of all things Cuba. Once inside, you quickly realize what all the fuss is about for a Cuban restaurant that’s named after a French Palace and designed by a relative of the famous rapper Pitbull, who is himself of Cuban-American decsent.
Versailles is more than just a safe place for people of the same ilk who gather to share great food and their political opinions; it is the complete Cuban-American Experience, complete with Baroque Architecture and chandeliers as far as the eyes can see.
Serving Cafecitos, Cortaditos, and Croquettas (all made in-house) at a walk-up window, Versailles has been a popular place for Cuban food and social gathering in Miami for five decades. And Felipe Valls Jr., who is the current president of Valls Group, and the son of the original owner of Versailles, has plans for the next 50. No generation gap here!
Felipe Valls Sr. may have given Miami its first Ventanita and founded the legendary Versailles Cuban restaurant, but his son, Felipe Jr., has proven his mettle as a serial restaurateur, following in the footsteps of his legendary entrepreneurial father.
But Valls Jr. wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. He worked hard, first as a busboy and then in the kitchen under the careful tutelage of his father. Valls Jr. slowly made it up the ranks with time, earning respect from the locals, patrons, and the Cuban-American patriarch himself, Valls Sr.
Today, Valls Jr. owns and operates several restaurants in the area and has been instrumental in the design, building, and operations of some well-known restaurants. These include La Carreta, Casa Cuba, Casa Juancho, and 40 other restaurants and cafes, including 20 within the airport and 14 outside the airport, including in-house establishments and franchises.
All of these establishments are testament to what can be achieved in a free society when your company and team embody the values of hard work, vision and guts, three qualities that the Valls family is well endowed with. Apart from extraordinary entrepreneurial spirit, one gets a strong sense of family is deep-rooted in the Valls household, which is easy to see with the fact that every member Felipe Valls Jr.’s sisters and daughters (Nicole, Luly, Desiree and Alexandra) have had a role and have played an intricate part in growing the family’s gastronomical empire.
To mark its 50th anniversary, the Versailles Cuban Restaurant is being recognized by the HistoryMiami Museum, which is a Smithsonian Affiliate located in downtown Miami and is tasked with safeguarding and cultivating inspiring stories from local communities that can be shared with the rest of the world.
So, what’s in it for you? To mark the big Five-O, Versailles Cuban Restaurant has partnered with the HistoryMiami Museum and EXILE Books to, as Versailles puts it - make your connection with Versailles official. As a mark of appreciation for its customers and patrons, Versailles is accepting submissions such as photos, diaspora stories, video personal experiences, ephemera, and original artwork (preferably from the 70s, 80s, 90s) from its customers to be a part of the restaurant’s rich history and legacy. Also, all materials submitted will also be featured for special 50th Anniversary projects. Learn more by visiting the HistoryMiami website.