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A 12-hour layover in Miami isn’t anybody’s idea of a bad time. I arrived from Chicago O’Hare so early, I couldn’t even check my bag. Transforming an inconvenience into an opportunity, I began to search for the perfect Cuban sandwich. It was Miami.

Slinging my olive drab duffel bag over my shoulder, I set off for the bus stop. Exiting the airport, the humidity hit me like a deluge of heat and wetness. Living in Chicago, where I needed to wear a jacket the day before — even in July — this was uncomfortable.

I took the 238 to the 7, which cost $2 for the fare. I was going downtown. I really wanted to check out Little Havana, but I had no idea how to get there. My plan was to find something promising. Rows of strip malls passed by as the bus engine growled.

After one transfer and a half-hour ride, I ended up in the heart of the city. The streets of downtown Miami reminded me a little of Central America, with their chatter of Spanish and hustling sidewalk vendors. I looked up at some of the Art Deco buildings – especially the Miami-Dade Court – as I walked around.

I discovered a Cuban café by the court called Diana’s Café. I sat down at a table, though counter space was being offered, and ordered a Cuban Sandwich and a Mamey milkshake. The cost was roughly $8. It might’ve been better to ask for the Ropa Vieja, because while the sandwich was large, they went overboard with the processed ham. The Mamey milkshake with its sweet custard flavor was the perfect thing for a hot Miami afternoon.

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