Monday, February 29, 2016

El Rey de Las Fritas - Miami, FL

February 2016 was about to be the first month since this blog's inception that I didn't write a post; however, the calendar gods have gifted me an extra day. As a result, here's an exclusive tidbit from this weekend's food-focused trip to South Beach with Mrs. Hackknife. Our main reason for the journey was the Alinea pop-up at the Faena Hotel (much more on that later), but we did manage to find several other great places to dine in the greater Miami area.

Since our move to Florida, I've noted a number of burger enthusiasts who have occasionally made reference to a hamburger type that seems to be largely indigenous to the Cuban community in Miami; that is, the frita Cubana. To the best of my knowledge, the frita was developed by expat Cubans as a means of jazzing up the usual American-style burger to better attract Latino palates. You can find many different recipes online for fritas and most of them include a mixture of ground beef, ground pork, garlic, onion, Spanish paprika, and cumin, plus a tomato-based "secret sauce" that has more garlic, paprika, and cumin in it (along with some sugar and white vinegar). After consulting my sources and receiving verification from some locals, the consensus was that the restaurant chain El Rey de Las Fritas has the best fritas in town, so Mrs. H and I made a point of dining there for lunch this past Saturday.

ERdLF's flagship location is on Calle Ocho (8th Street) in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood (1821 SW 8th St., to be exact), a short and comfortable drive from the rarefied environs of South Beach. The restaurant is in a strip mall and has a walk-up window, but we opted to dine in at the counter.

Other than the thin sauced patty and the Cuban bread, the most distinctive feature of the frita is the hefty pile of shoestring potatoes crowning the meat - these are fried fresh in the kitchen at ERdLF (not like the nasty canned ones I remember as a kid) and they must go through a whole boatload of them in an average day. For the more adventurous eater, you can get your frita a Caballo (with a fried egg) or Dulce (with fried sweet plantains); however, we stuck with the original con Queso (with a slice of American cheese).

My happy frita arrived at the counter with a batido de mamey, or mamey shake, to wash it down. The mamey sapote fruit is found throughout Mexico, Cuba, and Central America and has a sweet flavor that reminds me a bit of papaya - very refreshing on a warm South Florida afternoon. Mrs. H. opted for a guarapo, or sugar cane juice, drink, which is apparently also something that's very popular among the Miami Cuban community. At ERdLF, they have a special machine dedicated to extracting the juice from the raw sugarcane plant.

Here's a better close-up of the frita in all its glory:

At only 4 bucks a pop and consisting of equal parts grease and goodness, I'd declare the frita to be stoner food at its best, perhaps best consumed after an evening of cocktails, although it was mighty fine for a simple lunch as well.

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