The best croquetas in Miami are from … Dallas?
The big winners at Friday’s Croquetapalooza, the annual celebration of the humble croqueta, were a pair of Miami natives living in Dallas whose croquetas were named the People’s Choice.
Croquette started as a stand in a Dallas farmers’ market by Chris Cuan and Gregory Castillo. They flew in from Texas (conveniently dodging Hurricane Harvey) with 70 pounds of croqueta batter in their suitcases to show off to the 1,000 diners at the Burger Beast event.
Doce Provisions, in Little Havana, took the title for Judges’ Choice for best croqueta. And in a separate competition for best frita, Miami’s beloved Cuban hamburger, El Rey de las Fritas won for the fifth time.
The loudest applause, however, went to Cuan and Castillo, a former Miami Herald reporter turned croqueta chef. Just to have Croquette considered, Castillo flew to Miami months ago, made croquetas at his mother’s house in Westchester and hand delivered fresh-fried croquetas to Sef Gonzalez, the local food blogger known as the Burger Beast who runs the event.
The winning croqueta, named the Beyonce because “it’s made in Texas but loved everywhere,” the creators said, uses sausage from the renowned barbecue spot Kreuz Market, sweet corn, brisket and pimento cheese. It was topped with a hatch chili tomatillo salsa.
“My business partner Chris — we stayed up 36 hours before the first night that we opened — he told me, ‘What we have different from every other business here is you,'” Castillo told an applauding crowd in an emotional acceptance speech.
Cuan, whose parents immigrated from Cuba to Miami in 1980, grew up wanting to open a restaurant, with his parents encouragement.
“When I was born, my mom did not put a bottle of milk in my mouth. She put a croqueta in my mouth,” he joked. “And I haven’t stopped ever since.”