Palette Magazine

South Florida is the gateway to Latin America cuisine

By  John Dangaran

Ensalada de Pulpo at Bulla Gastrobar;
Ensalada de Pulpo at Bulla Gastrobar;

South Florida is known for its diverse Latin American cultural landscape. If it’s Latino, you can bet you’ll find it here — from juicy Argentine cuts of beef to Cuban classics and everything in-between. Here are a few selections of the flavors that make this the best place in the country to sample Latin fare.


Iberian Tendencies

Coral Gables’ wildly successful Bulla Gastrobar is now even more accessible. Having expanded its popular Spanish tapas concept to Doral, the new Bulla doesn’t fail to impress at any hour, whether that’s brunch on the weekend with the family, a quick workday lunch with friends or a casual dinner date.

The restaurant plays to its strengths with the Spanish bar top and open kitchen getting all the attention. But the heart and soul of Bulla is, of course, the menu, which is comprised of traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes reimagined in modern and playful ways. The signature dish, Huevos ‘Bulla,’ is a favorite — with good reason. It’s a play on huevos estrellados, featuring two fried eggs topped with Serrano ham on a bed of homemade potato chips and potato foam with truffle oil. Other favorites include the Cochinillo Hash — shredded suckling pig with jumbo poaches eggs, breakfast potatoes and salsa rosa — and the bite-size braised short rib sandwiches called Montaditos De Costilla. For a communal experience, try the paella, a large, family style portion of bomba rice, calamari, king prawn, clams, shrimp, hake, red sofrito and saffron.

5335 NW 87th Ave., #C102




Divine Fare

One thing you don’t see very often in South Florida is upscale Mexican cuisine. The chef and owner of Eduardo De San Angel, Eduardo Pria, wants to ensure that the concept of Mexican dishes here goes beyond the notion of burritos or tacos served with chips and salsa. Chef Pria presents a menu chock-full of Mexican spices and flavors that is internationally inspired —

a nod to his early culinary exploits in San Sebastián, Madrid, Ibiza, Paris and Rome. The result is a refreshing culinary destination for those weary of the usual Tex-Mex and California-Mex style eateries.

Don’t be afraid to let your server be your guide. Most of them are quite knowledgable about the menu options, and while you will only find beer and wine on the beverage list, the restaurant does offer a large selection of the wines by the glass. The sangria and margarita with agave wine are two refreshing alternatives that you shouldn’t miss.

As for the food, the menu’s hidden gem is the cilantro soup, a creamy concoction with just a hint of heat and a tamale hidden at the bottom of the bowl. The grilled cactus paddle served with pork loin and guajillo chile is a delight, and the carne asada with rice and black beans is always a crowd pleaser.

2822 E Commercial Boulevard

Fort Lauderdale



Royal Treatment

Just a short walk from Mallory Square and its famous sunset-viewing vantage point is a small shack that boasts some of the best Cuban coffee in the Keys. And while the Cuban Coffee Queen does indeed serve up a great café con leche — with a name like that, expectations run high — don’t underestimate the little window’s food offerings. At the top of the breakfast menu is the go-to: The Keywester sandwich features two eggs, American cheese and a choice of meat — ham, bacon, sausage, chorizo or pork — pressed into a morning version of its iconic Cuban cousin. If you want something lighter, they also make killer smoothies, salads and desserts. They might not have formal seating, but the options make improvising part of the experience.

The Cuban Coffee Queen opens at 6:30 a.m. daily, so you can kick off your day the right way. Just know that if you want to get your order first thing in the morning, you may have to get behind a few deck-hands grabbing their caffeine fix before casting off. Stay strong. It’s well worth the wait.

284 Margaret Street

Key West



Homemade Goodness

Little Havana, as the name implies, has historically been the heart of Miami’s vibrant Cuban community. But it’s also the setting for an authentic Mexican experience. Nothing is fancy at Mi Rinconcito Mexicano, and that’s the point. Basic plastic tables and chairs fill a brightly lit space. You can tell right away it’s the kind of place where portions are served with a ladle, not a scale or measuring cup. The ladies who run the kitchen (there’s only ever been women back there when I’ve dined in) create dishes with a comforting, home cooked quality. There are no surprises. The tortas (Mexican sandwiches) are enormous; the Milanesa de Res (breaded beef) is outstanding; and it’s difficult to pick just one of the tacos, but the Barbacoa de Borrego (lamb barbecue) and Carnitas de Cerdo (shredded pork) are popular favorites. The enchiladas and burritos have yet to disappoint. When you go, take advantage of the free parking out back. It’s a rare amenity in this part of town.

1961 SW 8th Street




Southward Bound

To standout among the crowd of steak houses in South Florida is an achievement in and of itself, so one that can break away from the chophouse mold and add a dose of Latin flavor is sure to leave an impression. PM Buenos Aires Fish & Steak House is just that. Starting with its tribute to Puerto Madero — the waterfront district in Buenos Aires — PM easily caters to both porteños (Argentines from the capital city) and locals alike. The ambience at the restaurant is as reminiscent of steak houses in that city as the menu, with indoor and outdoor dining spaces that feature exposed red brick and dark- and light-wood walkways.

Not only does PM offer a variety of USDA prime cuts of beef and a selection of wagyu specialties, it also invites patrons to breakaway from the old adage of never ordering fish at a steak house. The impressive selection of fish could rival any seafood eatery on the wharf. Take your pick from Norwegian salmon, Chilean seabass, Alaskan black cod, Mediterranean bronzino or a wide array of shellfish dishes. And don’t forget to hit the full bar, which serves specialty cocktails, including the Tierra del Fuego, Madero and El Tigre, as well as a number of choice South American wines from an extensive list.

1453 South Miami Avenue