A cubano at Latin American Cafeteria was first on my agenda, post-disembarkment. But it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve never experienced a two-plus hour wait for a rental car, and I’m still not sure if that was a uniquely Miami pain in the ass or a typical Labor Day weekend trauma. Not only was I starving by 4pm but also concerned that we were going to ruin our 9pm dinner appetites with hefty sandwiches (assuming we eventually got them).
Well, we followed the directions to the address I had looked up and there was no Latin American Cafeteria to be found (though we did pass one about twenty blocks before reaching our intended destination). Being exhausted, sweaty and defeated, we gave up and decided to eat at Habanos Café, the casual Cuban restaurant residing at the address. Driving back twenty blocks would've been too ennervating at this point. After taking a seat on the more formal side, which was hardly stuffy; it was simply tables and chairs rather than counter and stools, we discovered that cubanos weren’t on the menu. Argh. My first impressions of Miami were not stellar.
Fine. I was hungry enough to eat a full on meal anyway. And frankly, the food was considerably better than the frumpy décor and geriatric clientele belied. Not to say that old frumps necessarily have bad taste, but it’s hard to banish the cranky early bird special stereotypes.
For me, keeping it light involved beans, rice, yuca and roast pork, just eschewing an appetizer for good measure. The moros had to have had pork fat in them because instead of dry graininess, they were soft and dare I say succulent (ok, I don’t dare—that word drives me crazy even when it involves plants). They weren’t like filler, the way I usually treat them, but could be a meal alone. The fried yuca was different that I was accustomed to, also. Usually, the starchiness requires a glass of water nearby. These were creamy inside rather than chewy and the exterior crackingly crisp. I was only going to eat half of my lechon, but that didn’t happen either; there wasn’t a dry strip in the pile or pork.
I attempted to revive myself with a cafecito and marveled at what tasty food could be found at unremarkable restaurants. Perhaps Miami could redeem itself.
Habanos Café * 9796 SW 24th St., Miami, FL