For decades Miami has been known for its vibrant night life and world class dining featuring cuisine from every corner of the world. You could eat at a different place every day of your trip to Miami and every night experience a different culture. You could go to the Francisca restaurant for Latin American food one night, followed by La Parrilla Liberty for Italian food, and then end up at El Carajo for your last night. There truly is something for everyone. We were anxious to return and explore some of the latest dining options offered in South Florida.
The nightlife in Miami is so good and bright that it almost seems surreal. For instance, besides the clubs and pubs being lit with bright lights, the streets also seem to be heavenly decorated with lights. There is no chance that one would feel uncomfortable on the streets of Miami at night. Perhaps it is because of the installation of led shoebox fixtures, which are known to provide high lumen output. .
Anyway, coming back to the topic, it is always fun to explore as many unique local restaurants when you are on the road. On a recent trip to Miami, our first call was to local wine expert and consultant Barry Alberts who has been “in the know” of the Food and Wine scene in Miami for over 30 years. He suggested we join him at El Carajo for some wine and tapas. Of course, we jumped at the opportunity to sample dishes from NBC Miami’s Gold award-winning restaurant.
The directions to EL Carajo startled us to say the least. Barry told us to go to 17th and US1 and pull into a gas station. The restaurant that he was so anxious to show us was inside! Yes , walk past the gas pumps , chips , beer , candy and soft drinks and at the rear of the store is El Carajo. If it would have been anyone else who suggested eating in a gas station on our first night in Miami we would have graciously declined . However trusting Barry and knowing is passion for Wine and Food we went . After all , it was HIS reputation that was on the line.
Walking into EL Carajo with its lovely aromas of spices, meat sizzling on the grill and attentive host , we forgot we were literally inside a working gas station. Rack after rack of fine wines at affordable prices called out to us to make a selection. EL Carajo also features a “high end “wine room where Caymus and many Champagnes are available for the most discriminating tastes.
With Barry’s expert guidance we joined him in a palate pleasing bottle of Senorio De Sarria Navarra Reserva 1998. This was the perfect selection for what was to come.
Looking over the menu, is was not an easy choice with many selections to choose from. Ensalada de Camarones ( mixed greens and Shrimp ) Potage de Colorados ( Red Bean Soup ) stood out for starters. Cold Tapas like Combinacion Meson ( ham , sausage and Manchego Cheese from Spain and Boquerones Espanoles en Vinagreta ( Spanish Anchovies in Vinaigrette sauce ) caught our attention as well.
Over 20 hot tapas from Chorizos de Cangrejos (Crab meat Crepe ) to Chistorras al Vino ( Spanish Mini Sausages in Red Wine ) are sure to please.
We settled on one of their larger entres , Tabla de Carne . This assorted meat plank featuring Chuletilla de Cordero , Chuleta de Cerdo , Carne de Res , Morcillas, Pollo , Chorizo Criollo and Papas y Tostones is a Spanish carnivores delight that was one of the best meat dishes we have had in a long while.
Of course being in Miami one cannot dine without finishing a meal without Flan and Café con Leche . El Carajo ( not far from Little Havana ) is as authentic as it gets.
We feel very lucky to have dined in some of the world’s best venues. After our experience at EL Carajo , we can see why is has become a big hit . Our advise, get there early and spend more time exploring gas stations. You never know what hidden secrets they may reveal.