I always remember March 7th, 2020, a date that shall live in infamy. I took my first trip down to Miami in over two years to attend an old friend’s funeral, visited my family for the first time in far too long, and got to hang out with my best friend on an epic foodie adventure day. As you might remember (because it was a year ago today, but also feels like a decade ago, and possibly also last week), this was right before so much of the country started quarantining before the COVID-19 pandemic, so March 7th was the last day I ate any meals in a restaurant. But I went out in style, because we ate at FIVE restaurants that day. I have already shared my reviews of Polo Norte and El Santo Taqueria from that same legendary day, along with my review of the Fort Lauderdale Skyline Chili from earlier in the same trip. But my last Miami visit and my last hurrah going out to dinner with friends culminated at Mofongo (https://www.mofongoscalle8.com/), a popular Puerto Rican restaurant on Miami’s festive, fun, and iconic Calle Ocho, the center of the expatriate Cuban and Cuban-American community.
This evening was the first time I had met my best friend’s girlfriend, who is just the coolest person, and a damn delight. I was so happy to be out with both of them, at last. She started out with some nice sangria:
We shared alcapurrias de carne ($9.50). These are crispy, crunchy fritters made out of either mashed green plantains, grated yuca, or both, stuffed with seasoned ground beef, and deep-fried. They were really heavy, but good. This was my first alcapurria experience!
This was the star of the show: mofongo de carne frita ($16). Mofongo, the restaurant’s namesake dish, is a concoction of green plantains, which are sliced, then fried, then mashed up with garlic, salt, and crunchy chicharrones (pork rinds) in a wooden mortar. Here at Mofongo (the restaurant), they serve mofongo (the dish) in tall wooden mortars that make attention-grabbing centerpieces for every table. The mofongo itself is sculpted into a dome, its apex artfully adorned with awe-inspiring alimentary accoutrements. This was A LOT of food for the three of us to share, especially since my friend and I had been eating literally all day. Somehow our trio made it work.
A close-up of the top of Mount Mofongo, with thick chunks of rich, salty carne frita (fried pork shoulder), translucent pink marinated onions, and colorful herbs over the golden dome.
Finally, the arroz mamposteao ($4.50) ended up being my favorite thing we had at Mofongo! This side order of buttery yellow rice, stewed red beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and bell peppers was one of my favorite rice dishes I’ve ever had.
Almost a full year after this legendary night out in Miami, I finally found a restaurant that serves arroz mamoposteao in Orlando: Cafe Madrid, which I reviewed right here, almost two years ago. It was good there too, so now I have a local hook-up.
This meal was the culmination of one of my favorite days ever — definitely my favorite day of the last 365, right before the way we had to live our lives changed forever, to protect ourselves and the people around us. That’s why I’ll always remember the date of March 7th, along with the festive surroundings, the beautiful live music (my best friend’s girl knew all the Puerto Rican songs and explained them to us), the good food, and the wonderful company. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something like this again safely, sooner rather than later, and we can remind our friends how much we love them and missed them over another delicious meal (or five).