El Rey De Las Fritas (Miami)

El Rey De Las Fritas (https://elreydelasfritas.com/) is one of Miami’s most famous and iconic casual restaurants, a Cuban diner that was founded by Victoriano “Benito” Gonzalez and his wife, Angelina “Gallega” Gonzalez, the current owner.  Over the decades, they expanded their restaurant to four locations, three in Miami proper and one in Hialeah.

My BFF (best food friend) and I ate lunch at the original El Rey De Las Fritas on my trip to Miami back in July, before picking up takeout from the nearby Sanguich De Miami to eat later.  The restaurants are located a relatively short walk from each other along Miami’s historic Calle Ocho (SW 8th Street), the legendary stretch of Little Havana that is the colorful and vibrant center of Miami’s Cuban community.  This was my first-ever visit to El Rey De Las Fritas, and I think we did it right.

Sitting at stools along the long counter for a classic diner experience, we started out by ordering four croquetas de jamon to share ($1.50 each).  My friend occasionally reviews the best croquetas in and around Miami in a recurring feature called “The Croqueta Diaries” on his own food and culture blog, so I was with a real connoisseur.  These were pretty classic, standard croquetas with the typical creamy filling of diced ham mixed with bechamel sauce, fried to golden perfection with cracker crumb coating.

I was surprised by how large the menu was, with so many Cuban dishes to choose from beyond the iconic fritas.  Because I didn’t study it enough in advance, I panicked and ordered a batido de guayaba (guava milkshake; $5).  It was really thick and didn’t have a strong guava flavor, and wasn’t even super-refreshing for this hot July day.  I might have been better off with some limonada or jugo de maracuya (passion fruit juice), or even a cafe con leche, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But anyway, the whole point of going to El Rey De Las Fritas was to order the classic Cuban frita, a specially seasoned burger patty on a Cuban roll topped with diced onions and a mountain of crispy, freshly fried shoestring potatoes (papitas julianas).  It also comes with a tangy red sauce that looks like ketchup and smells like ketchup, but brother, it ain’t ketchup!  I opted for the frita especial con queso, a cheeseburger frita ($4.95, just a 20-cent upcharge for cheese).  It was even better than it looks, and you can see how good it looks.  Our fritas were definitely better than the ones we tried at Polo Norte in Miami, back in March 2020, and even those weren’t bad by any means.

I even brought a frita original ($4.75) to bring back to my wife in Orlando, since she likes her burgers sin queso (without cheese).  But she didn’t want it, so I brought it to work to eat at my desk, the same sad way I always eat my lunches.  But this day I had an unexpected leftover frita burger, so it was a lot less sad than usual. 

I got a little obsessed with fritas during the work-from-home period of the pandemic in 2020, so I experimented a lot with different recipes for the meat and the sauce, although I always used those crunchy fried potato sticks that come in a can.  Still, after finally trying the real deal at Miami’s most legendary frita joint, it’s hard to beat the professionals.  The iconic institution El Rey truly was the king of fritas.

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