I had mentioned to Jake from the New Times Short Order blog that it might be cool if he came along with me so that he could see firsthand the greatness of El Mago De Las Fritas (this was a few months ago). It always seems when Fritas are brought up, everyone hypes El Rey De Las Fritas (Food Network named El Rey’s Frita the best burger in Florida). A Frita is also known as a Cuban hamburger. It’s a mix of ground Beef (sometimes Chorizo or Pork) , Seasonings (Paprika for sure), Julienne Potatoes/Potato Sticks, diced raw Onions and Ketchup on a Cuban Bun. I figured it might be best to take him to both so he could decide for himself.
Once word of what I was planning got to Carlos Miller, not only did he join in but he suggested we add La Palma to what is now a Miami Frita Crawl. An idea like this would not be possible if not for the Miami Chowdown Group’s successful Pizza Crawls. My friend Nelson decides to join us and now we’re 4.
We decide to start at La Palma and work our way down 8th Street. It works out well since they are all located on there. Carlos is insistent we order Croquetas, so we do but Nelson decides not to have one.
I still think these guys are average at best (I’m talking about the Croquetas before any wise guys leave comments) . Since I originally wrote about La Palma on the blog I’ve been back twice and I’ve had 2 consecutive “bad Frita experiences”
I guess the third time was the charm. Everyone seems to have enjoyed their fritas although Nelson makes a major mistake, he orders his with cheese. It’s a big no-no, c’mon there was no American Cheese in Cuba. If you want to keep it “real”, no cheese is the way to go. Not that I’d ever tell you what to do. I’m just saying, don’t be a rookie.
Next stop is El Mago De Las Fritas which is just a few blocks down the street from La Palma. He’s the real deal because he is the guy who cooks your Frita. That’s right, the magician works his magic for you. In the Miami Frita game, El Mago has not received his due and that’s a shame because I honestly do think his Fritas are the best in town.
We start up a conversation with him and he tells us how he used to work at the original Rey De Las Fritas and how El Rey was his brother in law (he passed away a few years ago). Although he won’t go into detail about it, they had a falling out that ended with him opening his own Frita Joint. El Mago De Las Fritas will celebrate 25 years this September 8th (2009), impressive. We ask him about the popularity of Cheese on Fritas. He prefers it without but 80% of his younger customers prefer it with. Nelson is obviously trying to hold onto his youth.
The guys eat theirs and agree there is a significant difference in quality between El Mago & La Palma. Not only does Nelson order his without Cheese but Jake eats his and in a turn of events has a second with Cheese. What is it with these guys?
It’s time to head out to El Rey De Las Fritas. This is not the original location but it’s right near it. The original spot burned down in a fire and they opened up in a much larger and brighter spot. Jake has tapped out at this point and sits out the final Frita. Carlos goes for a regular and Nelson is back to this tricks with a Frita with cheese. Me? I order one of each. I know….about what I said before.
Hey, they taste good with Cheese, what can I tell you. We agree, El Mago was the best with El Rey De Las Fritas second and La Palma third. Will there be another Frita crawl? Only time will tell. I suggest we do a “Worst Frita in Miami Crawl”. Carlos says “I’ll sit that one out”, but Jake is in and what about you?
The Burger Beast’s Frita Recipe
1 lb. of ground beef (I’d go with an 80/20 mix)
1/4 cup milk (don’t even think about skim milk, if you are, go eat a veggie burger)
1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon of paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 small onion to be minced, and one to be diced for topping the fritas
2 potatoes or canned potato sticks if you’re feeling lazy
6 Cuban rolls (they might not be readily available where you live but this adds.)
Step 1: Dump the breadcrumbs into the milk and let them sit while you prepare the ground beef.
We’re looking for the breadcrumbs to absorb the milk.
Step 2: This step can be skipped over if you’re going to used canned potato sticks. For authenticity you need to get the potatoes and julienne cut them but really tiny. A mandolin slicer might be your best bet for achieving this unless you’re a master with your blade. Once chopped up, fry them up like you would french fries. You don’t need to salt them but you might want to make extra to serve as a side dish.
Step 3: You’re gonna need a large bowl for this. You want to start by beating the egg. Toss in the ground beef, minced onions, salt, pepper, paprika and the breadcrumb/milk mixture. Mix this puppy up, using your hands would probably be best.
Step 4: Once combined, you should make 6 meatballs, then cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours. We need the flavors to gel.
Step 5: Heat up your pan to right between medium and high (really depends on your stove so you should know best). You’re going to want to use very little oil but they may stick so keep a watchful eye. Once you get the meatballs on there, you’ll need to pound them down into patty form. Ridiculous but true. They have to be cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Step 6: While they’re being cooked slice your Cuban rolls in half and prepare for the arrival of the Frita.
Step 7: Some people like going with the diced onions under the Frita and some over, it’s your choice. I like to have the diced onions right on the Frita followed by ketchup and then the julienne potatoes, in that order. I didn’t mention ketchup in the ingredients portion but I figure everyone has some.
Step 8: Don’t be a poseur and add cheese. OK, add cheese, it tastes pretty good but appreciate the original.
6091 SW 8th Street, Miami, Fl
El Mago De Las Fritas
5828 SW 8th Street, Miami, Fl
El Rey De Las Fritas
1821 SW 8TH St, Miami, FL