Sometimes when I’m going through the songs on my iTunes I get nostalgic. Roberto Torres’ Caballo Viejo for example takes me back to the ’80s when my grandparents were still alive and we would go out as a family unit (Que Pasa USA style) and eat together. My grandfather Gollo always decided where we would eat and that sometimes depended on where he had heard that there was some great Cuban grub to be had. Please remember there was no internet and everyone communicated with each other in person or via rotary telephone.
Yes, people were actually in the same room with each other. I’m talking prior to the “Beeper” era which I 143d. Trolling didn’t exist in “public forums” as they do now and in most cases if you made a wisecrack you got socked in the face for it. But those were better and simpler times.
Anyway, let me get back to why I wrote this post. These are 7 restaurants that sometimes I wish were still open. I have idealized memories of what they and their food were like. Were they always as perfect as I remember? Probably Not. But then, what really is?
Honorable Mention: Victoria Station – Virginia Gardens, FL
I don’t remember too much about the food other than my sister Michelle and I ate Chocolate Mousse here for the first time. There was a few locations in Miami but we frequented the one in Virginia Gardens (near Miami International Airport) the most. I do remember eating at the one in Dadeland Mall once too but only because the mall was closed when we were done eating and we had to walk around the outside of the mall to get back to our car. The last time I ate there it was for a Sunday Brunch and if I had to guess a year it would be around 1996 or 1997.
7) Kingdom – Miami (Biscayne Corridor), FL
Kingdom was only open for a short period of time even though my memory makes it seem like much longer. Folks were torn as to whether it really was the Best Burger in town. I loved the place and the atmosphere. It was located right next to where Blue Collar is now. It’s no surprise to find out plenty of characters shuffled up to have a beer. One of those guys made the mistake of calling the bartender a bitch. The “waitress” was actually the owner’s wife and his friends didn’t take too kindly to it. For a second there I thought I was witnessing someone else’s life pass before my eyes but after a bunch of huffing, puffing and screaming, he ended up banned forever. But only after he had paid for the beer he drank.
6) Farrell’s – Hialeah, FL
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor was/is similar to Jaxson’s in Dania. I remember attending many birthday parties there and I faintly remember their “Kitchen Sink” dessert. We used to go to Farrell’s at Westland Mall in Hialeah. Farrell’s recently had a resurrection and is opening new stores on the West Coast.
5) Lum’s – All Over South Florida:
Lums as a chain lasted 53 years and closed its last location just a few years back in Davie. At one point Lums had over 500 locations. I ate at the ones in Westchester, I believe there were 2. The Hot Dogs were steamed in Beer something I remember because my Dad would tell me I was gonna end up drunk if I ate more than one. They were also known for their “Ollie” Burger but I have no recollection of it unfortunately. The last location in Davie became the Flashback Diner which has the Ollie Burger on the menu.
4) Rudy’s Sirloin Steak Burgers – Kendall, FL:
On US1 in Miami right across from the Tony Roma’s was Rudy’s Sirloin Steak Burgers. The owner of Rudy’s owned the first Wendy’s locations in Florida, turned around, sold them, and then used the profits to create his own Burger restaurant. This was the mid-80s and I remember Fuddruckers was also around, and not too far from there. When you walked in, you grabbed your tray to get things like Fries and other side dishes. At the end of the line you placed your Burger order with the cashier and then paid. It was cafeteria-like and dare I compare the set-up to a Piccadilly. You then sat down and waited for your Burger to be ready and then you would go pick it up. I remember liking Rudy’s better than Fuddruckers. The last time I remember eating at Rudy’s was around 1990 (it closed sometime in the early 90′s). How do I know that? I remember going to the Peaches Records that was across the street right before and buying Jetboy’s Damned Nation. Yes, I loved Hair Metal.
3) JJ’s American Diner – Coral Gables, FL
There was a JJ’s Diner in the same spot where Shake Shack is currently but that’s not the incarnation of JJ’s American Diner I’m talking about. We would need to go back to the late 80’s maybe or early 90’s for the one I’m talking about. The Gables Diner was in the same location JJ’s Diner had been in (downtown Coral Gables). I remember enjoying Burgers and Gravy Cheese Fries there. My cousin Rick introduced me to eating at JJ’s Diner. One of my last recollections is us eating there with my sister Michelle. Since she was the youngest, we tormented her endlessly. Now that I think about it, not much has changed on that front.
2) Gabe’s – Miami, FL:
If you’ve read the Burger Beast blog over the last 5 years, I’m sure you’ve come across a couple of mentions of this fabled place (closed circa 1994). Its set-up was similar to a Checkers (or a Rally’s if you’re old school) with outdoor seating and drive-thrus on either side. The main difference was the Food was good (you had to see that one coming). Gabe’s was an acronym for Great American Burger Emporium. The Burger that most resembles Gabe’s are Fatburger‘s Hamburger Patties but now they’re gone from South Florida. The Fries were fresh cut and had some variation of “Seasoned Salt” on them. When I turned sixteen my Mom asked where I wanted to go out and a dinner celebration. The answer? A giant to go order from Gabe’s for my parents, grandparents, my sister and I that we ate at home. I love that memory.
1) Lila’s – Westchester, FL
Man I miss Lila’s, that was my family’s spot. It was located in the heart of Westchester (8518 Coral Way) where that megastore whose name I won’t repeat is now. It was a sad day when that building was torn down. There were multiple locations in Westchester and I think there might have been one in Hialeah. The Palomilla Steak covered in those little potatoes was their signature dish and they were also known for their Flan. Luckily it’s founder who sold his Lila’s concept then created Rio Cristal which is still open and has this dish on the menu. The Lila’s name and company still live on via their Desserts which are available in pretty much every Supermarket in South Florida. The restaurant is a Cuban Food legend. Think I’m kidding? I met Josh Ozersky a few years back at Burger Bash and he mentioned Lila’s to me. I was totally blown away. I could not believe he knew of it. I’m glad I ate at Lila’s and shared many meals with my family and friends there and that’s why they’re my #1.
So that’s my list of 7 restaurants that I wish were still open. What are yours? Leave your comments below. I’d love to know.