You see that buttered bread in a basket (pictured above), that’s a sign you should be looking for when you arrive at a Cuban restaurant. The bread basket along with a cup of iced water is their way of saying, welcome. And if the bread is nicely toasted and buttered perfectly then you should strap yourself in for some great Cuban comfort food.
El Exquisito has been located in Little Havana since 1974. A few years back it had fallen on bad times and folks were falling out of love with it because of the inconsistencies with the food. In early 2012 a couple of longtime customers purchased El Exquisito and have been revitalizing it since.
If you do two things when you come to El Exquisito make sure that you order the Medianoche and the Moros. A Medianoche is the cousin of the Cuban (Pressed Sandwich w/Roast Pork, Ham, Swiss Cheese, Pickles) except with a sweeter egg bread. If I had to choose between both, I would order a Medianoche 9 times out 10. The 1 time being maybe when I say Cuban Sandwich by mistake, lol. The Medianoche at El Exquisito is exceptional, one of the best I’ve ever had and I’ve had many, plenty and all of the above.
The platanitos (sweet plantains) were right on but that dome of Moros blew my mind. I’m a Black Beans & White Rice kinda guy when it comes to Cuban Joints. There was something deep inside of me saying go with the Moros this time or maybe it was the long-tenured waitress who sold me on it. All that matters at this point is I ate and I loved. And I was thinking about my next meeting with those Moros, I still am.
Here are a few other things I tried as I plan to try to work my way through the entire menu eventually. The Chicken Empanada had a hidden surprise, an olive. It was like the best Cracker Jack gift I’ve ever had. If you’re a Vaca Frita fan you will dig theirs, it’s got a really nice acidity from the lime that sold me on it. The Chicken Milanesa was probably the lightest version I’ve had of this dish mostly cause of the breading. It’s got that same great Ham & Swiss Cheese from the Medianoche, so much so that I was ready to put it between 2 pieces of Cuban bread.
Yes, I actually ordered their Cheeseburger. I asked and was told it was freshly ground so I had to do it. It seems to be a mix of Beef & Pork. I had mine with Swiss Cheese but American Cheese would have done it more justice. Well, that only means “Una Hamburguesa con Queso Americano Por Favor” for next time.
To wash everything down I had some of their homemade Flan, it’s not on the sweet side which is I how prefer mine. The perfectly crafted Cafecito (Espresso to the “others”) with the right amount of espumita (creamy foam layer at the top) was the perfect end to my meal.
I have to thank Suzy Batlle, owner of Azucar Ice Cream Company, Steve Roitstein of the local band Palo! and Grace Della of Miami Culinary Tours for selling me on El Exquisito.
Now it’s my turn to sell you on it.
Make Yourself At Home:
El Exquisito Restaurant
1510 SW 8th Street, Miami, Florida 33135