Cuban Guys in Hialeah

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And Then There Was Westchester, Florida….

El Rey de las Fritas

Welcome
Welcome

If you’ve read my blog over the last 5 years for any stretch of time or followed me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter I’m sure you’ve noticed my multiple shout outs to Westchester. My family moved to Westchester from New York City (where I was born) when I was about a year and a half old. Before I go any further I should probably let you know what exactly is considered Westchester, from Bird Road (SW 40th St) to Sw 8th St and from the Palmetto Expressway to SW 117th Avenue (Turnpike).

I attended Rockway Elementary School and later on graduated from St. Brendan High School. I grew up going to Bird Bowl (still there), riding my bike with my sister at Tropical Park and watching movies at the multiple movie theaters in Westchester (of which none are left). During March we would always go to the Dade County Youth Fair at Tamiami Park, also located in Westchester.

My family frequented the legendary Lila’s as one of our weekly nights eating out. I tried my first Croqueta casera (homemade) at the Latin American that used to be on SW 97th Avenue and Coral Way and an addict was born. I would buy Pasteles with my late grandfather every Sunday at his favorite spot, La Suiza (still standing). One of my grandfather’s all time favorite spots was Casa Paco which is still around and I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t been there once in the ten years since the passing of my Abuelo, it’s probably time that I change that.

Even my first business, a little horror themed movie shop called Oh, The Horror DVD Shoppe was located in beautiful Westchester.

I’m a Westchester kinda guy, I always will be.

Here are some of the iconic eating establishments located in Westchester that you NEED to check out:

Nunzio’s Ristorante – Nunzio’s has been around forever, or at least the 1970’s. I do remember it being originally located right off of Coral Way and SW 97th Avenue before that crazy fire at Sedano’s in the mid-80’s that did some real damage the strip mall where Nunzio’s was. This place is old school and it’s like walking into a relative’s living room. Of course folks come here for the Pizza and Pasta dishes but it’s their dessert, the Zuppetta which is a grand slam (think an ice cream version of a 3 Musketeers bar).

Nunzio's Ristorante
Nunzio’s Ristorante
Nunzio's Zuppetta
Nunzio’s Zuppetta

Rio Cristal – The minute you step into Rio Cristal you wonder if you’ve walked through a time portal to the early ’80s but that really is part of its charm. Unfortunately Rio Cristal’s founder Jose C. Acosta or Pepe as he was known to all passed recently, he was also the founder of Lila’s and the creator of one of the most visually arresting dishes in South Florida, the Palomilla Steak hidden under a mound of Papitas (Fries) aka #39. The other must have is their Flan, it’s ridiculous.

Rio Cristal
Rio Cristal
Rio Cristal's Papitas
Rio Cristal’s Papitas

Pincho Factory – Pincho Factory is by far the youngest of all the establishments I’m featuring but over the last year it’s also received more press than all the other spots combined. What started as a joke amongst family at a BBQ has become a local sensation. There are currently two spots open, the original in Westchester and Coral Gables with the Hialeah location coming at the end of the summer of 2014. Pinchos are kebabs and the original menu revolved around them. No one knew that the crazy Burger creations would take on a life of their own which propelled them into the national spotlight with television appearances including Travel Channel’s Burgerland where I proudly said “Beautiful Westchester Florida”. My go to is either the Buffalo Chicken or the Double Pincho Burger with Cheese, Grilled Onions & Mustard.

Pincho Factory
Pincho Factory
Pincho Factory's Double Pincho Cheeseburger
Pincho Factory’s Double Pincho Cheeseburger

El Rey de las Fritas – El Rey de las Fritas’ only Westchester location is in the same strip mall as Bird Bowl.  If you’re thinking when you drive by, why are those people hanging around the outside of El Rey it’s because they don’t fit inside, lol. The menu at this particular El Rey de las Fritas is made up mostly of sandwiches so of course I’m ok with that. I don’t think I need to tell you what you should order but I will anyway, La Frita Original. Don’t know what a Frita is? Read up on it.

El Rey de las Fritas
El Rey de las Fritas
El Rey de las Fritas' La Original Frita Cubana
El Rey de las Fritas’ La Original Frita Cubana

Frankie’s Pizza – You wanna talk iconic, now this is the place. And you can’t drive by and not stare up at the sign and reminisce about it and how beautiful it is. Frankie’s has been around so long that when they opened up my parents were just 2 years old. My godmother would buy us (my sister and I) Pizza from Frankie’s as a special weekend treat and now many years later, I’m still a fan of not only Frankie’s but also of its owners Renee and Roxanne, super cool folks. I’m in love with the Pepperoni Slices at Frankie’s, real love not that love at first sight nonsense.

Frankie's Pizza
Frankie’s Pizza
Frankie's Pizza Slice of Pepperoni
Frankie’s Slice of Pepperoni

Arbetter’s Hot Dogs – I mean where do I start? I’ve visited Arbetter’s more than any other restaurant on this list. Whenever I drive by my car always thinks we’re going to Arbetter’s and wants to turn in. I try to keep the peace by eating there, I don’t want any problems. I always always always get the CCOM, that’s Chili Cheese Onion Mustard to you newbies. And I always wash those down with an order of the Chili Cheese Fries.

Arbetters Hot Dogs
Arbetters Hot Dogs
Arbetter's Chili Cheese Dogs
Arbetter’s Chili Cheese Dogs

La Carreta – You ever watch the news when either there’s a South Florida sports team celebration or a disturbance in the Cuban community and wonder where this madness with pots & pans is occurring?  This is the place. I haven’t sat down and eaten inside of this particular location in years but I do like to go to the ventanita (window) and have a Cafecito (expresso) and some Croquetas to go, the way it should be. This is a very Westchester experience.

La Carreta
La Carreta
La Carreta's Croquetas
La Carreta’s Croquetas

Tropical Chinese – I’ve never eaten at Tropical Chinese but it’s very important I include it. I know many a people who think this is the best Chinese Food in South Florida and make a trek here just to have the Dim Sum. It’s about time I check it out, don’t you think?

Tropical Chinese
Tropical Chinese

These 8 spots are great but they’re just the tip of the iceberg in Westchester. Here are some other spots you should check out & what I suggest you try: 3 Chefs & a Chicken (Chefen), Don Domingo (Where to buy Meat for Grilling), El Floridita (Croquetas, Empanadas & Tostones Rellenos), El Palacio de los Jugos (Chicharrones or a Fresh Juice), Graziano’s (Parillada), La Sin Rival (Pastelitos or a Croqueta), Luis Galindo Latin American (Medianoche, Bistec ala Milanesa & Croquetas), Mao (Maicito) Sarussi (Sarussi Churrasco Sub or a Croqueta), Sergios’s (Pan con Tortilla or a Croqueta), SpecialTEA Lounge (any of the Baked Goods), Sports Grill (Special Grilled Wings), Tasca de España (Tapas or almost anything off of the Indian Menu)……you get the idea.

I found out about this “Insider Contest” called It’s So Miami and thought it might be cool to write about Westchester, hoping to spread the good word. What’s your favorite South Florida neighborhood?

Jot These Down:

Bird Bowl
9275 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-221-1221

Tropical Park
7900 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33155
305-226-8316

La Suiza
8566 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33144
305-262-7376

Casa Paco
8868 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-554-7633

Luis Galindo Latin American #2
10700 Coral Way Miami, Florida 33165
305-227-7002

Nunzio’s Ristorante
11433 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-221-6091

Rio Cristal
9872 SW 40th St Miami, Florida 33165
305-223-2357

Pincho Factory
9860 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-631-2038

El Rey de las Fritas
9343 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-223-9944

Frankie’s Pizza
9118 Bird Rd, Miami, FL 33165
305-221-0221

Arbetter’s Hot Dogs
8747 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-207-0555

La Carreta
8650 SW 40th St Miami, Florida 33156
305-553-8383

Tropical Chinese
7991 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33155
305-262-7576

3Chefs & a Chicken
8195 SW 40th St Miami, FL 33155
305-267-3011

Don Domingo
3101 SW 107th Ave Miami, FL 33165
305-229-9666

El Floridita
8393 Bird Rd, Miami, FL 33155
305-221-1511

El Palacio de los Jugos
9095 SW 40th St Miami, FL 33165
305-636-0832

Graziano’s
9227 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-225-0008

La Sin Rival Bakery
9772 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33174
305-559-9777

Mao Colombian Fast Food
8438 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33155
305-551-0506

Sarussi Cafe Subs
9836 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-551-4855

Sarussi Restaurant
10600 SW 8th St Miami, FL 33174
305-207-6060

Sergio’s
9330 SW 40th St, Miami, Florida 33165
305-552-9626

SpecialTEA Lounge
10766 SW 24th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-554-8327

Sports Grill
11481 SW 40th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-485-8845

Tasca de España
8770 SW 24th St, Miami, FL 33165
305-552-0082

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