In our goal to offer a variety of opinions and "voices" covering the Miami food scene, MIAbites welcomes Andrew Giambarba @AndyMiami to our growing list of talented contributors!
The gathering wonderfully represented the Miami of today. Three men, from three different countries, successful in their respective fields, gathered midweek at 7 pm for dinner.
If you were to guess the meal choice of these three 40-somethings (and more), would you think something appropriate to their stage in life? Aged steaks? High-end sushi? Something stuffy and predictable?
How about the “Frita Showdown”?
Yup. These three men, with all their maturity and professional veneer, unabashedly ate 6 fritas EACH! Their only break came as they took a photo of each one and discussed its merits. And they weren’t alone. Hundreds of other Miamians showed up for what has become an eagerly anticipated annual event.
Welcome to the amazing event known as Burger Beast’s “Frita Showdown”, where lovers of the Cuban Frita come from all over South Florida to the Magic City Casino for a frita party. The event is the brainchild of local food blogger, genuine great guy and legendary Miami foodie, Sef Gonzalez. Sef and his BurgerBeast.com blog have chronicled the local food scene for years. To paraphrase the country song, “Sef was a Miami foodie before being a Miami foodie was cool.”
On Wednesday night, @gourmandj, @hfvincit and I showed up to the Frita Showdown like most – having eaten many a frita in our lives – and excited to try a few more. We left with full stomachs, the satisfaction of knowing which frita was the best, and the question we kept repeating:
“Did We Really Just Do That?”
The local restaurants offering their fritas at the Showdown were: El Rey de las Fritas, who was defending their title from last year, Bread and Butter, Latin House Grill, Cuban Guys, Finka Table & Tap and El Mago de las Fritas.
Adding to the event with their own significant contributions were a collaboration between Pincho Factory and Rio Cristal (a croqueta “frita” with Rio Cristal fries); Sangria from Sangria Don Chu, pastelitos from Fantastic Pastelitos (Nutella pastelitos! Available for delivery!!) and treats from Gilbert’s Bakery & Sweetness Bake Shop & Café.
For the second year of an event, this is an event that runs very smoothly. Sef gets the credit for putting the effort into creating a foodie event where you can actually do what you came to do: EAT. There is a copious amount of parking, a smooth check-in, lots of tables to sit at, and plenty of A/C. Other events could take notes from his playbook.
The only wait we experienced was when vendors would empty one tray of fritas and wait for the next from the kitchen. No issues there. It gave us a chance to digest!
The contest itself was a battle between the two traditional frita “institutions” and the four newer upstarts. On almost all counts, the traditional establishments (El Rey and El Mago) won over their newer competitors. At least at our table, the consensus was that the consistency of the bread, the seasoning mix and the balance of flavors favored El Rey de las Fritas, followed by El Mago de las Fritas in our 2nd place. Notable, however, was the frita from Bread and Butter due to their inclusion of cilantro – we all liked that twist.
Our personal experiences were validated by the Judges Panel that included Chef Richard Hales (of Sakaya and Blackbrick Chinese), John Kunkel (50 Eggs Group: Yardbird, Swine, Khong), Chef Jose Mendin (of the Pubbelly Empire) and Roxanne Vargas from NBC6. They found El Rey to be the winner of Miami’s Best Frita. The People’s Choice balloting also selected El Rey de las Fritas – garnering them a clean sweep of both awards.
In case you missed the event, you can do a Frita crawl of your own, or go straight to one of the four locations of the winner, El Rey de las Fritas:
· (New Location)10142 W. Flagler St.Miami, FL 33174;
· Little Havana- 1821 SW 8th St(btwn SW 18th & SW 19th Ave)Miami, FL 33135;
· Bird Rd- 9343 SW 40th StMiami, FL 33165;
· Hialeah- 421 W 29th StHialeah, FL 33012.
After an event that successful, most of us would relax, but Sef and his team are gearing up for… Croquetapalooza! This could be every bit as monumental a Miami food event as the Frita Showdown! You can be sure that MIAbites will be there. And you can be sure that after trying every croqueta possible, we will also be asking ourselves:
“Did We Really Just Do That...Again?”