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El Corral : Colombian Burger is Worth the Wait

Like Miami, It Looks American, Is Decidedly Latin
February 17, 2013 By Matt Meltzer in Miami: Local NewsMiami: Food & Restaurant News  | 12 Comments

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Fast Food is the last thing you should call El Corral.

First, since it’s a Colombian burger chain a more appropriate monicker would be “Comida Rapida.” But more importantly, the new mega-burger spot to land in South Florida is neither low-quality nor served quickly.

BIG, QUALITY MEAT AND VEGGIES WITH FLAVOR

But step to the counter and you’ll quickly learn how El Corral, like so much of Miami, looks just like America but is decidedly Latin.

The counter people greet you in Spanish, which gives El Corral a more-authentic feel than a pimply-faced teenager. And correspondence in English, even by Miami standards, is decidedly difficult. So if you have a hankering for a burger and would like to brush up on your Espanol, this kills two birds with one Angus Certified stone.

The burgers come in two different varieties: Half pound patties or two quarter pounders. So either way you cut it, you’re in for 8 ounces of pure MEAT.  All are cooked to order so if you, like so many Latins, like your thick burgers cooked to a nice char, you’ll get it that way. Or, if you’re a gringo, they’ll make in your middle-American medium-rare too. The patties are also covered in some sort of secret Colombian spices, which make the flavor almost addictive.

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The meat is all certified Angus Beef , creating a higher-quality tasting burger than what one might consider Fast Food.

The selection of unusual toppings like guacamole, Italian tomato sauce and jalapenos have become dr rigeur now with the advent of the Whopper Bar. But while the term “Fresh” is thrown around a lot when talking about burger toppings, El Corral actually uses vegetables that taste like, unbelievably, VEGETABLES. Another aspect that puts them above what one might consider fast food.

UN HAMBURGUESA EN HORA LOCAL

And while El Corral certainly does not fit the figurative definition of fast food, it also does not fit the literal one. On the afternoon we went, 20 minutes after ordering we played the role of impatient gringos and went to the counter asking about our burgers.

“Ohhh,” the girl told us. “You ordered that half pound patty. That’s at LEAST 15 minutes.”

Latin time, folks. Latin time.

In a city where time is about as respected as traffic laws, El Corral’s penchant for slow food in a fast food atmosphere seems to bother nobody. The rumors of El Corral making its American debut buzzed around Miami for months, creating a great anticipation among South Americans familiar with its quality. And when El Corral finally opened its doors, it was met with lines usually reserved for pat downs at Estadio El Campin.

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The dining room is always full of relaxed-looking people feeling right at home. Whether they were taking a lunch break or taking the kids to lunch, the crowd on a weekday afternoon at El Corral not only filled nearly all the seats, but were all smiles. A little piece of home in a semi-foreign country can have that effect.

El Corral serves up as good a burger as you’ll find in Miami. As long as you’re not hung up on gourmet creations, fancy atmosphere, or time constraints, the meat flavor and ingredient quality are on par with any $20 hamburger you’ll find in this city. And while El Corral certainly isn’t the cheapest spot in town (a burger, fries and soda will run you about $15) it certainly is one of the best.

Related Categories: Miami: Local News, Miami: Food & Restaurant News,

About the Author: Matt Meltzer is a featured columnist at Miami Beach 411.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer.

See more articles by Matt Meltzer

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12 Comments on

"El Corral : Colombian Burger is Worth the Wait"

Juan Gaviria says:

You definitely have never been to El Corral in Colombia, once you go, you’ll find out that this place is not even close to the original El Corral…
I never buy at any junk at any fast food place like taco bell, burger king, etc., but THE REAL El corral is another story… i was expecting for this place to open but, El Corral Miami is not even close to the original in Colombia, I wasn’t expecting 100% the same flavor, but something similar… and didn’t happen, not only did not happen, the only 3 things similar to the original El Corral are the bun, the size and the tray’s paper and probably the uniforms, other than that, 0, nothing….. the meat’s flavor is not even close; from 1-10, 10 being close to the original el corral, I’ll give you a 3 being generous.. Not worth it and never going back… it’s a shame to put such company’s reputation on the line just to make some money… it’s not about price, or money, it’s about taste!! You need to go to Colombia and try the real flavor.

Posted on 02/21/2013 at 12:14 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

Who went brave ordering the shake ?

Posted on 02/21/2013 at 6:07 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

That was me. I figured burger place, must have decent shakes. I wasn’t a huge fan, though. Tasted more like straight Ice Cream.

Juan you’re sounding dangerously like one of those New Yorkers who comes down here and tells us how our versions of everything are inferior. You do realize that we have food sanitation laws here, and cannot allow our meat to sit out and be “flavored” by the natural environment like they can in Colombia, right? I’ve heard water bugs are quite tasty.

That said, if I ever do go to Colombia I’ll be sure to check it out and see. As it is I liked this a lot.

Posted on 02/21/2013 at 8:07 PM

Juan Vargas says:

Too expensive for being fast food and selfservice place. For less money, actually almost half of it you can go to TGIF and eat a burger marinated in Jack Daniels way better than this corral. If you want better places I can recommend others.

El corral al igual que en Colombia es muy costoso para ser una hamburguesa cualquiera, no le auguro ningun futuro con esos precios. Por lo visto no aprendieron de Charlies Roastbeef que tambien estuvo en South Beach y quebro. No recomiendo ir a este sitio bajo ningun motivo a menos que quiera pagar el doble que otro lado donde seguro no va a ser en el formato de autoservicio.

Posted on 02/22/2013 at 1:01 AM

Miguel Blanco. says:

Hey Matt, saying that is extremely ignorant of you, I hope you do realize we also have food sanitation laws and actually many of the restaurants fulfill HACCP standards (Google it, some of the highest standards internationally), we don’t “allow our meat to sit out and be “flavored” by the natural environment”, at least it doesn’t happen in any legal restaurant, as a cook I’ve heard and seen more sanitation rules being broken in the US than in Colombia, so please, get off the high horse, I’m not sure what crazy concept you have about our country.

Posted on 02/23/2013 at 4:31 PM

Pedro says:

Colombia is not what ignorant people think it is. Hamburguesas el Corral is the best hamburger in Colombia. It will be a piece of Colombia in the States wink enjoy it

Posted on 02/24/2013 at 6:42 PM

Tom Kazansky says:

at the begining i really enjoyed ur comments about el corral, i don’t expect it taste the same and everything, but well it is kind of a little piece of colombia over there. And then i read this “You do realize that we have food sanitation laws here, and cannot allow our meat to sit out and be “flavored” by the natural environment like they can in Colombia, right? I’ve heard water bugs are quite tasty”. and i realized that ur just and ignorant stupid little piece of shit!... i have many good friends from the united states but guys like u makes me sick, and when i see things like this i can’t keep wondering “do this little son of bitches even go to school?”... man u don’t worth the value of nothing, i don’t even know how the hell do they let u write here ASSHOLE!... and MATT i’m gonna bomb every article u ever wrote and in this fucking world….. prick!

Posted on 02/24/2013 at 9:43 PM

Cordoba says:

Matt, just to say that you have to be really ignorant to talk like about a country without being there.  Hope u have the opportunity to travel around the world and open your mind.  Maybe you will learn that there is something beyond writing blogs about fast food.  And with respect, you should be really ignorant as professional, to talk like that about the people that is reading your blog.  Your succes is that I knew about this article because of your stupid comment not because the content of it. As Juan says, it is just expected that flavor and quality is not gonna be the same when you open a new branch in other country or even city in the same country.  It is like the food cooked by your mother; not even the best chef will do it in the same way.

Posted on 02/24/2013 at 10:02 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

Who remembers the movie, ROMANCING THE STONE ?

If you remember, there was a scene that depicted public transportation in Colombia. Remember now ? ....that scene on a Colombian “chiva” bus showcasing it’s passengers with their chickens and pigs onboard going to market. Though I haven’t seen it with my own eyes in Colombia, I’ve witnessed that event in other parts of Latin America. I don’t doubt that depiction really exists in parts of Colombia. Kind of seen what Matt depicts for myself in a carneceria near Cali and other cities in that hemisphere and Mexico. Aerating the goods is not an unusual scene. Similar to how Publix mistreats it’s produce. This can happen anywhere…and it does. Hello horse meat.

That said, I really hated Spielberg going there. It was an unfair depiction of Colombia as a whole. I couldn’t blame when my Colombian friends protested. A few years later, Spielberg did it again, this time it hit closer to home. I’m of Costa Rican decent. There is coastal scene in Jurassic Park. Spielberg did his homework enough to display a Imperial Beer sign in the scene. Where he failed was his appliocation of Mariachi music to the scene and an underlying caption this was taking place in San Jose. Anyone familiar with geography knows Costa Rica’s capital is inland.

It’s popular depictions as I mentioned that give the wrong impression to the American public about Latin America….however, it has a grain of truth and is also far off the mark at the same time. We are after all we’re discussing here an establishment with the requisite to meet standards that have to meet governmental standards and not of a “mercado central” in the pueblo in the outskirts.

That said, even though I have been emotionally invested in El Corral USA coming to it’s fruition over the last four years, I’m also a personal friend of Matt. I have no qualms with what Matt said because I know the guy. It’s more an issue of understanding his style over the years, or maybe knowing that this guy that wooed the hispanic female viewing public during his dance segment on ” Sabado Gigante.”

Though his persona of ” White Dade” might have over taken him on his response to Juan Vargas, He liked the product and gave a favorable detailed review. I expect the same Matt if he happens to review Umami’s SoBe debut this Spring. No doubt he’ll still be his sarcastic self, but at the expense of Shake Shack. Look forward to that, as I’m already a Umami proponent…having that experience more than once.

As for the product itself, their wheels just touched down and you have to give them time. Also a price adjustment of -$1.20 per meal would be nice and fair.

Posted on 02/26/2013 at 9:57 PM

Matt Meltzer says:

Oh man. I love the fact that I can start a riot in an article about friggin hamburgers. Y’all are too easy.

As soon as I read “u don’t worth the value of nothing” I pretty much stopped reading.

Blackford gets it. If you all can’t take a joke about your country, lighten up.

Posted on 02/27/2013 at 1:12 PM

Blackford Oakes says:

There’s some credence to some of the commentary about a variance of the product as compared the original. Not specifically to El Corral, but in general.

My best case in-point is the popular Tommy’s in LA- A local institution. Since a child I was conditioned by the the original shack on Rampart & Beverly. When they franchised, a location became available closer to home. After one try and then again, it was nowhere the same. In-fact, a huge disapointment. What gave ? I can’t explain but it could as simple as different equipment used.

Since then, I only go back to the old shack, even if that means I have to eat my burger standing in the parking lot as there is no seating and that location doesn’t provide any indoor setting.

Distribution wasn’t a factor as these franchises are relatively close. As Miami is over 1500 mi from El Corral’s HQ, it is silly to assume the distribution partners will be the same. That would invite the $50 burger and a tired product.

With the horrendous news that horsemeat is slipping into our US fast-food chain, we can relax in knowing El Corral uses 100% certified product and is still way superior to the Big Three.

*****

As an aside; an uncle in Costa Rica insisted that Panamanian chickens perform better in a sancocho than tico chickens, He actually had friends near the border bring him these southern birds on visits to satisy that delicate palate. Though I didn’t have an opportunity to try this theory with imported chickens, the sancocho I’ve tried in Panama is vastly superor to any I’ve tried…and the ingredients were exact.

Same would hold true even if comparing a cucumber sandwich on either side of the pond

So yes, a variance is the norm, so why the bewilderment ?

Posted on 03/02/2013 at 7:05 AM

Michael Butler says:

Hahaha, loving you all, I love the time I went to Colombia and tried authentic food. Never had a Colombian burger. Gees, I wouldnt bother the burger part since I’ve had some big ol Texas or Alabama burgers. But Not any place on earth has as good Coconut Rice and Platano dishes like the Caribbean parts of Colombia. Ive been to so many countries but Colombia has stood out as the overall best in food next to only the United States for me. Given that statement I would not spend much on a Colombian burger. Rather have a rack of Ribs or a Texas burger for a tad less.

Posted on 04/02/2013 at 8:07 PM

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