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New Colombian restaurant adds to diversity on Coral Way Corridor

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In 1974, when Miami was not nearly the Latinized city it is today, Arturo Lopez opened Miami’s very first Colombian restaurant just north of downtown.

The native of Pereira, Colombia had been in this country just over five years, working various jobs in restaurants while saving money to open the restaurant, which he called La Fondita.

Back then, Miami did not have nearly the amount of Colombians it has today.

But there were a few. And my mom was one of them. And she remembers eating at La Fondita back in the day.

Lopez kept that restaurant for five years before he sold it and opened another restaurant in Little Havana called Monseratte, named after the highest mountain peak in Bogota famous for its Catholic church overlooking the city.

He then opened a couple of new restaurants under the same name in Doral while shutting the Little Havana restaurant down and spent more than 20 years serving Colombian food in West Miami-Dade.

Today, he has ventured back east after opening a third Monserrate on Miami’s Coral Way Corridor, an area rich with restaurants but surprisingly sparse on Colombian restaurants.

Occupying the location that was recently Mambo Café, a Cuban restaurant that lasted only three months despite receiving positive reviews (before that, it was Chocolate), Lopez didn’t waste any time in adding the Colombian touch.

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For example, in a giant mural that was supposed to represent Havana, Lopez had an artist add a bottle of aguardiente (Colombian liquor) and a chiva (colorful rustic party buses popular in Colombia).

“It used to be Havana but now it’s Cartagena,” he joked.

I’ve visited both Havana and Cartagena and he was right on the money. Both cities are famous for their city walls built by the Spaniards to ward off pirates.

I visited Monserrate with my mother on Tuesday, July 20, which happened to be Colombia’s Independence Day, 200 years since it won its independence from Spain to be exact.

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Just a few miles away, the Miami Tower, the city’s signature building, honored its Colombian citizens by lighting up the building in the red, yellow and blue colors of the Colombian flag.

We started off with a basket of empanadas, which are meat and potato pies that go for $ .95 each. Most every Latin culture has them but the Colombian empanadas use yellow corn meal in their dough unlike the other countries, giving it a distinct flavor.

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And you can’t have a Colombian empanada without adding aji, which is a Colombian salsa, not as spicy as Mexican salsa but it does have a subtle kick.

My mom, being the Bogota native, ordered the mondogo soup, which is tripe soup extremely popular in Bogota with its cold Andean climate.

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I’m a Miami native so I bypass the soup and head straight for the meats, ordering la picada, which is a sample platter consisting of several meats; carne asada (steak), chorizo (Colombian sausage), morcilla (blood sausage), chicarron (pork rinds), arepa (corn cake)and patacones (fried green plantains) that is meant to be shared between several people over drinks.

At $10.95, I was able to afford to add an order of papa criolla ($4.50), which are little round yellow potatoes that can only be found in Colombia, as far as I know. I order a Colombiana, which normally would mean a sexy Colombian woman but in this case, it’s just a Colombian soft drink.

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I ended up only half of la picada with my mom helping herself to a couple of nibbles before taking the rest home for my lunch today.

And we finished the meal off with a Colombian flan ($3.00), which was delicious with just the right amount of texture and sweetness. My mother, who is always dieting, couldn’t resist sticking her spoon in the flan before I could take a picture.

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The only other Colombian restaurant in the Coral Way Corridor is Al Carbon, which is a couple of blocks away, but that is not your tradition Colombian fare in that they don’t sell soups much to the dismay of my mother and the rest of my Colombian family whom I took there once when they were visiting.

But like Monserrate, Al Carbon makes an excellent picada. Only you’ll be paying a few dollars more over there.

All photos by Carlos Miller


Restaurante Monserrate
2093 Coral Way
Miami, Fl. 33145
(305) 856-8525

Related Categories: Miami: Food & Restaurant News, Miami: Things to Do,

Carlos Miller is a featured writer at Miami Beach 411. He also operates Photography is Not a Crime, a blog about photographer rights, New Media and First Amendment issues.

See more articles by Carlos Miller.

See more articles by Carlos Miller

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10 Comments on

"New Colombian restaurant adds to diversity on Coral Way Corridor"

Paula says:

Is this the same Monserrate that used to be on SW 12th Ave a few blocks off 8th St.? I used to go to that place all the time when I was in college and never knew it went to Doral. I’m checking this out soon! That picada looks insane.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 7:04 AM

Carlos Miller says:

Yes, Paula, that was several years ago. He closed that one down to concentrate on his Doral locations, but now he’s back in the neighborhood.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 9:28 AM

Under the Sun says:

I’ll def have to check it out ab order me a fritanga one of these days.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 9:36 AM

Maria de los Angeles says:

Do they serve ajiaco? I love that soup.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 10:53 AM

alda says:

I ate here about 1.5 weeks ago when I was looking for a place to live in Miami, and the food was fantastic! I had some chorizo, fried plantains, & I think the papa criolla, while both my parents ordered an entree that had rice cooked with different meats, all wrapped in a banana leaf…don’t remember what it was called, but everything was great. I’ll definitely be going back.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 1:31 PM

Mario says:

That picada made me hungry. I’m going to have to drop by.

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 2:02 PM

Carlos Miller says:

Maria,

According to their menu, they serve ajiaco on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday

Posted on 07/21/2010 at 8:06 PM

Edgar says:

Alda thats called ” Tamal “, Its a Colombian Traditional Meal (Its Rice and a mix of varies meats and Potatoes and some vegies in a masa (dough) and wrapped up in large Banana leaf, its a lot of work to make, but worth it.  When made its in made in large quantaties.
( We use to have many times for New Years ) buts its available all year around, Enjoy. I have to check it out when i go visit Miami soon,  I am from New York.

Posted on 07/22/2010 at 2:13 PM

MiamiCondoShop says:

Those photos are mouth watering! The picada in particular, though it’s the kind you typically find in Colombian-American restaurants and not the Picada Colombiana of Bogota. I definitely have to check it out one of these days. Thanks for sharing Carlos.

Posted on 07/25/2010 at 11:37 AM

Gaby Urdaneta says:

Miami Tower colors refers to the situation in VENEZUELA. Have nothing to do with Colombia. A group of Venezuelan made an effort ​​to achieve this, and thanks to Scott Tracy, Yalysher Ameng and Christian Melendez could obtained this support. We appreciate your cooperation in correcting this information, Venezuela is experiencing very difficult times.

Posted on 03/01/2014 at 1:39 AM

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