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Miami Croqueta Crawl Combines Old School Cuba With Social Media

Most Americans who grew up outside of Miami have never heard of a croqueta, much less tasted one.

But the common Cuban staple that is sold in restaurants and bakeries throughout Miami is actually a popular international food item invented in France where they were called croquettes. There are now different variations eaten in Spain, Russia, England and even the United States.

But in the United States, we call them crabcakes.

The Cuban croqueta essentially consists of ham, breadcrumbs, parsley and onions. You can also find chicken, codfish and cheese croquetas at most walk-up windows of Cuban restaurants to go with your ultra-strong shot of Cuban coffee.

For those of us who grew up in Miami, the croqueta is a quick, cheap snack that can be eaten at all times of the day or ordered as an appetizer to a larger meal.

I prefer my croquetas between Saltines with a dash of Tabasco sauce.

Some people prefer them without the crackers or others like them in the crackers with ketchup or lime juice.

So obviously there is no general consensus on how croquetas should be eaten, much less who has the best croqueta in Miami.

Naturally, there are constant arguments over who serves the best croqueta.

On Sunday, a group of Miami tweeters decided to settle the debate. At least partially.

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We visited five establishments where they served us piles of croquetas, then we voted on the ones we liked the best. Addresses and phone numbers of the locations are listed below (after the photos).

Organized by Liza Walton, the Croqueta Crawl was sponsored by General Motors, which meant we got to pile in various GM models, including a Cadillac Escalade, as we made our way to each croqueta place.

My Old Battle Ground

We started off at Versailles, which is ground zero for anything Cuban. It is the place where Cubans gather to celebrate every time it is announced Castro has died. It is also the place where journalists go when they need a quote from a Cuban because apparently you can’t find Cubans anywhere else in Miami.

Not surprisingly, I have my own history with Versailles, including once when I was assaulted for shooting video during a protest.

But that’s another story altogether. Lucky, they didn’t ban me for shoving their security guard back after he slapped my camera down. We let the small things slide down here.

Versailles also won the Miami New Times 2010 Best of Miami Award for best croqueta.

After Versailles, we drove down to Isla Canarias, who won the 2009 Burgies Award for best croqueta.

Then to El Brazo Fuerte bakery, which won the 2010 Miami New Times Best of Miami award for best bakery.

Then to Ricky Bakery on Coral Way, then to Gilbert’s Bakery also on Coral Way, which won the 2008 Miami New Times award for best croqueta.

So clearly, we had gathered a strong selection of contenders with every one of them having won some type of award except for Ricky Bakery.

Well, Ricky Bakery took the prize this time with a majority of tweeters voting it the best traditional croquetas, best non-traditional croquetas for its cheese and spinach croquetas and best hospitality for Ricky’s gregarious personality (and for allowing me back in the kitchen to photograph and videotape him fry the croquetas).

He also impressed Maria de los Angeles with his biceps.

You got a love a place where the owner is frying the croquetas himself – even if it was just for our benefit.

Photos and video by Carlos Miller

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Above: Ham croquetas at Versailles

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Above: Steve Roistein of PALO! which provided the soundtrack for the afternoon and for my video (yes, an American Jew who plays Afro-Cuban music).

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Above: Adding to the old Cuban vibe was this 1956 Plymouth Belvedere, which belongs to CB Gaines, one of the tweeters who joined us on the crawl.

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Above: Parked in front of Islas Canarias

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Above: Croquetas at Islas Canarias

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Above: Sean O’Hanlon at Islas Canarias

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Above: Liza Walton (left), organizer of the Croqueta Crawl, with Islas Canarias family members

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Above: One of the owners of El Brazo Fuerte

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Above: Cheese croqueta at El Brazo Fuerte

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Above: Riding in the Cadillac Escalade with its OnStar navigational system

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Above: The winner in all three categories; best traditional croquetas, best non-traditional croquetas and best hospitality

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Above: Fresh from the fryer at Ricky Bakery

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Above: Midtown Chic-a lounging and tweeting at Ricky Bakery

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Above: Reaching for croquetas at Ricky Bakery

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Above: The croqueta presentation at Gilbert’s Bakery

Versailles
3555 SW 8 St.
Miami, Fl. 33135
(305) 444-0240

Islas Canarias
285 NW 27 Ave.
Miami, Fl. 33125
(305) 649-0440

El Brazo Fuerte Bakery
1697 SW 32 Ave.
Miami, Fl. 33145
(305) 444-7720

Ricky Bakery

3115 Coral Way
Miami, Fl. 33145
(786) 552-9494

Gilbert’s Bakery

3340 Coral Way
Miami, Fl. 33145
(305) 442-2427

 

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

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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1 Comments on

"Miami Croqueta Crawl Combines Old School Cuba With Social Media"

LOLY MARTINEZ says:

I LIVE IN MIAMI BEACH, AND THERE IS NOT ANY CAFETERIA OR CUBAN BAKERY TO GET THOSE CROQUETAS OR ANY OTHER CUBAN FOOD, LIKE IN MIAMI WHERE THERE ARE IN ALMOST EVERY CORNER….?????????

Posted on 02/16/2011 at 6:46 PM

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