BEST PLACE TO TAKE OUT-OF-TOWNERS - 2002
Rancho Don Goyo
Readers' Choice: South Beach
If they're visiting from out of town, there's a good chance they're not familiar with the word guajiro. In Cuba it's the name given to country folk, that island nation's noble peasants. Rancho Don Goyo, a rustic retreat in Miami's own countryside, keeps the guajiro spirit alive on Saturdays and Sundays, when Cuban immigrant Gregorio Arensibia, better known as Don Goyo, throws open the gates to his two-acre ranch and invites in the world. Bring your guests here and let them experience a peculiar and exotic aspect of Miami: This really is not the U.S.A. From noon until roughly 10:00 p.m. South Florida residents hailing from all over Latin America gather for food, drink, music, and dance in an atmosphere that feels a lot like home, whether that was Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, or Cuba. Rancho Don Goyo is marked by an unassuming sign on the north side of Okeechobee Road (U.S. 27) beyond the turnpike, after it opens up under a big sky and a landscape of broad fields. (If you reach the junction with Krome Avenue you've gone too far.) A dusty side road takes you to a makeshift parking lot, then on to the heart of the place -- a ramshackle general store and an immense open-air restaurant where patrons enjoy their beers along with a tempting variety of freshly grilled meats and tangy side dishes. When live bands aren't playing, the jukebox kicks in. Either way the dance floor will always be occupied. If possible try to be there on a Sunday afternoon when local enthusiasts of punto guajiro take to the stage. Punto guajiro is a Cuban musical invention of improvised lyrics set to the poetic decima, a traditional Spanish form favored by itinerant troubadours of yore. At Don Goyo's the tradition lives with an exuberance that requires no translation. Fun and games and barnyard animals for the kids. Ice-cold cervezas and back-slapping camaraderie for the adults. And a very special treat for your out-of-town guests.