Cuban Guys, a new fast-food concept in Hialeah (3174 W 76th Street), celebrated its grand opening last night, so you can get your frita on -- quickly and frequently. Owned in part by fast food industry veteran Jorge Llapur, Isaac Sklar (an architect who designed the iconic Pollo Tropical restaurants), and "The King of Spanglish Media," radio and television star Enrique Santos, the restaurant merges traditional flavors with a modern environment.
Cuban Guys has unofficially been open for a few months now but, honestly, we had never heard of the place. (Mostly because visiting Hialeah for a foodie gringa is as foreign a concept as going on a starvation diet. Not happening.) But when Llapur sent us the following email, we just couldn't resist:
"I was reading your article on Chef Cabrera's new venture and I want to share our concept with you. We already have a fast food concept with an open kitchen that features the frita and all traditional Hispanic sandwiches. In addition to the delicious sandwiches, Cuban Guys offers traditional sides like yucca frita, plantain chips, garden-fresh salads and the already famous Cuban bowls (rice and beans YUMMMY). [Ed's note: yes, he did indeed write the word "yummy."]
"I would love to invite you over to introduce you to our new concept. Looking forward to hearing from you."
What's a gal to do? Why, she has to call chef Alberto Cabrera, the guy who just told her all about his new Frita Shop concept, and drag him over for a little peek and friendly competition chatter.
Cabrera's concept is different, he says. First, Frita Shop will be drive-through only. Secondly, he'll offer more chef-driven cuisine, focused more on flavor than strikingly low price points. However, some of the similarities were obvious: both places tout breakfast served all day, open kitchens, and fritas worthy of note and delivered on the fly.
As for the taste of the fast food frita at Cuban Guys, well... of course, Cabrera thought his version would be much better, though he and his dining partner agreed that this new resto did a fine job. The patty, though thin, had good flavor. (Llapur wouldn't divulge whether or not he used chorizo in the mix, claiming "a fritero never tells his secret.") And the gents confirmed that the shoestring potatoes were, in fact, fresh and homemade. We found the sandwich a bit too starchy altogether, but heck -- that's what you get when you ask someone raised on pastrami deli sandwiches to judge a Cuban frita.
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Also on the menu with the $3.50 original frita were the pan con bistec (steak sandwich), pan con lechon (pork) and media noche for $4.99, along with salads ($1.99-$5.99), fresh juices (guava, watermelon, and mango were offered on the day of our visit), and coffee drinks made with Café Bustelo. Even three flavors of flan -- regular, cappuccino, and guava -- were available, along with a few kids meals. But the item we'd most like to try is the Cuban bowl, starring a meat of choice atop white rice, black beans, chopped sweet plantains, and those delicioso shoestrings. Even if it meant we'd have to schlep all the way back to Hialeah.