Delicious Delicias

These bottom-of-the-page reviews tend to focus on informal, inexpensive dining options that aren't even restaurants per se. Delicias de España certainly fits that description. Located just off the intersection of Red and Bird roads (next door to the nifty Fifties luncheonette Picnics at Allen's), this Spanish bakery, café, take-out shop, and Spanish-import grocery and wine store will never be confused with a fine-dining establishment. But don't let that distinction trick you: The cuisine served up in this humble 65-seat room equals, and I daresay surpasses, many a more serious restaurant.

I'm speaking in particular of the daily seafood specials listed on Delicias' chalkboard menu (which hangs over the display cases of food amid paella pans and serrano hams). Lubina, a mild, white-fleshed Mediterranean fish, comes a la plancha, the fillet grilled and topped with slivered crisps of garlic that have been lightly sizzled in olive oil, a squeeze of lemon completing the perfect trifecta of flavors; fried potato slices on the side have the same golden glow as the garlic. I've not had a fresher, more rewarding plate of fish in any restaurant this year. Like most of the daily seafood entrées, the lubina, with salad or potatoes, costs $14. A hot, crunchy little roll that comes on the side costs 50 cents extra.

Delicias offers a printed listing of more than 100 Spanish specialties, 8 of which are selected and featured each day on the aforementioned chalkboard (you can also order any item in advance). Dorada, merluza, and bacalao are other oft-offered fish, and on any occasion may come fried, baked, or grilled. Meat dishes might consist of baked pork chops, veal stew, or juicy morsels of cochinillo al horno (roasted piglet). There is usually a rice dish as well, such as arroz con pollo or, on Sundays, paella de mariscos.


Delicias de Espaa

4016 Red Rd, South Miami

305-669-4485. Open Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Delicias is most crowded during weekend breakfasts and weekday lunches, at which times the space exudes an electrified air of excitement (it doesn't exude much spoken English, but the staff is friendly and willing to aid you in your selections). As far as dining goes, you can show up just about anytime and be rewarded. At 7:00 a.m. the espresso machine is already steaming up, as sleepy-eyed patrons straggle in for a tortilla española, or eggs scrambled with serrano ham, or huevos a la flamenca -- eggs baked in a cazuela of tomato sauce, ham, and sausage. At lunch they munch on octopus in vinaigrette or potato salad bound with aioli, or grab a small, premade sandwich (bocadillo) from the countertop for a quick pick-me-up.

Some sip soup -- from garbanzos with bacalao, to cream of seafood, to a richly pleasing chorizo-stocked caldo gallego. I like the pastel de salmón, a three-decker mayonnaise-bound vegetable-salad sandwich wrapped in smoked salmon -- it makes for a perfect midafternoon snack, light enough that you can linger afterward over a cup of coffee and one of the gorgeous little desserts that absolutely glitter in their glass display cases. Delicias is, more than anything else, a bakery -- flan and crema catalana are creamy as dreams, the individual tarts as fresh as in any French pâtisserie. Breads are baked every half hour.

Owners Ernesto Llerandi and Isabel Miranda opened Delicias four years ago. Before moving here Llerandi owned a successful restaurant in the Dominican Republic, but he's originally from Asturias, a province of northern Spain. Specialties from that region often embellish the menu, including pote Asturiano, a stew of bacon, beans, and cabbage; and fabada Asturiana, a white-bean stew chock full of ham and sausage. If this latter dish is not available when you arrive, you can buy a can of it, or even an apron with the fabada recipe printed on it, in the adjacent Spanish-import store.

You'll want to peruse the aisles of this shop after you eat or while waiting for a table, if for no other reason than to admire the more than 200 Spanish wines, sherries, and ports. There also are jars of imported white asparagus, olives, and olive oils, along with a plethora of Spanish chorizos and cheeses. Now that you've reached the very bottom of the page, put Delicias de España at the top of your list of informal, inexpensive, not-even-a-restaurant-per-se dining options. You can thank me later.


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