On the corner of West Flagler Street in Little Havana, Edukos serves arepitas, hot ceviche, and alligator sliders. About a block from Marlins Park, this cozy, industrially designed tavern isn't the place for a postgame burger and beer. Categorized as a Venezuelan-American gastropub, Edukos, which opened in early May, is a restaurant for the adventuresome.
Edukos encourages diners to try new foods and build unique experiences. Playing off its name, "educo" — Latin for “to lead and to draw out" — founder/owner John Guilarte brings much more than an average eatery to Miami's Cuban neighborhood.
"When you're introduced to our belief system, we want you to change and grow together with us," Guilarte says. "We are a new American contemporary tavern with glimpses of Venezuelan flavors fused with American pub favorites."
The restaurant has slowly grown a steady stream of business. Some nights are quieter than others, Guilarte says. To him, patience is key. With time, he believes he'll be able to attract a large group of loyal customers. In the meantime, he's concentrating on creating quality food and finding ways to let Miamians know about Edukos, which has been surrounded by street construction.
The best way to understand Guilarte's concept is to taste his food. The menu ($10 to $15) works from left to right, where recognizable foods are labeled on the left side and more daring and unusual plates are listed in the middle and on the right.
To the left, find arepitas, where mini cheese arepas are garnished with a chicken salad containing almonds and avocados; and tequeños, Venezuelan-style cheese sticks served with a cilantro aioli dipping sauce. For something lighter, there's a smoked greens plate, which stuffs zucchini with seasonal vegetables, herbs, and cheese.
In terms of more eccentric dishes, pair the "Seminole snack," in which three small alligator sliders are smothered with blueberry chutney, salsa criolla, and siracha mayo, with a bowl of creamy red polenta topped with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. The menu continues with shrimp skewers served over a seafood broth and a poached egg, as well as hot ceviche, where fried pieces of fish are marinated in a chef's spicy home recipe.
For dessert, stick with the traditional. Try biscuit poppers, similar to doughnut holes, filled with chicha cream and served with a dark-brown caramel sauce. There's also a vegan creme brûlée made with coffee and coconut milk.
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"I believe that in a comfortable environment, you're more likely to try something different," Guilarte says. "It's all about intimacy here. Come on a date or bring a small group of friends."
He says food and drink offerings might rotate at any point. He plans to revisit his menu eight to ten times a year, giving customers a reason to return for new culinary experiences.
After five years as a brand manager for an international rum company, Guilarte, a Venezuelan who grew up in Orlando, wanted to blend his love for drinks with homestyle food. He began in 2014 and spent more than a year just on Edukos' branding. Afterward, he concentrated on small-scale food-and-drink popups. Nearly three years later, he looks forward to sharing Edukos with the public.
1701 W. Flagler St., Suite 101, Miami; 786-452-0488; edukosmiami.com. Tuesday through Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight.