Ever stop by a Cuban abuela's house and the first thing she says is: "¡Mi hijo! ¡Pero estás tan flaco!" Before you can protest, she's serving you a heaping pile of ropa vieja on top of black beans and rice with a huge slice of yuca on the side. Well, that's what ordering a plate at Maruch is like. This Hialeah culinary institution doesn't know how to serve delicious Cuban dishes any other way. A lunch or dinner for one runs about $15 with a soft drink. For the adventuresome foodie, order the riñonada, calabaza, and fufu de plátano. The sweet flavor of the pumpkin and plantain provides a nice contrast to the steak's salty succulence. Or go for the rabo encendido, the Cuban version of oxtail soup, which patrons gobble up on sight. For diners seeking a safe pick, Maruch serves large slices of chuleta de puerco (pork chop) and palomilla steaks that can be paired with moros (black beans and rice) or cristianos (red beans and rice) for less than $12. A cantina-style restaurant just a few blocks from the City of Progress' administrative building, Maruch is also steeped in political lore. Don't be surprised to run into city gadflies and forgotten politicos in the dimly lit back dining room. You might even catch a crash course in the city's salty civics. Four years ago, erstwhile mayor-for-life Raúl Martínez had a run-in with Glenn Rice, a former Hialeah cop working behind the scenes for the current alcalde, Carlos Hernández. Rice snuck up on Martínez and began recording him. That prompted Martínez to jump out of his seat and accuse Rice of being a "pedophile" and "a man without a life and without a woman." So if you enjoy a side of Hialeah politics with your vaca frita and colada, head to Maruch. The restaurant is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Readers' choice: Versailles Restaurant