Cheap Eats

Cold? Try Churros and Hot Chocolate at La Palma

Miami isn't immune from cold snaps like the one hanging out for the past three days, but folks aren't falling out of palm trees, stunned by the arctic blast.

Instead, people rolling in from the frozen tropical tundra on a cold day gather and socialize at La Palma restaurant on Calle Ocho to warm their cores with hot chocolate and churros.

For the past 32 years, La Palma has been the place to be when the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

A mere $3.66 gets you a plate of four churros and a six-ounce cup of Miami's finest hot chocolate. And this ain't no Swiss Miss; it's thick as soup, and like soup, skin will form on the top if you leave it for a while.*

A churro is a fried, crunchy pastry similar to a doughnut but rolled into a stick and sprinkled with sugar.

Locals (and some out-of-towners) gather here by the droves to socialize and talk about the goings-on in Miami. In fact, it's even owned by Felipe Valls, owner of Versailles Café and La Carreta.

"This place is a Miami tradition," says Bianca Iglesias, a lifelong Miami resident. "I grew up with this place. When it gets cold, you don't go anywhere else -- you come here."

Although no records were broken, temperatures have dipped below 40 degrees in some spots. On Tuesday, La Palma served more than 2,500 patrons between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 1 a.m., selling 12,500-plus churros and making 19 buckets of hot chocolate.

People have been dropping by to order churros by the box. By comparison, La Palma serves about 400 people a day and sells at most 500 churros.

Wednesday morning was about ten degrees warmer, but it turned out to be even busier for general manager William Laguna. He attributes La Palma's notoriety to word-of-mouth promotion around Miami and beyond.

"Nobody goes to any other restaurant," Laguna says. "La Palma is the most famous. We have Versailles and La Carreta, and maybe one or two people get churros there."

Other than the hot chocolate and churros, La Palma has a lunch and dinner menu similar to its sister restaurants, and they're all open 24 hours.

* Pro tip: Dip the churro in the hot chocolate and stir it around a bit; it makes your churro extra-tasty and also keeps the cocoa from forming skin on top.

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