Adelita's Cafe Reopens in Little Haiti

Adelita's baleada
Adelita's baleada Photo by Ana Maria Figueredo
click to enlarge Adelita's baleada - PHOTO BY ANA MARIA FIGUEREDO
Adelita's baleada
Photo by Ana Maria Figueredo
Adela Alcantara had hesitations about going back into the restaurant business. After starting operations out of a laundromat in 1989 and opening seven restaurants across the county, Alcantara sold her Honduran restaurant empire, Adelita's, in 2011.

"Twenty-four years passed in what seemed like 15 minutes,” Alcantara says. "I traveled to different countries and tried to make a difference in helping poor people. Then my youngest daughter asked me to help her open a new Adelita’s restaurant, and here I am.”

The new incarnation of Adelita's Café in Little Haiti sees Alcantara and her daughter, Reina Cartagena, re-creating Central American classics on their own terms.

On the menu, the baleada is a must for any fan of Honduran cuisine. The soft, thick taco is filled with beans, cream cheese, and a choice of beef, eggs, plantains, or other fillings. It's served with a side of pupusas — handmade corn tortillas stuffed with Honduran cheese — and a coleslaw featuring Adelita’s signature hot sauce. If you want to dress up your baleada, a generous bowl of pickled onion garnish and a homemade hot sauce in a squeeze bottle are placed on the side.

For heartier appetites, there are huge bowls of fish or seafood soups simmered in a coconut milk and cilantro base. According to Alcantara, the secret to the soups' richness lies in the broth made with Jamaican peppers, onions, and salt fish brought directly from Honduras. During Lent and Easter, Adelita’s conch and seafood soups are in high demand. The fish, seafood, and meat dishes are delicious and priced in the affordable $10 range.

If you want a late-night fritanga, however, you'll have to look elsewhere. “This is not a bar,” Alcantara says. “We start with breakfast and by 10 o’clock at night, we close. My daughter is a schoolteacher at a private school close by, and I don’t like the drinking scene.”

Alcantara's success in Miami's highly competitive restaurant industry happened by chance. In 1983, she arrived in Miami from Honduras on a tourist visa and decided to stay. She started to cook for local workers out of the small efficiency she rented for $150 a month, making typical Honduran breakfasts from a portable stove and sandwich press. As her earnings grew from a few dollars to hundreds a week, Alcantara realized she was on to something.
click to enlarge Adelita's Cafe's new home in Little Haiti. - PHOTO BY ANA MARIA FIGUEREDO
Adelita's Cafe's new home in Little Haiti.
Photo by Ana Maria Figueredo
In 1989, she opened her first business out of an Edgewater laundromat with a $400 loan from a friend. In a short time, she found herself opening seven restaurants in Allapattah and Little Havana, running from one location to another to make sure everything was made to her standards. Those standards included using dairy products flown in from Honduras. According to Alcantara, the cheese and butter from her native country aren't as heavily processed, so they taste richer.

In 2011, Alcantara's life took a different turn. She sold her growing business to family members and started a ministry, traveling to Cuba, Colombia, and her native Honduras to serve those in need. "I don't know too many people who acquire wealth to do this, but I felt a calling," says the restaurateur.

Recently, though, Alcantara was lured back to Miami and the restaurant business by her daughter, who scouted the Little Haiti location and enlisted her mother's help in reopening Adelita's.

If Alcantara was nervous about re-creating the original Adelita's magic, any concern melted away the first morning in the Little Haiti shop. Greeted with 27 breakfast orders from MacArthur Dairy workers across the street, she says the daily momentum has continued ever since. "The blessing is that it is always full," Alcantara says.

Adelita’s Café. 6820 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-238-7882. Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
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Ana Maria Figueredo is a freelance writer for Miami New Times.