One of South Florida's most "Miami" food events is back this week for the ninth year running.
On Friday, Croqueta Palooza
will once again pop up at the Magic City Casino, compliments of Burger Beast
blogger Sef Gonzalez.
When it comes to celebrating the croqueta, Gonzalez tells New Times
his goal was to create a food event highlighting the dishes he grew up eating with his Cuban family.
But not everyone knows it was the Cuban frita — and not the humble croqueta — he chose to feature first.
"Our first ticketed event was the Burger Beast Burger Brawl. After that, I wanted to create something else to showcase Latin food, so we did our first Frita Showdown," said Gonzalez. "I thought it would be a huge event, but I knew there was something else that could make a bigger impact."
Inspiration hit in 2013 when Gonzalez recalled a favorite saying from "La Cocina de Christina"
creator Christina Gomez-Pina, a fellow food blogger who had asked him to help make croquetas for a recipe tutorial post.
Gomez-Pina called their day a "croqueta palooza," and Gonzalez promised her that one day he'd steal the term for a food festival.
These deep-friend, meat-stuffed torpedos of goodness are the featured food at Croqueta Palooza.
The Burger Beast photo
"Five years later, that's exactly what I did. Back then, croquetas weren't as popular as they are today," adds Gonzalez. "When I decided to create the event, my business partner [Nedal Ahmad] told me I was crazy. Now, it's more than just the croqueta we celebrate. This event really tells the story of Miami comfort food."
Over the years, Croqueta Palooza has evolved into a celebration of Latin fare, spotlighting everything from the pastelito and frita to empanadas.
This year, Gonzalez says he is excited to welcome several newcomers to the event. They include Offsite, which will be serving up hotdogs; a partnership with McDonald's, which will serve a special guava and cream cheese pie; and Joanna’s Marketplace, a Miami bakery that will make its first event appearance.
Additional croqueta-peddling food vendors include Babe’s Meat & Counter, Casa 305, Chef Billy G Catering, Doce Provisions, Dos Croquetas, Islas Canarias, La Bodeguita Tapas & Wine, Masa Craft, and Smoke & Dough BBQ.
For the non-croqueta eats, attendees can also find food from local restaurants and pop-ups, including A-Mari-Mix, Chifles Chips, Colada Cuban Cafe, Cuban Guys, El Rey de las Fritas, Gayo Azul Cheese, and Gonzalez's favorite guava cream cheese chicken wings from Pin Pan Pollo. Desserts will feature Miami Tres Leches y Mas, Crybaby Creamery, and Mojo Donuts.
When you get thirsty from all the deep-fried, meat-stuffed goodness, there'll be plenty of beverages to wash it all down. Since its inception in 2013, the event has grown from serving craft beer to offering a wide variety of spirits, says Gonzalez.
This year, they include unlimited drinks from CAWY (Jupina & Materva), Coconut Cartel, M.I.A. Spirits, the Real Havana Club, and Tito's Vodka, alongside local craft breweries like Dream State Brewing, Funky Buddha Brewery, Civil Society Brewing, and Unseen Creatures Brewing.
Attendees can also participate in the festival's annual croqueta eating contest, where contestants are challenged to consume ten of sponsor Islas Canarias' fried delicacies in two minutes or less. The winner is awarded a replica croqueta necklace and an Islas Canarias gift card.
"Who'd have thought, nearly ten years later, we'd be here going strong? This event has become like family for us — like a high school reunion," sums up Gonzalez. "It's a celebration of everything that makes living in South Florida special."
Tickets to Croqueta Palooza 2022 are on sale now
for $75 per person. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older to attend. The ticket includes unlimited food, hard and soft drinks, and entertainment access.
Croqueta Palooza. 7 to 10 p.m. Friday, December 2, at Magic City Casino, 450 NW 37th Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $75 via eventbrite.com.