We don't often (or ever, really) refer to Miami Lakes as a culinary mecca, but the amazing deal we stumbled upon at Chivas, a gem inconspicuously located in a nondescript strip mall right off the Palmetto Expressway, is definitely worth mentioning.
Although the restaurant specializes in Colombian food, Chivas also offers Latin cuisine -- a catch-all phrase being used more and more as restaurants compete for customers in a city where Latin restaurants are ubiquitous. We've come across fritangas offering medianoches and Cuban restaurants offering salpicon (a dry, finely ground beef featured in Nicaraguan cuisine). Miami's Hispanic eateries are suffering from identity crises -- all in the name of diversification.
On Wednesdays, Chivas offers one of the best dining specials anywhere in the city: a bandeja paisa BOGO. For only $9.49 plus tax, you get not one bandeja paisa, but two. Yes, two -- meaning you and a friend can each enjoy a full, delicious meal loaded with protein for the paltry sum of $5 apiece.
Bandeja paisa, the preeminent platter of Colombian cuisine, has become popular with Hispanics of all kinds, as well as non-Hispanics fortunate enough to have dined on the plentiful platter. Not including special seafood dishes, the bandeja paisa also tends to be one of the costlier items on the menu at most Colombian restaurants, usually ranging anywhere from $11 to $15.
When ordering this satisfying dish, expect plenty of food. Standard-issue bandeja paisas come with fried plantains, beans, an arepa, white rice topped with a fried egg, chicharrón (AKA fried pork belly), and your choice of carne molida (ground beef) or carne asada (steak). Some variations also include sausage.
Chivas Express offers two other weekly BOGO specials: palomilla steak (see the crossover?) for $9.49 on Tuesdays and arroz con pollo for $8.95 on Thursdays. But the bandeja paisa stands apart for the sheer comprehensiveness of the meal -- and the fact that it includes chicharrón.
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Although Chivas does offer Cuban sandwiches and other non-Colombian items, its fresh-baked goods, such as pan de bono (cheese bread), are all Colombian. As are its empanadas, arepas, and desserts. This is a good thing, because if it didn't focus primarily on Colombian cuisine, its Wednesday special would not be such an outstanding deal.
Call ahead for takeout at 305-364-8848.
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