Neighborhood Joints

Coral Way Brings the Flavors of the World to Miami, Part Two

See also Coral Way Brings the Flavors of the World to Miami, Part One.

For a taste of Uruguay, you can skip the 7,000 miles it takes to travel from Greece to the South American country and walk down Coral Way to NW 12th Avenue to Zuperpollo.

A wooden sign hanging from the entrance of Zuperpollo, El Gallinero, Spanish for the chicken coop, greets visitors as they walk into a dimly lit room filled with tables and booths on a tile floor.

The bar, La Bebidera, is adorned with wine glasses and empty bottles; pictures, sombreros and guitars from Uruguay dot the faded yellow and terra cotta walls; pots and flowers hang from the ceiling, and two wall mirrors bordered with window frames reflect a sense of nostalgia across the room.

In his native Spanish, owner Jorge Sanchez tells of a long past that led to his opening the restaurant. He was 24 when he left Uruguay and traveled to California with a 28-day visa in hopes of investing in a business. "I went as an adventure," Sanchez said.

Over the years, he worked as a radio talk show host and a car salesman, until he opened a coffee house in Los Angeles. He then moved to Miami in 1986.

Sanchez said he intended to open a rotisserie chicken chain, but quickly realized there were no Uruguayan restaurants in Miami.

"I wanted to do something for my people," Sanchez said of the six thousand Uruguayans living in Miami-Dade County. With dishes such as bife a lo "papa gallo," top sirloin steak served with eggs and potato salad and lazagna cazera, homemade lasagna, the menu reflects Uruguayan tradition as well as the country's Italian influence.

The most typical Uruguayan plate, Sanchez said, is chivito -- thinly cut steak served with ham, bacon, eggs and cheese.

"It's like the hamburger of Uruguay," Sanchez said.

Although Sanchez said he had "the luck and blessing from God" of getting a three out of four star review from The Miami Herald only two years after opening, and of winning a singing contest on Sábado Gigante, he does not credit the success of his restaurant to his fame.

"My restaurant isn't about luxury, it's about neatness, quality food and a family atmosphere," Sanchez said as he greeted some of his guests by name as they walked to their table.

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Laurie Charles
Contact: Laurie Charles

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