In a shock to attendees, frita fanatics and the Miami Twitterverse El Rey de las Fritas' Cuban hamburger bested the creation of Ortelio Cárdenas, El Mago de las Fritas, at Burger Beast's first ever Frita Showdown at Magic City Casino Wednesday night.
See also: Miami's Top Ten Fritas Cubanas
El Mago's and El Rey's Frita Cubanas went head to head with those from Cuban Guys, Luis Galindo's Latin American and Sergio's and were judged by Eating House's Giorgio Rapicavoli, Bread + Butter's Alberto Cabrera, Ingrid Hoffman and Randy Fisher, who helps organize the South Beach and New York City Wine and Food Festival's burger bashes.
"I'm looking for a well-seasoned patty, crispy potatoes, bread that's crispy outside but soft in the middle," said Cabrera. "and it needs to be seasoned on the griddle."
"My bread is cold," Hoffman said biting into one of the five burgers during the blind tasting.
As with Cuban sandwiches, pan con lechon or pan tostada well-toasted bread was key and difficult for many to pull off.
In the spirit of full transparency I'll admit I enjoyed Sergio's frita (on a soft bun) and Latin American's version (with American cheese), and am clearly a gringo wholly unfit for the responsibility of frita judging.
Yet there was much more than fritas to gush over at this one. Thankfully the $40-per-person fiesta was held inside, a godsend for mid-August burger eating, with plenty of places to sit and great view of the casino's dog track. All of the restaurants besides Sergio's offered up full size fritas. No sliders here, people. Magic City Casino staff did a crack job of clearing tables, dishing out ice water to those suffering the meat sweats and circulating frosty glasses of Hatuey beer.
Last the Frita Showdown might have been the only food Miami food fete capable of bring together Old Cubans -- tight-faced women wearing chunky gold jewelry and mustached men in Guayaberas -- and the tattooed, skinny pant-wearing Miami gastrophiles.
Nevertheless everyone played nice. Lines were short, and there were plenty of Isla de Canarias' croquetas de jamon and La Camaronera's Bollitos de Carita, the blackeyed pea fritters the Garcia family has been slinging ever since they opened up their first fish stand in Cuba, to tide over those with big appetites and little patience.
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Little cups of Azucar's Mantedo ice cream, a Cuban vanilla made with eggs and cinnamon, was a nice bookend for the stomach-stretching experience.
So congrats to El Rey and condolences to El Mago. Thankfully you still have the option to decide on your favorite frita. All you need is an appetite, a little bit of Spanish to order (Spanglish works too) and some cash.
For more follow Zach on Twitter @ZachIsWeird.