Cheap Eats

Tequeñomania's Specialty Is Supreme

Fried cheese comes in many forms. There are the greasy, industrial mozzarella sticks sold at bowling alleys, dense slabs of queso frito plied at countless fritangas around town, and the cream-cheese-stuffed crab Rangoon from your neighborhood Chinese take-out spot.

It's impossible to hate them. They may be a guilty, lowbrow pleasure, but they're as ubiquitous as Starbucks.

"After the first bite, the thought of having another plain one becomes unbearable."

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Kendall's Tequeñomania (6720 SW 117th Ave., 305-271-111) is a specialist in this area. For the uninitiated, the humble tequeño is a beloved Latin American treat said to have originated in the 19th Century in the Venezuelan burg of Los Teques, about a 40-minute ride southwest of Caracas.

Tequeños are little more than sticks of slightly salty queso blanco wrapped in a thin veneer of bread dough and plunged into the fryer. Though they're replicated across town, with the best versions at midtown Miami's La Latina and Aventura's Avila Bistro, the ones at Tequeñomania stand out for their wild array of fillings. Some, like those stuffed with guava or dulce de leche, are obvious improvements on the classic. Others, like ones amped up with crumbled chorizo or spicy pepperjack cheese, bring the seemingly simple treat to another level. But it's the Hawaiian that pushes this phenomenon to fried-cheese nirvana.

Like so many other fillings, the small cubes of pink ham bolster the brine. But the minuscule nubs of pineapple conjure a sweet-salty contrast that makes this tequeño stand above the rest. After the first bite, the thought of having another plain one becomes unbearable. The key here is to arrive early (the place opens at 7 a.m. weekdays) or cobble together enough Spanish words to request a freshly fried spear. Tequeñomania sells its wares wholesale, so the kitchen is often tied up filling large orders. Snag a hot one, and your snack game will be forever changed.

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson