The Ten Best Fritas Cubanas in Miami

A taste of the Magic City comes alive in a tall, refreshing mojito, but another Cuban import packs the same punch. The kind that transports the rich history, beloved memories, and one-of-a-kind sazón of Havana to the 305 — except this one has far more sustenance. Meet the frita cubana.

Despite its popularity, not all fritas cubanas are created equal. For those who aren’t familiar with Miami’s most iconic dish, there are hallmarks of a fine frita. A Cuban roll with a crisp crust and moist interior sets the foundation. Some substitute regular hamburger buns to hold its contents: a juicy ground-beef patty seasoned so well with paprika, cumin, and pepper that it makes an American burger look #basic. Top the patty with chopped white onions and a tall pile of julienned fried potatoes.

Simply put, it’s a burger con un twist. Many cooks have replicated the frita as if it were served straight from the street corners of Cuba, while others have tried and failed at the frita formula. We saved you from wandering around the streets of Calle Ocho, Hialeah, and West Miami. Below you’ll find greasy classics from the city’s most legendary dining institutions, along with savory reinvented recipes using chorizo or gussied-up creations with eggs and plantains. And the best part: They’re all cheap.

So get to know the ten best fritas cubanas in Miami. Then go eat them.
10. El Palacio de los Jugos 
If there’s one song Miamians know, it’s Will Smith’s obnoxious anthem “Welcome to Miami.” (If you guessed Pitbull’s “Culo,” your mind was going in the right direction.) Although the “Welcome to Miami” music video showcases Ocean Drive, South Beach waters, and other touristy hot spots, El Palacio de los Jugos is the real Miami and has been that way since opening in 1977. Under the dark-green canopy on Flagler Street, you’ll find loyal patrons sipping El Palacio’s famed juices along with a frita ($3), a quintessential pairing for any Miami experience.
9. Fritas Domino La Original
Just because you’re going classic doesn’t mean quality is sacrificed, and Fritas Domino is as classic as it gets; it’s the original. We can thank its founding family for introducing the frita cubana to Miami in 1961 with its original establishment in Little Havana. Despite the change in venues — the current location is in West Miami (936 SW 67th Ave.) — the three-item menu, including the frita recipe, has remained the same. For $4, expect a sweet curried-beef patty sharing real estate with a mountain of shoestring potatoes and a layer of ketchup on a regular hamburger bun, creating an easy grab-and-go lunch or dinner snack filled with a history as rich as its flavor. 
8. La Palma
A frita is only as good as the bread that holds it. That’s why the guys at La Palma dish out Cuban rolls exactly how they should be, with fluffy interiors supported by crisp crusts. This serves as a base for one scrumptious frita — a behemoth of overflowing shoestring potatoes atop a meat patty slathered in spicy goodness. Get it con queso for $4.75, or leave it as is for $4.25. Order some papas fritas ($2.75) on the side and wash it down with a glass of guarapo ($3.50), AKA sugar cane juice. But a meal at La Palma wouldn't be complete without an order of “Miami’s Most Famous” churros ($2.99). Calorie counting is not advised.
7. Polo Norte
With Polo Norte locations in Hialeah, Kendall, Palm Springs, and Sweetwater, the Busquet family has for years spoiled Miami-Dade County with its genuine hospitality and Cuban cuisine. Although this local chain is known for Cuban pizzas and homemade ice cream, the frita cubana, priced at $3.25, has earned nods of approval as well. Julienned fries, onions, and ketchup sit on a grilled, specially seasoned burger. It may be a mouthful, but it’s a happy one. And if that doesn’t make you happy, a scoop (or five) of ice cream will do the trick.
6. Sergio’s
Like Polo Norte, Sergio’s is also sprinkled across the Magic City and has even crossed into Broward County. No matter the location, the chefs at Sergio’s works wonders on a bun. The burgers are chock full of spices that give that extra kick you need while effortlessly blending the tastes and textures of potato sticks, onions, and ketchup. Not that hungry? No problem. Mini frita sliders ($6.50) are available for those with a lighter appetite. But one whiff of El Frita ($4.75) will make you reconsider your hunger level.
5. Luis Galindo’s Latin American Cafeteria & Restaurant
Relaxation is holding a frita cubana in one hand and a cerveza in the other while surrounded by friends and family on the patio of Luis Galindo’s Calle Ocho mainstay. Enjoy the mix of old Spanish tunes and ‘90s throwback jams as you nosh on a substantial hunk of flavorful ground beef and chorizo topped with cheese, ketchup, and freshly fried potatoes and capped by a buttered Cuban roll. After devouring the handheld stunner ($5.50) — named the Frita Alberto, after the cafeteria’s Chef Alberto — be sure to stop by Latin American Bakery & Café next door for the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
4. Cuban Guys
The crew at Cuban Guys has specialized in turning standard ingredients into sought-after masterpieces. You’ll see it in the glorious assemblage of the menu’s top seller: a seasoned all-beef patty piled with crisp string fries and onions and packed inside a perfectly toasted and unmistakably branded Cuban roll. On Tuesdays, customers get to enjoy the frita for only $2. So whether you go to Cuban Guys in Hialeah, Kendall, North Miami Beach, or Westland Mall, go hungry. 
3. Morro Castle
Located in Hialeah, Morro Castle ($2.79) has been a source for tasty, no-frills Cuban food since 1966. The draw is simple: Morro’s frita stacks a tumbleweed of crisp potato sticks on a bed of spicy chorizo sandwiched by a warm bun. It’s a royal bun-and-meat merger. But like all items at this family-owned cafeteria, it’s cheap. The cost: $2.79 (AKA pocket change). 
2. El Rey de las Fritas
When it comes to fritas in Miami, El Rey de las Fritas has certainly held its reign since its early entrance into the fritas game more than 40 years ago. Most people tend to stick with what they know, like the original frita ($3.25), a crimson seasoned patty made of tender beef and chorizo, drenched in a special sauce and crowned by onions and fresh julienned potatoes on a Cuban roll. But it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and throw some plantains or eggs and bacon on your frita for a fancier version of the classic. Regardless of which variation you choose, they’re all big, bold flavors that satisfy, and your stomach will agree.
1. El Mago de las Fritas 
Ya tu sabes El Mago de las Fritas serves the best frita cubana in town. Fellow magicians, President Obama, and hordes of devoted customers who pile in daily at this mainstay on SW Eighth Street at 58th Avenue can attest to these certified frita creations. The plain frita, which goes for $3.50, is anything but ordinary; it features an oozing all-beef patty adorned with house seasoning, cooked and raw white onions, ketchup, and Mago’s famous potato wisps enveloped in a warm and toasty Cuban bun. You can upgrade your frita with cheese, double patties, or even an egg. When it comes to Cuban burgers and great fixings in Miami, leave it to the wizard Ortelio Cardenas and his crew, who have mastered the art of frita-making magic.

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Maureen Aimee Mariano is a freelance food writer for Miami New Times. She earned a bachelor of science in journalism from the University of Florida before making her way back to the 305, the city that first fueled her insatiable appetite.