You could travel the more than 3,000 miles to get the full flavors of Nicaragua. Or you could stay in South Florida. It’s right here in the 305 that you’ll find home-style fritangas, Nicaraguan markets and even a few high-end restaurants serving gallo pinto and carne asada. While there are definitely many restaurants to choose from, you’ll want to narrow down your picks to the truly authentic joints — the ones sure to make you believe you’re right in the heart of Central America.
1. Fritanga Pinolandia
Pinolandia is the sort of place you find through the recommendation of a friend — a friend who happens to know a thing or two about good Nicaraguan cuisine. At Pinolandia, the jugos are fresh, the carne asada is juicy, and the portions are large enough to share between a few people. And as is customary in most fritangas, you’ll have to order in Spanish or else, as the old “Seinfeld” adage goes: “No soup for you!” Visit their original location in Little Havana, or check them out far south in the Cutler Bay area.
2. Fritanga Caña Brava
Located in the heart of Little Havana, Fritanga Cana Brava offers a welcome change to the area’s mostly Cuban cuisine. Pick up some fresh tamarind juice or indulge in some queso frito (because who doesn’t like fried cheese?) Like many of Miami’s fritangas, you’ll want to make sure you speak Spanish (or have someone to help you translate)—though some folks get by simply by pointing at what they want and being polite.
3. El Madroño
If you’re craving Nicaraguan cuisine but would rather have a more comfortable, seated experience than your local fritanga, El Madrono is where it’s at. While not high-end, patrons of El Madrono are treated as such. The owners keep the place simple and clean with quality of the cuisine as the main focus. Try a nacatamal, which is the Nicaraguan version of the corn tamale that it is often made with pork, or a warm plate of salpicon, a salty, shredded beef.
4. El Novillo
El Novillo is an excellent place for a date night with someone who is craving something a little different. Ambiance is everything here with the restaurant’s brightly colored walls, soft music and a fountain at its center. Bring your significant other and enjoy the fine flavors of Nicaragua plus live entertainment on weekends. Oh, and definitely check out the happy hour with drink specials and a free appetizer buffet every Friday starting at 5 p.m.
5. Fritanga Monimbo
Undoubtedly one of the best known fritangas in town, Fritanga Monimbo has multiple locations that make it easy to give into cravings for quesillos (a “wrap” made of corn tortilla filled with mozzarella cheese, cream, and chopped onions) and vigoron (a combo of pork rinds and yuca with salad). They’ve got daily specials, fresh juices and reasonable prices.
Various Locations; 305-598-9040
6. Los Ranchos
Los Ranchos is undoubtedly the Queen of Nicaraguan Gourmet Cuisine in Miami. Folks flock to this joint for the churrasco, although any of their other steak dishes are just as mouthwatering. It’s also one of the few Nicaraguan spots with the infamous “Vuelve a La Vida”: a refreshing seafood soup that’s supposed to cure any hangover. Considering Los Ranchos has multiple locations at the Falls, Bayside, Westland Mall, and Sweetwater, you always have fine Nica cuisine just a stone’s throw away.
Various Locations; 305-238-6867
If you’ve got some friends visiting from out of town, this is the place you take them to. This is also the place you go when you’ve had too much to drink for the night but the line at Taco Bell is too long and everything else is closed. Yambo has a seemingly endless assortment of tchotchkes from the old country. Dine in or pick up some essentials from the To Go window and sit at one of the ceramic-tiled tables in the front patio.
8. Raspados Loly's
Alright, so this technically isn’t a fritanga. Instead, it’s a small sweets shop located in a Nicaraguan shopping plaza in the heart of Sweetwater and it is phenomenal. Raspados are essentially the Nicaraguan version of a snow cone. Enter this small, brightly colored shop and you’ll find a giant slab of ice ready to be ground down and mixed with the sugary concoction of your choice. Mix in crushed pineapple or strawberries, or try the jocote or tamarind—two tropical fruits you’ve probably never tried in a dessert before. But if you want the piece de resistance, order the Relleno, which features dulce de leche plus small bite-sized pieces of pound cake that are to die for.
9. Fritanga Montelimar
Those who live in Kendall know that there is no better spot for assorted fritanga than Fritanga Montelimar. These folks have it all: Tajadas (crispy plantains), quesillo, carne desmenuzada (shredded beef), guiso de pipian (like a squash stew)… everything! It tends to get busy around lunch and dinner time, but come during off hours and you’ll get by in just a couple minutes and leave with more food than you can eat in two sittings all stuffed in a Styrofoam container.
10. Carne Asada Tortilleria Nica
This may very well be the fritanga with the largest selection of food that isn’t also a regular sit-down restaurant. Like most fritangas, everything here is served buffet style but, you know, with the skillful Nicaraguan women packing the food onto your styrofoam plate for you. This fritanga isn’t as old as some of the other shops in this plaza, but rest assured, it has had zero problems gaining and keeping clientele. There’s always a wide assortment of hot dishes, from pollo asado (grilled chicken) to lengua en salsa (tongue in sauce), plus nacatamales, maduros, guisos, and so much more. Basically, any and every Nicaraguan craving you’ve ever had can be found here, including kick ass picos—sweet, triangular pastries that may very well change your life.