El Mago de Las Fritas (Miami, FL)
Forget about Butter Burgers, Goober Burgers, or LaFrieda Black Label Burgers. Forget sliders, Shack Burgers, Crunch Burgers or In-N-Out. There is a regional style of hamburger in Miami that has been overlooked by the likes of Kuban, Solares, and Ozersky. El Mago (the Magician) de las Fritas makes magic with the Cuban version of the hamburger: the Frita Cubana.
El Mago de las Fritas is west of Little Havana on Calle Ocho in a non-descript strip mall with exactly five parking spots. Their Cuban hamburgers ($3.00) combine elements of other regional styles. First the bread— a soft, white Cuban bun. Then the blend— beef and chorizo, the paprika staining the bun. The technique— it’s steamed on a flat top, and smashed flat with a spatula.
There is cheese for the gringos, but El Mago’s standard toppings include: ketchup, sautéed onions, and lastly, potato sticks. Not the greasy, canned variety. Not even shoestring fries. But tiny ethereal wisps that can best be described as a potato bird’s nest. Unlike Flay’s addition of potato chips, these provide just the right crunch.
The Magician must have sensed that we made a good team: as quickly as his sleight of hand produced the fritas, I made them disappear.