Someone could make the argument that you can find a better Cuban sandwich outside of Miami. You don’t have to like this person (we already don’t and we’re the ones who made them up), but there is a microscopic chance they might have a point. Who knows, it’s a big world.
However, if that same hypothetical human tries to tell you that you can find a better frita outside of Miami-Dade County, you should look for the nearest exit signs because life is too short to spend even another millisecond talking to such a person. The frita, a product of Cuban immigration, belongs to Miami. And it’s done better here than anywhere else in the world - especially at El Rey de las Fritas.
This place serves eight varieties of these hamburger-hybrids, and they all start with the same basic structure: a mixture of spiced meat and onions placed onto a Cuban bun, and then topped with a Dikembe Mutombo-sized handful of crispy potato sticks. They range from the simple original to the suprema, which adds a thick fried slab of white cheese and sweet plantains - and it’s actually pretty tasty if you’re in the mood for something a little over-the-top.
There are four locations of El Rey, but our favorite is on Calle Ocho. It’s mercilessly bright, lit by fluorescent lights with walls painted the colors of the Cuban flag. Inside, it feels like a diner and a small-town carnival collided. There’s one of those mechanical ponies you can ride for a few quarters by the door. Near the bathroom, there are two large paintings of a man and woman eating fritas with the faces cut out so that you can stick your own in and take photos. It sounds a little touristy, but everyone comes here - whether you just landed at the airport or you’ve been eating fritas since you had baby teeth.
El Rey’s menu is pretty large, with some big Cuban dishes like vaca frita that come with rice and beans, and an intimidating sandwich section that features pan con everything: bistec, lechon, and about a dozen other options that range from tuna to ham croquetas. But unless you’re a regular or just not a frita fan (in which case, we fear this may be the wrong restaurant for you), we can’t think of a situation where your eyes shouldn’t immediately go to the fritas.
The frita original and a batido (basically a thick Cuban shake) is still one of the best Miami food combos in existence. And when you’re eating it at El Rey de las Fritas, you’ll know that there’s nowhere else on the planet where this would taste better.
Sometimes, the simplest answer is the right one. And that’s the case here. The frita is best enjoyed in its original state
This is just a frita original with a thin layer of what looks like American cheese underneath the meat, though the cheese is mostly lost amongst everything else.
They double the meat on this one, but it’s just too overwhelming. The spiced meat is a salty bomb in its original portion. This is just overkill.
If you really want to stray from the tried and true path, you might as well go big. And this sandwich goes very big, with a square slab of fried white cheese and sweet plantains. The best part about it, though, is it’s actually good - and you can actually taste the cheese.
Here’s an example of an egg making a sandwich better, which is not how we normally feel about eggs and burgers. But because the potato sticks and meat can get a little dry, the yolk acts as a necessary sauce.
Fans of simultaneously sweet and salty things will like this one. You can really taste the plantains, but they’re small enough to not mess with the structural integrity of the sandwich too much.
Adding bacon to a frita is like ordering a 151 floater on an already strong frozen drink. It’s excessive, sure - but also pretty damn good.