photo credit: Emily Schindler
La Camaronera Fish Market
La Camaronera is a classic spot in Little Havana that’s very easy to miss from the road since avoiding an accident on Flagler requires 1,000% of your attention. It’s a casual setup inside with one big room, an open kitchen, and small tables that are good for groups of two and four. If it’s too crowded (and it often is), there’s also a counter that runs the length of the space where you can stand and eat. But even if they had tables inside the dumpster out back, people would probably plug their noses and take a seat - because La Camaronera is perhaps the best place in Miami to dig into a huge pile of fried seafood.
photo credit: Emily Schindler
The menu is a sampling of all the kinds of ocean creatures you’d expect to find in a South Florida seafood restaurant - oysters, shrimp, conch, grouper, lobster - but they’re known for one sandwich in particular: the pan con minuta. It’s an entire lightly fried snapper filet (tail included) on a Cuban bun with diced white onions, ketchup, tartar sauce, and it’s a deep-fried miracle. The snapper is just crispy enough on the outside, but still incredibly juicy and tender on the inside. The onions add texture and the ketchup and tartar sauce form a surprisingly great condiment duo. If it’s your first time here, don’t even look at the menu. Get this.
It’s hard not to order a pan con minuta every time you’re here, but you absolutely should branch out and try some more of the menu after your baptism by snapper. The fried shrimp are another popular dish here very worth ordering. The shrimp are butterflied to increase the surface area that gets fried, which is an ingenious bit of seafood engineering. The lobster is also a worthy runner-up. They serve it in sandwich form or in fried chunks arranged inside a hollowed-out lobster tail. If you’re trying to stay away from fried things, grab some shrimp tacos, which are great mostly because it seems like La Camaronera is incapable of failing in any task involving shrimp.
There are really no wrong choices here. Even if, for some strange reason, you don’t order a pan con minuta, you’ll still probably have a great meal, provided there is at least one fried thing on the table and the person you're with didn't eat all the fried shrimp while you were in the bathroom.
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These are conch, in case you need a translation - but they’re delicious in every language. They come in a handful of little balls that are soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. The best part is you can still taste the conch through the batter.
Pan con Minuta
That snapper would be good enough on its own, but when this thing comes together, you get the greatest fish sandwich we’ve ever had - just perfect from the soft Cuban bread right through to the little diced onions.
We know it’s hard to skip the pan con minuta, but you won’t regret ordering this. It’s very good, and when you finish, you get to eat any fried pieces of lobster that fell off the sandwich. It’s the sandwich equivalent of an encore.
We’ve had a lot of fried shrimp in our day, and about 99% of them would lose in a fight to these guys. The best part about them - other than the perfect crunch - is that they’re butterflied, a smart little trick than ensures more of the shrimp gets breaded and fried.
We’ve talked a lot about how good Camaronera is at frying, but these tacos show they’re every bit as skilled on the flat top. The small shrimp come out slightly blackened with peppers and onions on three soft tortillas. We could probably eat five.
Whole Spiny Lobster
This is a whole lobster that’s cut up into pieces, fried, and then put back into the shell. And yes, it’s exactly as good as you’re imagining it is right now.