For many of South Florida’s Nicaraguan expats and Nicaraguan-Americans, Madroño is the gold standard when it comes to sampling the best of their country’s food. Madroño keeps things simple so diners can focus on the food rather than kitschy decor. Appetizers like the repocheta, a thick corn tortilla toasted with a layer of fresh, uncultured cheese, is as close to what you’ll get in Managua. And the chimichurri here—a condiment that Nicaragua also claims as its own—may make you forget the more commonly known Argentine variety with its more even balance of vinegar, oil, garlic, and herbs. Make sure to save room for dessert, especially the Pio V (pronounced Pio Quinto), a soft pudding made of yellow cake soaked in rum syrup and smothered in vanilla custard.
This traditional Nicaraguan snack is kind of like an open-faced quesadilla. Madrono takes a thick, handmade Nicaraguan-style corn tortilla and covers the surface with a layer of stretchy white cheese. It’s then fried on both sides until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese forms a crust almost like queso frito. With a little bit of tart onion relish and maybe a drizzle of cultured cream, this is one of our favorite ways to start a meal here.
We kind of wish every salad were like vigoron—that is: covered with chicharrones and yucca. A mound of shredded cabbage with a light vinaigrette is topped with chunks of boiled yucca and pieces of fried-to-order pork belly. It’s a delicious combination of textures, from the crisp cabbage to the soft, starchy yucca and the chicharrones, which feature crunchy skins and melty layers of fat.
Madroño serves this dessert inside a martini glass (this photo you’re looking at is the takeout version, FYI), which makes us feel very fancy as we inhale it. It’s almost like a trifle but more intensely sweet, with a layer of rum-soaked pound cake topped with a rich egg custard. No pio quinto is complete with a plump, soft prune on top, and neither is this one.