By: Jason Perlow
South Florida and Miami itself is a bastion of activity when it comes to Latin American cuisine. Coral Springs is no different — and it’s not just Cuban food. In the last six months, four new restaurants that represent our rich cultures have opened in our city, and all of them are excellent values. It’s impossible to leave any of these places hungry, so go check them out!
La Chama International (Venezuelan)
2049 N University Dr, Coral Springs, FL 33071
Open seven days. Hours vary.
La Chama International
Opened in May on University Drive in the Doris Market shopping center, La Chama features a wide variety of popular Venezuelan snack foods. In addition to fresh-fried empanadas made with corn masa, be sure to try the famous “Pepino,” a loaded beef, chicken, and chorizo hoagie with many unconventional condiments including potato stix, corn, cheese, avocado, mayo, ketchup and mustard with lettuce and tomato.
Also popular is the Parilla de Carne, a massive feast of grilled steak, chicken and sausage, served over french fries with a cilantro cream dressing and fresh avocado and tomato slices, which easily feeds three or four people. The restaurant serves a selection of beer and wine, including the famous Pilsener Polar, from the city of Caracas.
Tierra Mia (Colombian/Cuban)
9711 W Sample Rd, Coral Springs, FL 33065
Open seven Days. Hours vary.
Colombian cuisine is not as well known as some of the other South American cultures represented in South Florida, such as Peruvian or Venezuelan, but it’s still excellent. Tierra Mia on Sample Road opened in November of 2019 serves both Colombian and Cuban cuisine due to the owners’ mixed heritage.
The restaurant/luncheonette serves traditional hearty Colombian breakfast, such as its bandeja paisa with egg, sausage, fried pork belly (chicharron), rice and beans, and white corn cake (arepa) all day long. I encourage you to order dishes with hogao, a zesty tomato and onion stew that is served as a warm salsa to accompany crispy fried plantains (tostones). The Cuban sandwich here is huge, stuffed with roast pork and thick slices of roast ham, melted swiss, pickles, and mustard and mayo and big enough to share. The restaurant has a bakery with fresh fried and baked empanadas and excellent coffee service.
Antojitos Esmeralda (Mexican Taqueria)
7804 Wiles Rd, Coral Springs, FL 33067
Open seven days, 6 a.m. – 8 p.m.
This small Taqueria on Wiles Road has been open since April, and I’ve been keeping the place as a closely-guarded secret because it already has a strong following and gets crowded during prime lunch hours. Owner Esmeralda is from Mazatlan, a city on Mexico’s west coast, so the food is a bit different from other Mexican restaurants in the city such as La Union and Ayotli, and has employees from different parts of Latin America contributing different dishes.
This place is distinctive in that it makes tortillas fresh to order, which adds to the authenticity of the tacos and other dishes served here. Go with the flow and order whatever has been cooked fresh by Esmeralda’s crew and put out on the chafer display, such as pork carnitas, when they are available. This place is usually jammed full of landscapers and construction workers, especially on weekends when the restaurant serves menudo and posole, popular hearty Mexican stews made with chile, starchy corn kernels, and different meat parts. Unless you are a chile-head, beware of the fresh grilled serranos that accompany every dish, as well as the explosive Yucatan-style habanero salad when topping your tacos. If you dare to have them, be sure to grab one of the many different kinds of Mexican and South American beers she has stocked in the fridge, along with Mexican soft drinks.
Patron Azteca (Tex-Mex)
10299 Royal Palm Blvd, Coral Springs, FL 33065
Open seven days, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.
While we love authentic Mexican cuisine like Antojitos Esmeralda, I am a sucker for a good margarita and Patron Azteca, which opened in late October in the Royal Palm shopping center. This Mexican cantina delivers in spades with its full bar and menu of top-shelf cocktails featuring a wide variety of premium tequilas, all $11.95 for “Cadillacs,” including Blancos and Reposados from Diamante, Maestro Dobel, Don Julio, El Mayor, and others.
The restaurant has a happy hour and bar menu with its two for the price of one house margarita and half-price appetizers every evening from 4 PM-7 PM. The very excellent freshly fried tortilla chips come with complimentary refried beans, but don’t fill up on these, try their tacos, burritos and other Tex-Mex favorites like huevos a la ranchera. You can also get very legit Mexican fare here, as the owners are from Jalisco and prepare dishes such as the chile colorado, which is made with stewed beef and very spicy dried ancho, pasilla, and red chile de arbol peppers.
Jason Perlow is a long-time foodie who spent 20 years in the New York City and New Jersey metro areas reviewing restaurants for The New York Times and his personal food blog, Off The Broiler, which he started in 2006 and ran for ten years. He is also the founder of eGullet, a popular food discussion site and not-for-profit organization that was formed in 2001, which was featured on Tony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” cable television program.
As a technologist by profession, he writes the Tech Broiler blog for CBS’s ZDNet web site. He has been a Coral Springs resident since moving to South Florida in 2012.
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