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Croquetas from El Palacio de los Jugos in Miami, Florida

What: Delicious deep-fried croquettes of (usually) ground ham, chicken, or cheese mixed with bread crumbs, flour, onions, and various herbs. Good croquetas have a soft, moist interior and a crisp, not-too-greasy crust.

Where: Croquetas are muy common on Cuban appetizer lists; those sold at the outside sandwich counter at the very local El Palacio de los Jugos (305-264-1503; multiple locations, including 5721 W. Flagler St. near NW 57th Ave., map)—a veritable palace of juices, yes, but also Cuban meat dishes, stews, sandwiches, tostones, tamales, fruits, and much more—are very good. You’ll need to practice your Spanish here.

When: Mon-Sat, 8am-9pm; Sun, 8am-8pm

Order: El Palacio provides an excellent introduction to Cuban food in general, so consider trying it all. Don’t miss the croquetas (75 cents each), a medianoche sandwich (or two), the chicharrón, and whatever’s fresh behind the main meal counter (generally, various meats, fresh yucca, and moro, or Cuban black beans and rice). Wash it all down with a jugo or batido (milkshake) from inside—perhaps a refreshing mix of papaya and coco (coconut), or a sweet mamey or guanabana (soursop) with milk.

Alternatively: Just about any Cuban restaurant anywhere will offer croquetas as an appetizer, including our favorite Cuban-hamburger joint, El Mago de las Fritas (305-266-8486; 5828 SW 8th St., map), and Cuban-coffee stop, the palatial, 40-year-old Versailles (3555 SW 8th St., map). We also loved the smoky jamon croqueta at Pinocho Bakery (5236 West Flagler St., Miami, map).


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