Miami’s greatest asset is its Cuban coffee ventanitas and the best snack to accompany your coffee is the humble Cuban-style croqueta. I can’t have a cafecito without one and you shouldn’t either. There are good, bad, and acceptable versions of croquetas all over South Florida but life is too fleeting a venture to have bad ones. I want to help you choose wisely and I’m going to start out with the home of one of the most accessible expressions of this comforting snack: Sergio’s
Sergio’s is a local chain of Cuban restaurants with locations all over Miami but they don’t stretch too far north with only a couple of locations in Broward county. I’ve always enjoyed Sergio’s because they stand apart from the Versailles model of traditional Cuban restaurant that has been copied by local chains and family-owned places all over South Florida. The food at Sergio’s is traditional but they have embraced their American influences and offer a truly Cuban-American menu with a mix of traditional, American, and American-influenced spins on dishes. All without straying too far into “fusion” territory or delivering items that aren’t recognizable from the dish you grew up with. The food is often tasty, made with care, and comforting. They also have good consistency in quality from location to location, so there’s no need to go on a quest to determine which location is your favorite. (Though a life dedicated to finding the perfect ventanita is not a wasted life.)
Before we get going, I’m only going to talk about the ham croquetas because those are the ones I like. You could have chicken, cheese, or bacalao (cod fish) but ham is the only flavor I care to destroy my daily caloric intake limits with.
The croquetas at Sergio’s are a point of pride for them as they boast having served over 20 million of them over the years. I’ve eaten a lot of them and they’re good.
The crust features a finely ground crumb, with a few larger crumbs for variety, to give you a textural experience that is neither too greasy or too dry, won’t choke you on the swallow, and is always fried to a pleasing golden hue. They ensure the crust entices you from the moment you see them at the ventanita and it delivers a gratifying crunch while not detracting from the creamy ham filling.
This croqueta does not overpower you with ham flavor, nor should it. The filling is actually a combination of ham and a roux or béchamel (I’m unsure of the exact recipe) so the flavor should have some layers. A good croqueta often has a speckling of herbs and perhaps a hint of garlic or onion. Sergio’s delivers on all with a hit of ham on the first bite that dissolves into a more complex flavor experience but it doesn’t try too hard to be more than it is. Their filling is not too dense and it’s pleasant and velvety.
The finish is also good and lingers nicely without regret.
Hitting the ideals of appearance, texture, and taste are what defines the Sergio’s croqueta. You can find fancier croquetas with more depth of flavor and textural diversity, and worse croquetas with choking crusts and sticky fillings but nailing the happy, comforting, back to Sunday morning at Abuela’s house feeling is what Sergio’s does.
Admittedly, it took me a while to warm to the Sergio’s croqueta over the years but it’s probably the one I think about most when I’m craving a mid-afternoon cafe and snack. It’s among my favorites.
I’m going to be highlighting my favorite croqueta spots over the coming weeks and months but where are your favorite croquetas from?
See you at the ventanita!