By Sue Arrowsmith
Located in the depths of a BP gas station market, El Carajo International Tapas and Wines is a hidden treasure.
Even after you walk through the red brick archway, look at the neat rows of imported wine, oak wood tables, wrought-iron chairs, and spotless glassware, you’ll have to look back to believe you just came in through a gas station.
Believe it or not, this is a perfect spot for a date. Sit back in the tiny dining room, amid painted walls depicting European scenery, and let yourself believe you’re in Spain for a little while.
The great selection of tapas and wine will certainly help. Tapas are appetizer-sized dishes. The Garbanzos Fritos (Fried Chickpeas, $6) are especially good, cooked with chorizo and served with complimentary bread. Order a bowl of homemade Caldo Gallego (Galician white bean soup, $4), ideal for dipping the bread.
Other traditional tapas include Spanish omelets ($3.50 – $4); Croquetas de Bacalao (Cod fish croquettes, $4); Tostones de Mariscos (fried green plantains stuffed with seafood, $10) and Mesón combinations, which bring a variety of Spanish hams, sausages and cheese ($10.50 – $14).
The restaurant also serves heartier meals, such as Lomo de Cerdo (Pork Loin) grilled in grape sauce and Malbec wine ($15); grilled Corvina (sea bass) with shrimp in a mustard sauce ($16) and Enchilado de Camarones (shrimp creole, $17). Meals come with either white rice, vegetables, or house potatoes.
El Carajo features a large selection of wines available for purchase by the glass or bottle, and at various prices to fit most budgets. Note: bottles come with a $10 corkage fee for opening and serving.
Finish the meal with a Crema Catalana, custard topped with a hard caramel crust ($5), or check out their new bakery featuring fresh pastries, fine cheeses, marmalades, and more.
After all that delicious, rich food, you might need a siesta too.
El Carajo International Tapas and Wines
2465 S.W. 17th Ave. (corner of US-1 and 17th Ave.)
Miami, Fl. 33145
Monday – Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, 12:30 to 11 p.m.
Closed on Sundays, take-out available
TIP: PAELLA MAY TAKE 45 MINUTES TO MAKE IF IT’S BUSY… SO CALL IT IN, BEFORE YOU GET THERE.