Fuego Latino

There was a time, not too long ago, when the only way to get great Cuban food in Fort Lauderdale was to leave the city and drive down to Calle Ocho in Miami. That was BFL, of course. Before Fuego Latino, that is.

The Cuban restaurant opened in a strip mall that’s also home to the Zoo Gym and a martial arts school, and became such an immediate hit that the owners had to start posting a sentry seated on a lawn chair out in the lot to make certain their hungry customers had a place to park. While Fuego Latino serves some Mexican dishes, it’s the Cuban fare and reasonable prices that will keep you coming back for more.

To get an instant sense of the place, order a Bandeja Fugue ($16.99), and prepare for a feast. The platter-sized portion is enough to feed two or three, piled high with Mariquitas, Tamal con Lechón, Chiccharrones de Pollo, Jamon and Pollo Croquettas, Yuca Frittas, and two Empanadas. For the uninitiated, that’s plantains with garlic sauce, pork tamales, fried chunks of chicken breast, ham and chicken croquettes, yucca fries, and stuffed turnovers. In any language, spell that “yummy.”

Often, a Cuban restaurant is judged by its Palomilla Steak, and Fuego Latino has a superb version with thin-sliced, spice-marinated and mouth-watering beef. At $9.99, it’s not only a bargain, it’s a sautéd-onion-topped masterpiece of flavor. It is served with white rice, black beans and sweet plantains. It’s a bounty that will not only fill you up, it’s delicious enough to have you licking your plate.

Juliana de Cerdo ($13.99) is a specialty of the kitchen—a julienned filet of pork tenderloin that’s been marinated in a blend of spices that’s so secret, the recipe is locked in a safe. Grilled with bell peppers and onions, this dish alone will make Cuban cuisine your new favorite.

Traditional paella is a Spanish specialty that’s reinvented at Fuego Latino into a Cuban delicacy that takes some pre-planning. Since this dish-for-two takes a full sixty minutes to prepare, call ahead and order Paella Valenciana ($35.99) by phone before your arrival. The Cuban interpretation of this rice dish mixes chicken, shrimp, clams, mussels and grouper. While the flavor is anything but traditional, the dish is a lavish treat you can give yourself and your sweetie.

The most popular dishes at Fuego Latino are their assortment of Fajitas–Vegetable ($8.99), Chicken ($10.99), Steak ($11.99), Chicken and Steak combo ($12.99), Shrimp ($13.99), and the Fuego Fajita (Chicken, Steak and Shrimp) ($16.99).  The table presentation of these sizzling platters is a sense sensation—steam, aroma, and crackling hot. It’s garnished with tomato, sour cream, pico de gallo and guacamole, plus a stack of warm tortillas. Fast, fresh, and fragrant.

A unique feature here is the Fuego Latino Cantina.  For $30 per week, businesses and individuals can select one meal a day, Monday through Friday, from a rotating set of seven entrées per day plus up to three side dishes from a ten-side dish selection. Among the choices are Pork Chops, Ground Beef Casserole, ½ Chicken, Palomilla Steak, Ropa Vieja, Beef Stew, Chicken Breast, Breaded Chicken Filet, Pork Chunks, or Grouper Fillet–all served with rice, beans, yucca, sweet plantains, chicken soup, chicharos, ajiaco, lentejas, and/or mixed vegetables. For six dollars a day, can you afford not to eat at Fuego Latino?

It’s a relaxed, clean and fun atmosphere here, where you’ll feel like family even if you’ve never been to Habana or habla español. Come early and tell them Guy Magazine sent you.