I met the Miami blogger Burger Beast (friend and translator) at his favorite Frita counter in South Florida - El Mago De Las Fritas. It was a bright, clean place that was empty at 3pm but El Mago himself was there and he tossed some burgers on for us.
For the uninitiated, the Frita is a Cuban interpretation of the hamburger. Erase preconceptions about the classic America burger though - this version will knock you over. El Mago, translated as The Magician, takes a wad of fresh ground meat and smashes it thin on a flattop. He then reaches for an unmarked plastic bottle and gives the patty a generous squirt of a mysterious deep-red liquid. A handful of chopped onion is sprinkled on as the patty cooks in the bubbling sauce.
And then comes the moment where this burger becomes unique. The patty is slipped onto a soft, warm Cuban roll and topped with a generous heap of ethereal, stringy fried potatoes and a squirt of ketchup. The patty, which definitely contains some sort of spiced chorizo or the like mixed in with the fresh beef, explodes with flavor. Yes, I dealt with ketchup on this burger. I felt like I was in a foreign place with foreign customs and a language I do not speak. Who was I to decide that ketchup should not be on this burger? It was actually good and I reasoned that I put ketchup on fries anyway.
The amazing flavor of this burger must be consumed to be appreciated. After I inhaled mine I told El Mago how happy I was and he just smiled. I thought to myself, "When will I be back?" Tomorrow would not have been soon enough so I ordered another.
The second Frita I asked for with American cheese out of curiosity. A Frita with cheese is not traditional by Cuban standards but popular on Little Havana menus. Burger Beast chuckled and reminded me, "American cheese is not big in Cuba!" Oh yeah, duh. This burger needs no cheese though, infact the cheese only muddied the subtle balance of flavors.
Pictured above with my first Frita is a glass of cold watermelon juice. Yum. After my two Fritas El Mago produced a small plate of homemade flan. It could have been the best I've ever had.
Will El Mago be in the revised edition of the book? Hell yeah. I will never visit Miami again without stopping for a Frita.