A few years ago, Roadfood contributor Chris Gould wrote, “El Palacio de los Jugos, of which there are nine in the Miami area, is a combination produce stand and eatery — a truly authentic Cuban institution. Orange, mango, papaya, watermelon, and pineapple juices are squeezed on the spot, and if you want coconut water, an expert will deftly chop one open with a machete and insert a straw. True Cuban food, including exemplary Cuban sandwiches, are served in abundance and at very reasonable prices.”
There now are 10 locations around town, the original, on West Flagler Street, having opened in 1977. Customers order food and drinks and pay for them at several stand-up counters all around the open-air establishment, which also sells fruits, plants, and various Cuban-themed products. You pay (each counter is a separate vendor), then carry whatever you got to a shaded picnic table.
Beyond every imaginable juice (and many I’ve never imagined), beyond smoothies and fine Cuban sandwiches (including deluxe versions that add salami to the mix), El Palacio offers a wide array of hot meals with all the fixins. These include shrimp, salmon, and paella, cuts of beef that range from oxtail to strip steak to shredded beef, and, of course, roast pork in various forms.
Among the house specialties are chicharones. There are bags of crisp ones to eat like potato chips, but the right way to do it is to select a long section of this recently-roasted hunk of pork belly — equal parts skin, fat, and meat — and have the man with the knife sever it into big bite-size hunks to munch. Chicharones in this form are succulent to the nth degree, one of the world’s great munchies.
Of course there is excellent Cuban coffee to drink throughout the day.