Have you ever let a friend talk you into giving an ex a second chance? No? Good then. I have a similar perspective on restaurants. If you burned me once, I’m not likely to pay you a second visit. Unfortunately, exceptions must sometimes be made. Like, when a close friend that you have known since childhood is visiting from out of town and REALLY wants to go to that one, specific place.
This is how I wound up at Lario’s on the Beach. This, after vowing 6 years ago to never eat at an Estefan-run Cuban restaurant after my meal at Bongo’s Cuban Cafe (same as Lario’s, but downtown) was an overpriced and depressingly mediocre experience. But, in the wake of the recent renovations, I took a chance. I didn’t really have much of a choice.
They certainly spared no expense with the decor. It was beautiful in there. It doesn’t feel like the kind of place you would just wander into after an afternoon on the beach, like the other places.
Our server was an older, fidgety gentleman whose name escapes me at this time. I ordered some mariquitas (plantain chips) as an appetizer.
Eating at lower-end Cuban restaurants has spoiled me, because I was expecting a much larger portion. My part of 4 polished this off in a matter of moments. The mojo dipping sauce was excellent, and the chips were nice and crispy.
I debated between the Vaca Frita and the Bistec a la Milanesa (which is basically Cuban-style chicken parmigiana, but with steak), and opted for the Milanesa because it was slightly less expensive. They brought out chicken Milanesa instead, but quickly corrected the error (and brought out a complimentary order of plantain chips while we waited).
It was certainly a massive pile of breaded steak and melted cheese that was set before me. And, few things that are smothered in a decent amount of cheese are still terrible. This breaded steak wasn’t bad, but not anywhere near as good as I have eaten at other Cuban restaurants for half the price. The steak and breading themselves were a little bit dry and bland, but the cheese helped it along.
Due to the size of the steak, the side items are served on a separate plate.
My go-to side dishes when partaking in Cuban fare are moros (white rice and black beans mixed together) maduros (sweet fried plantains). They were pretty standard. Nothing spectacular. The portion was a little bit smaller than one would expect from a Cuban restaurant. Then again, this IS South Beach we’re talking about. Besides, with an entrée of that size, I shouldn’t be eating a large helping of rice, anyway. I still would have, though.
One thing that Lario’s truly shined with was the cocktails. I had a Mango Passion Sparkling Sangria (not pictured) that was sweet and refreshing. Unfortunately, after the half-mile walk that it took me to get to the restaurant after finding parking on a Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t be bothered with taking a picture before knocking back about half of the glass. Dehydration trumps blogging. Sorry, guys.
After tax and tip, my grand total for a standard Cuban meal was about $60. That is probably standard for South Beach, but is certainly not a price tag that I feel comfortable shelling out for a meal as average as this one. If you’re enjoying a day at the beach and have a craving for Cuban food that absolutely cannot wait until you get back off the island, then this might be your most reliable option. At least you can admire the interior decorations.
For more information on Lario’s on the Beach, visit their website at http://www.bongoscubancafe.com/larios.html