You'll have the time of your life at Mario's busy, happy Cuban/Spanish restaurant, but don't fool around: Make a reservation. You don't want to have to wait a second longer than necessary for that steaming, ground-beef empanada, a hefty corn-scented tamal, or a feather-light ham croquette. The crowd here is lively; tropical flavors redolent of garlic, grilled onion, and pepper are designed to snap you out of any stupor. Red snapper rolled in ground plantain and topped with a handful of fresh shrimp; an Argentine-style skirt steak; and seafood-stuffed paella for one are all standouts -- but the menu doesn't put a foot wrong. And the staff at this Fort Lauderdale spot is as sweet as the grilled plantains, as the cuatro leches cake, as the tiny cup of Cuban coffee that ends every meal.
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