With so many restaurants in South Florida, and more opening all the time, just picking where to go for dinner on a Saturday night or lunch on a Wednesday can be an overwhelming task. Sometimes, you just need a reason. This ongoing list of the favorite dishes from food writers who know the local scene will help you discover new restaurants, cafes, and eateries and maybe even a new favorite dish of your own.
Mexican food from Chicago. It seems like a funny idea when you roll up to Mamacita's Mexican Bar and Grill off the beachside boardwalk in Hollywood, where it advertises itself as a Chicago original establishment. But it makes sense once you learn that founders Jose and Maria Gomez owned and operated chain of restaurants in the Windy City, named after their son: Marlon's Mexican Grill.
Today, the family's Hollywood restaurant offers a mix of Mexican and Cuban cuisine, and many of the recipes on the plastic-laminated menu are based on family secrets. There are the usual offerings: enchiladas, picadillo, tostadas, burritos, flautas, tacos, and fajitas. The place also serves breakfast starting at 11 a.m., where you can pair a cafe con leche with the Mexican breakfast platter of fried eggs served on lightly fried corn tortillas, and topped with a mild homemade salsa over Mexican rice and refried beans.
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The most popular dish of all, however, is also deemed a "Chicago original" — the jibarito sandwich, what was once a big-selling menu item at Marlon's Mexican Grill. Of all of Chicago's original foods, not many know about this one, said to be created by Puerto Rican immigrants at Borinquen Restaurant (closed now) in Humboldt Park. Today, dozens of Chicago establishments make their own version of the jibarito much the same way others queue up hot dogs, deep dish pies, and Italian beef sandwiches.
The jibarito's most distinctive feature is its use of smashed, fried plantains as bread, the resulting sandwich often made with some kind of meat stuffed in-between. At Mamacita's, it comes with your choice of steak or chicken placed between two thick, crispy plantain buns slathered in a creamy garlic mayo, and finished with American cheese, lettuce, and tomato.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.