Calafate Grill (17100 Collins Ave, 305.949.1945) is the kind of place you walk into and think, tapas lounge, really?
Good sangria, really? I mean, we're in a strip mall surrounded by ridiculously tall condo buildings that are sadly, comically, tragically empty (ever heard of a building limit Sunny Isles?) and as I walk from my car in the giant parking lot to the bright and airy restautant I probably pass a dozen Russian mafioso types smoking and chatting in front of a kabob place. So yeah, I'm thinking great place for dollar store shopping and to pick up a few essentials at CVS, but patatas bravas? Really?
A quick glance at the happy hour menu and I give it a try. $3 sangria and beers - including a cold and citrusy Blue Moon draft - and a long list of $3 small plates. So we order up a slew. First up: the mushrooms.
Oh the mushrooms. Easily the best in show. A heaping bowl sauteed in tons of garlic swimming in white wine and olive oil. Perfect with the crusty bread imported from Spain to sop up the garlicy juices. Good sign of things to come. Next, the patatas bravas, another generous bowl of expertly-fried potato cubes covered in a fantastically spicy cayenne pepper sauce.
The kind of fire that hits you at the back of your throat but is so good you go back for cube after cube, despite the fact that your lips are on fire. And yes, more beer please. After that is was a blur as we kept ordering plates and beers because at $3 a pop, it's rilly, rilly easy. The one thing I will say was truly bad was the tortilla espanola. Maybe they were off on that dish that day, but nothing can excuse the dry wedge of potato and egg fritatta that barely tasted of anything and was drizzled unappetizingly with a green mayonaise sauce. Truly disappointing. But that was really the only low note. Other highlights included the spinach croquettas, beef skewers and garlic-sauteed shrimp (yeah, you better like garlic if you're coming here). And while the waiters don't really speak English (they do speak a Russian-Spanish hybrid, if that helps), they do a great job of clearing plates, keeping water and beer glasses refilled and keeping up with demanding clientele. So yes, it's a neighborhood gem. Check them out next time you need to make a run to the dollar store.
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