Molina's Ranch Restaurant
Name: Cari Garcia
Occupation: Social Worker/Food Blogger
Lives In: Hialeah
Restaurant Pick: Molina’s Ranch Restaurant
Reviewed: Molina’s Ranch Restaurant
My favorite dishes at Molina's consist of the vaca frita, rabo encendido, moro rice that comes topped with minced chicharrones and the bistec artesiano. I love their flan, arroz con leche and Natilla. This place's cooking always feels like home to me.
Name: Melissa Ginsberg
Occupation: Italian Teacher and Food Blogger
Lives In: Miami
Restaurant Pick: Market 17
Reviewed: Molina’s Ranch Restaurant
Ok, a restaurant in Hialeah…..hmmmmm….Let’s see, I’ve been living in Miami eight years and I think I have been to Hialeah, wait for it……once?? When I found out that one of the restaurants I had to review was in Hialeah I immediately called my Cuban girlfriend and asked her to come to dinner with me. This gringa needed her Cuban sidekick!
After we missed it (I don’t know how because the building is enormous) we made a u-turn and turned into the expansive parking lot. This place is huge! We found parking immediately, went inside, and were seated all within a matter of about one minute.
The décor is nothing to write home about. The dining room is large with a mixture of booths and tables and they were seating all the patrons in one area of the restaurant. Our waters were filled immediately and our waiter came by to hand us our menus. I always love places that have laminated menus the size of small book and that have advertising on each page. Classy! ;)
Our waiter spoke English, which was a welcome surprise, and we started with a couple ham croquettes (croquetas de jamon) and a chicken noodle soup (sopa de pollo). Our waiter brought us warm Cuban bread with some butter and we dug in! The bread, which came in an order with three small pieces, was so good! Soft and warm and not pressed with loads of butter like other Cuban restaurants I’ve been to. Don’t worry… I lathered that bread up with tons of the whipped butter that was in the bread basket!
The croquettes and soup arrived and while the croquettes were delicious and savory, the soup was a bit bland and it would be something I wouldn’t order again. It also had an odd bright orange color to it. The one thing I love about Cuban chicken noodle soup is putting lots of lime and Tabasco in it, but even that couldn’t save this soup!
The water in our glasses never fell below the halfway mark before someone was there to fill it up and before I could finish my soup, our entrées arrived.
Cuban restaurants obviously like doing a lot of dishes because everything always arrives on separate plates. I ordered the vaca frita which is practically a steak that has been boiled, shredded, and then placed in a pan and fried until crispy. It came with rice on a separate plate, black beans in a separate bowl, and the boiled yucca I ordered as a side dish in a separate dish. I had four plates for my one meal!! I order this often at Cuban restaurants and this is, hands down, the best one I’ve ever had. It was so crispy and flavorful and the sautéed, long strips of onions on top were seasoned with the right amount of mojo. Delicious! The boiled yucca was soft, but not too mushy and the beans and rice were fine as well.
My friend ordered the chicharrones de pollo which is basically fried chicken chunks. You can get an order of two or four and of course we went with the larger order! The chicken came with four large drumsticks fried to golden perfection. The skin was so flavorful and the meat was juicy and tender inside. It was accompanied with moros (rice and black beans cooked together) and crunchy pieces of pork rinds sprinkled on top. My friend commented that the rice wasn’t that good and that it was a bit dry.
After stuffing our faces we both had enough food for leftovers for lunch the next day. The bill was under $30 (!!!) for both of us and we left feeling very satisfied and full! I would definitely recommend anyone looking for cheap, authentic, tasty food to try out this restaurant. You won’t regret it!
Name: David Rosendorf
Occupation: Commercial Bankruptcy Attorney/Food Blogger
Lives In: Miami Beach
Restaurant Pick: Chu’s Taiwan Kitchen (closed)
Reviewed: Molina’s Ranch Restaurant
We arrived at Molina’s Ranch at about 8pm on a Friday night. The parking lot behind the restaurant was pretty full but the restaurant somehow less so. It’s a fairly large place, with a layout like many Cuban restaurants (and diners and delis) – a counter lined with stools as you walk in, and a dining room with several rows of tables (broken up by a couple dividers). There are a few big screen TVs around the room, a soundtrack of the 80’s greatest hits is playing on the stereo. The whole first page of the menu lists daily specials – some of which are regular menu items at lower prices, others are “off-menu” items that must rotate from day to day. If you get past that, there’s a very typical selection of chicken, pork, beef and seafood dishes, as well as sandwiches and a few other items.
Almost immediately after we sat down, our waitress took drink orders and asked if we wanted any “apertivos”. We ordered some mariquitas (thin sliced, crisp fried plantains, with a mojo garlic and sour orange dipping sauce) to share, and a huge platter came to the table within minutes. They were nice and crisp and seemed freshly fried, but not at all greasy. The mojo has a potent garlic bite, probably not ideal first date material.
Between the four of us we ordered the masas de puerco (fried pork chunks), lechon asado (roast pork), chicharrones de pollo (crispy chunks of chicken – actually plump chicken legs), and bistec empanizado (a thin cut of steak, breaded and fried). All but the bistec were served with moros (mixed black beans and rice) and maduros (sweet fried plantains); the bistec came with white rice and black beans instead. I also added on a couple croquetas de jamon. They were all hearty and satisfying, but nothing was terribly exciting or exceptional in any way. The lechon may have been the best of the group. The masas de puerco were a little bit tough, actually, as was the bistec empanizado, though both were still tasty. I did like the moros, especially the little crispy, porky flecks of chicharrones scattered within them. The maduros were good too – the waitress told us they’re always made fresh, while some other places will sometimes use frozen.
Our waitress was charming, eager to talk about the food, but mostly in Spanish, and understood English better than she could speak it (and certainly a lot better than I can either speak or understand Spanish). I’m a bit of a language savant when it comes to food – I can read a menu in many languages, including Spanish, but understand almost nothing else – and it worked out fine. My only disappointment was that I could never quite decipher what one of the daily specials was – “chivo robao”. I know “chivito” is little goat, so I assume “chivo” is goat (which I love), but the waitress said it wasn’t goat, but some sort of lamb. (I still think it was goat).
The daily specials in particular are a very good value – other than the bistec empanizado, which was a regular menu item, all the other dishes we ordered were from the specials list and were only $8. Portion sizes, though, were actually on the small side. The masas de puerco came with only two hunks of pork, the chicharrones de pollo only a couple little legs. It was enough food (especially for the price), but perhaps not the huge portions many people might expect to find at a Cuban restaurant.
If you’re going to a Cuban restaurant for the wine list, you’re doing it all wrong – I’m sure they must have had some wines, but we drank beer (Presidente, from the Dominican Republic) and the kids had Materva sodas.
Location: 4090 East 8th Avenue, Hialeah, FL 33013
Type of Cuisine: Cuban Cuisine
Meals Served: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodations for Children: Yes