After the fire: Latin American Grill offers free Cuban espresso on July 4th

Community By Linda Trischitta, Editor Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Latin American Grill in Miami Lakes will give customers a taste of what’s to come on July 4th.

That’s when the restaurant’s ventanita will reopen and owner Reny Gonzalez and his devoted team will give away free shots of Cuban espresso, from 4:30 p.m. to sunset.

“We’ll be able to serve the people who park here and walk to [Veterans Park] for the fireworks,” Gonzalez said.

His landmark café has anchored the back side of the Park Centre Shops since June 9, 1997.

But on Nov. 19, 2022, the fire suppression system didn’t function correctly, and the blaze and repairs shut down the restaurant for nearly two years.

The situation caused customers, some of whom dined there daily, to experience withdrawal.

And it wasn’t just the pastelitos they were missing.

Latin American Grill is a sort of “Cheers,” where lots of familiar faces welcome friends.

Miami Lakers, especially on the west side, and folks who work in Business Park West go there to get their caffeine and snacks, with a side of gossip at the takeout window.

While it was shuttered there was a continuous vigil on Miami Lakes Facebook pages, with skeptical posters wondering if the restaurant would ever reopen. One wrote that if they did, take a a photo to show proof of life, or rather pastelitos.

The wait will be worth it.

The menu is unchanged.

And the new design has modern touches like subway tiles on the walls, leather-topped diner seats along a long, curved counter and benches for waiting diners.

The sandwich maker will have his own elevated platform and will work behind plexiglass so that customers can salivate while he assembles their meals above a display of meats and cheeses.

The pastelito case near the window will be small, to make sure only fresh items are ready to serve, Gonzalez said.

“What I wanted was to keep the homey feeling of the business but make it current,” he said of the makeover.

With a glance, people will be able to see if their friends are inside.

Outdoors, Italian-style café lights hang from the portico, brightening tables that will be bordered by planters.

But on Thursday, only the takeout window will be open.

Customers won’t be able to go inside until Monday, July 15, which Gonzalez said is when he'll hold the grand opening.

And it must be a firm date. After all, it’s on thousands of flyers he is preparing to mail out soon.

As for the menu, “A lot of people love our breakfasts,” Gonzalez said.

Customers can also expect to find their favorites: Cuban sandwiches; ropa vieja (stewed shredded beef); chicken soup and churrasco (grilled meats).

There will be familiar faces among the 45 or so staffers who are returning. Among them are Day Manager Luis Vivanco and Night Manager Alberto “Chi Chi” del Toro.

Both men have been with Gonzalez since he opened 27 years ago. And they were both smiling on Wednesday afternoon.

Latin American Grill is at 15342 NW 79th Court in Miami Lakes. From July 15th, it will be open daily from 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Takeout may be ordered at or by calling 305-231-0083.