Julio Cabrera, the award-winning master bartender best known for bringing the art of the cantinero to Miami, has debuted his latest restaurant in Miami Lakes called La Cumbancha, featuring a menu of Cuban-American food and cocktails.
Cabrera, named Bartender of the Year at the 2019 Tales of the Cocktails’ Spirited Awards, says he wants to bring a high-energy restaurant to Miami Lakes, which has been his home for nearly two decades. “Everybody who wants to open a place looks to Little Havana or South Beach. I wanted to give something to my neighborhood. I know the potential Miami Lakes has, and it needs a restaurant that provides quality food and service.”
Cabrera describes La Cumbancha as a tribute to 1970s Miami. “This was the beginning of the Cuban community in Miami.” He cites ¿Qué Pasa, USA? a bilingual television series from the late 1970s, as his inspiration. “It was a show about a Cuban-American family living in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood.” The restaurant is decorated in bright citrus hues to set the mood, augmented by colorful murals.
The menu, created by chef Carlos Hidalgo, offers Cuban favorites flavored with influences from France, Spain, and Italy. Highlights include blood sausage and mozzarella croquetas served with Greek yogurt-dill sauce; pork tamales with serrano ham, avocado, and mojo criollo; rabo encendido (Cuban oxtail stew) with wood-fired oxtail, port wine, spicy sauce, arroz moro; tostones chilindron de chivo (goat Creole) with braised goat, red sauce, Hautey beer, red wine, and mashed potato; and a filet mignon finished tableside with a rum flambé sauce.
Cocktails, of course, will play a huge role at La Cumbanacha. The menu is a collaboration between Julio Cabrera, his son Andy Cabrera, and Cafe La Trova bartender Loiver Hernandez — with the bulk of the libations created by Andy and Hernandez. “From the beginning, they asked to be part of the team and create the cocktails. I wanted to have at least six cocktails on the menu, but they presented them to me, and they were excellent.” Cabrera wasn’t surprised by the events since he and his son had visited nearly every cocktail bar on the World’s 50 Best Bars list together.
Cabrera considers the cocktail menu so solid that he doesn’t yet have a favorite one. “We don’t have one yet that we consider the signature. We’ll learn that in a few months. So far, all the cocktails are really good.”
Cocktail standouts, according to Cabrera, include the Cumbanchero, a coffee tiki cocktail made with rum, toasted coconut syrup, coffee Campari, lime, and pineapple; and the El Caballo Daiquiri made with rum, Luzardo bitter blanco, apricot liqueur, calamansi, sugar, and lime. The restaurant will also offer a martini cart, which will allow bartenders to craft your cocktail tableside.
To further generate excitement, La Cumbancha will offer live music nightly by musicians from Brazil, Cuba, Mexico, and beyond. “The music is amazing, and we have one singer that sounds just like Celia Cruz,” said Cabrera.
In all, Cabrera is excited for Miamians to experience La Cumbancha – especially people who are fans of the now-iconic Cafe La Trova. ”I love this place, and I’m really excited. It’s different from La Trova, but it has the same energy. I want to bring the finest detail in food, service, and cocktails to Miami Lakes. I can compare the cocktails here with any of the top 50 bars in the world. We have a combination of food, drinks, and ambiance. It’s going to be special, I can assure you.”
La Cumbancha is now open at 6743 Main Street, Miami Lakes, FL, 33014. For reservations, call 305-456-5972 or visit lacumbanchamiami.com. Open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.