My red-eye flight from Los Angeles landed as the sun rose over Fort Lauderdale, and initial food thoughts on Thanksgiving weren’t of turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce. They were of roast pork, fresh juice and fried Cuban croquetas. My friend Ben knew just wear to find all three, at El Palacio de Los Jugos, which started as a juice stand more than 40 years ago on Miami’s interior, and has added elements that go beyond jugos naturales, including stalls devoted to meat and seafood.
The city has changed substantially in the past four decades, but El Palacio de los Jugos still has plenty of characters roaming its aisles, as evidenced by a gentleman in line who asked me if I got lost, since I apparently looked out of place amidst the rest of his Cuban expats. but I made it clear I arrived at El Palacio on purpose. He then went on to lament how Miami had gone from “heaven” to “hell,” but before he could identify the Satanic culprits, a counterwoman took his massive cheese order. He never responded, and left dejected, cheese in hand.
They had stations with seafood dishes like rueda de cherna (grouper steak), spaguettis con camarones y salsa blanca (spaghetti with shrimp and white salsa) and muela de cangrejo frita (fried crab claws), another with meat, and a third with comfort food dishes like rabo encendido (oxtail stew), ropa vieja (shredded beef) and costilla de res (beef rib).
Tender stewed squid tentacles and capes hosted zesty peppers, onions, tomatoes and more.
El Palacio de los Jugos offered a warm welcome to Miami. It’s just a good thing there was so much time before my family sat down for Thanksgiving dinner, and that there was enough time to run during that span. El Palacio’s food was flavorful, but just about the only thing that’s light is their juice.