Edible South Florida Fall 2012 : Page 25
VENTANITAS Sef Gonzalez WHILE I WAS BORN IN NEW YORK, I grew up in South Florida. I spent the summers working with my father and ﬁnding the Miami Cubans had created for themselves in areas like Little Havana, Hialeah and Westchester, where we lived. It wasn’t until my family took vacations to other cities that I realized there were vast differences in Hispanic communities. I can’t remember when I didn’t know or understand the importance of ventanitas to the culture here. Translated, ventanitas means “little windows,” the drive-thru/pickup windows of the Hispanic community. They’re also much more. Finding the right little window for you is like making a connection with a local restaurant and its chef or servers. They’re able to make you feel at home. They will learn your name, what you like to eat, and details about your life – and you will know about theirs. My father frequented many ventanitas that and he was known by name at all of them, which meant every summer all of them also knew me. They knew I needed two croquetas and a Coke or maybe one croqueta , a pastel de guayaba and a cafe con leche . What I ordered, of course, depended on who made what better. And much like high school, there was a hierarchy at each window. There was the dude who everyone pretended to like but dreaded having to put up with. There was the guy everyone loved, including all the ladies working the window. There was their heartthrob, the good tipper, the bad tipper and many edible SouthFlorida.com | fall 2012 | 27 others. Everyone shared Cuban coffee as a sign of friendship or to bury the hatchet. The most famous of ventanitas, of course, is the one at Versailles on SW 8th Street in Miami. All kinds of topics are discussed, but politics is where most conversations end up – Versailles is a must-stop for presidential candidates on the stump. It’s best to just order an empanada and a cafecito and listen. This ventanita is a destination for many folks. Don’t believe me? Look up Versailles on Google maps and you’ll see a bunch of people standing around talking. While I don’t frequent ventanitas like I used to, I’m OK with that. I know my dad is still well known at his favorite one, which means they probably know me, too. Q Sef Gonzalez is and writes the Burger Beast, a blog about his never ending search for the Best Comfort Food. He also curates monthly Food Truck events throughout South Florida.