South of the Border

Caja Caliente Opens a New Location on Ponce

By Lizzie Wilcox

June 2019

South of the Coral Gables/ Miami border: Opening their second location at 808 Ponce de Leon Blvd. last month (Wynwood came first), Caja Caliente is already a Gables hot spot. If you go during the lunch rush, you’ll find no empty seats, even at the countertop. A crowd like this means two things: there’ll be a wait, and it will be worth it. Though they also serve sandwiches and quinoa bowls, this the self-proclaimed home of “The Original Cuban Tacos,” so we couldn’t pass them up. While it’s usually a toss-up between ordering two or three, depending on your appetite, two is enough. It even says on the menu: “One you’re satisfied. Two you’re full.”

We went with the lechon taco and, daringly, the gator taco. Each seven-inch flour tortilla is overflowing with meat, pico de gallo and caja aioli, and the lechon taco ($5) is stuffed with pulled pork – and when they say “Abuelo’s pulled pork,” they mean it. Owner Mika Leon’s grandfather opened Cuban restaurants all over Spain after leaving Cuba in the early ’70s. Now Caja Caliente is a family affair.

In fear of sounding clichéd, the gator taco ($8) tastes, well, like chicken. It looks like it, too. The “Fresh Florida Gator” is cut into bite size pieces and fried, resembling popcorn chicken, which honestly makes it easier to eat if you’re put off by reptiles. Whoever said, “If you’re not a Gator, you’re Gator bait” clearly has never been here.