Sometimes, I think people forget about the Gables. As a 20-something, it almost seems taboo to live here. When people ask me where I live, and I tell them Coral Gables, I usually get one of two responses: “still?” or “ohhh.” I happen to love the Gables. Walking distance to my Publix, my coffee shop, and a handful of really really good restaurants, I’m perfectly happy living in this quiet area, even if it isn’t as “trendy” as some others. Because a lot of people don’t like to bother with coming to the Gables, they can miss out on a lot of great local restaurants. One of my favorites includes Talavera Cocina Mexicana. Sometimes you want cheap, sloppy mexican food, for which I would point you to Taco Rico. Other times, you want mexican food that’s elevated to a new level — innovative, surprising, but still with the classic touches. Although most people would think to go to Rosa Mexicana, they should suck it up, come to the Gables, and eat at Talavera instead. Talavera starts its guests off with baked, not fried (I don’t miss the grease), tortilla chips, and two choices of salsa: salsa verde, and a smooth, pureed red salsa. The salsa verde will knock your socks off. In contrast, the red doesn’t really have enough kick. Mixing it with the red salsa provides a nice balance of flavors.
HOWEVER, please please do not do the classic fill-up-on-chips-and-salsa routine. Save the room in your stomach for the amazing and unique guacamole – the only guacamole listed on the menu. I am a guacamole snob – anything that tastes like there’s sour cream in it, or has too much cilantro, I will turn down in an instant. This guacamole boasts the right amount of cilantro, and creamy, bright green avocado – without any sour cream. The real kicker is the crumbled feta cheese and chicharrón served on top. The server suggested we make a guacamole-chicharrón sandwhich, placing both within a fresh tortilla.
We didn’t take my own advice and filled up on the chips and salsa, guacamole sandwiches, and delicious hibiscus margaritas. After taking a bit of a breather, we ordered our entrees: the Mole Don Vicente, and chicken flautas in a black bean sauce. The mole had intricate flavors, each bite giving up a different taste. The mixture of chocolate, nuts, fruits, and spices managed to keep me interested until the last bite. Served with poached pears and watercress, the simplicity of these items paired with such a complicated dish made perfect sense. The chicken was well-seasoned, juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside. The flautas were baked, not fried, and covered in a smooth black bean puree, sour cream, and more feta cheese.
Although Talavera isn’t a new restaurant, it’s worth either revisiting, or trying for the first time. The care put into the food is evident from the first bite and the staff’s own admiration for the food truly shines through. The food is simple, complex, beautiful, and delicious, all at once. Talavera’s ambiance, a wash of blue and whites, provides a relaxing setting to kick back with a margarita, or have several courses like we did. Cheers! – Stefanie
P.S. If this sounds good to you, and you live in the New York City area, check out Ofrenda instead. Order a cucumber margarita or a Flor & Luna and enjoy!