Back in 1992, when the rhythm was busy getting us, Gloria Estefan and her enterprising husband, Emilio, were busy opening a restaurant that would eventually become an Ocean Drive landmark. A restaurant you and your friends may have visited for photo ops, arroz con pollo, and a Sound Machine sighting or two. Fast forward to 2014 and, while stick figure model types and assorted A, B, and Z-list celebrities have come and gone, Estefan’s Larios on the Beach not only still exists, but is better than ever for a night out with friends. A recent renovation–call it a Miami-style nip/tuck if you like–has given the place a sleek new look, a savory new menu, and even a few calorie-conscious selections that never would have applied to Cuban fare back in the day. But before you stick a fork into the healthy stuff, consider chef Odell Torres’s bacon-wrapped maduros (ripe plantains) or some house made pork tamales. Yep, pork is the other white meat, and healthy-ish, too, if you don’t go whole hog.
But then there are those low-cal, high-flavor dishes that will allow you, perhaps, to indulge another sweet, refreshing mojito. Among these guilt-free dishes: grilled fresh grouper, baked plantain chips, and vegetarian black beans. Yum. “Experience our tried and true Cuban Cuisine, tastes like it’s right out of abuelita’s kitchen, and induge your taste buds with our new surprising culinary sensations,” says Ms. Estefan, so make with the experiencing and indulging. Not so tried and true, however, is the space’s sleek new look, one that will definitely bring you up to this century even if the rest of the place focuses on classics. While Emilio tweaked the design so that you, esteemed guest, would feel “enveloped by the ocean,” the only thing you may be drowning in is Cuban coffee at the attached outdoor cafe, espresso bar, and lounge after your meal. If you’re not doing the conga after a few sips of that rocket fuel, you never will.