Recently I drove down to Coconut Grove so I could have dinner at a gas station … I kid you not. I took a recommendation from my gynecologist and fellow foodie about a restaurant called El Carajo located at 2465 SW 17th Avenue on the corner of South Dixie Highway. Not only does this spot sell gas, gum, chips, motor oil, cigarettes, and bug spray, they also have a small bakery upfront, some food staples, and an awesome selection of wines. Why? Because they have one of South Florida’s largest and global wine offerings. They carry about 2,000 labels. And the great news is, if you purchase a bottle of wine there, you can drink it in their Spanish tapas restaurant in the back at only $10 corkage and no markup. Apparently, they lost this amazing chef and it now has a replacement, so the food is not of the same caliber as it once was. But it is still decent and very reasonable.
This humble, unassuming restaurant has walls lined with a variety of wine bottles from all over the world. The room has round archways, wooden tables, painted scenes on the walls, and wrought iron chairs. There is also a large high top communal table perched on top of empty wine barrels.
The place is run by Richard Fonseca, his wife, and his three sons. You will get big portions, friendly staff and some traditional as well as modern Spanish dishes. We tried things like a charcuterie plate, octopus, overly salty mushrooms (which we were not charged for), overcooked lamb chops (but still tasty), and some decent potatoes bravas. There is a blend of Basque, Catalan, and some Galician flavours. Nothing will blow your socks off, but it is a novelty, and you will get the chance to drink some high-end wines and champagnes from a huge selection, at reasonable restaurant prices. El Carajo feels like your own secret culinary discovery.
Come for the gas, and stay for the tapas and wine.