The Secret Miami Restaurants You Can Only Find in Gas Stations
Typically when somebody says they had dinner at a gas station, it involves a bag of Pemmican jerky and some Pringles, usually washed down by a 32oz Special Brew. But dig a little deeper, and you can find gas stations where the food isn’t just edible, it’s actually downright delicious. Like, going-to-the-gas-station-for-the-express-purpose-of-eating delicious. Here are eight hidden gems we found in gas stations around Miami, tucked in the back somewhere behind an entire aisle of multi-colored air fresheners.
For shocking the hell out of tourists, no place in Miami will ever top El Carajo. Just tell your carload of out-of-towners you’re taking them to one of the best tapas joints in the city, where you’ll sit in a room surrounded by hard-to-find wine bottles and dine on exquisite Spanish food. Then pull into the parking lot of a BP station on SW 17th Ave and US-1, tell them to Google translate the name of the place, and let hilarity ensue. If they’re still skeptical, be sure to tell them some serious authorities also named them one of the best gas station restaurants in America.
You’ll definitely think twice the next time your friend has a really bad idea and you say “that sounds about as smart as convenience store sushi.” Because believe it or not, the sushi coming out of this Kwik Stop on Grand Ave (which technically isn’t a gas station but is equally as unexpected a place to find first-rate sushi) not only won’t make you sick, it’ll make you come back again for more. Combine that with a menu long on Thai curries, Peruvian saltados, fresh ceviches, and spicy pad Thai and you don’t just have a great convenience-store restaurant. You have -- hands down -- one of the best Asian joints in the city.
Any self-respecting South Floridian knows that to find the best Mexican food in the region, you’ve gotta head south. Way south. As in all the way to Homestead. And, sure, getting here is kind of a schlep, but hey, at least you won’t have to go far to fuel up for the long drive home, because this Valero station on NE 8th St has an attached Mexican joint plating hearty, authentic Mexican tacos, on house-made tortillas with meat carved from rotating spits. And what’s better, the interior actually feels like a sit-down spot, and not like you’re grabbing food to spill on yourself while you’re driving back.
If we told you there was a place in Miami full of craft beer, gourmet health food, and creative street art you’d probably say “There's no WAY I’m dealing with parking in Wynwood.” But what if we told you that place was a Mobil Station on Coral Way and SW 32nd Ave? Here you can fill your growler with tasty local beers on draft, or pick from literally hundreds of craft and imported beers by the bottle. They’ve also got a pressed juice and smoothie bar, boasting stuff like almond butter smoothies, gluten-free cookies, and made-to-order sandwiches and wraps. And the colorful carwash was designed by local artist Alexander Mijares.
Miami might actually have more gas stations with Cuban cafeterias than it does ones with working restrooms. So narrowing down the best is a tough call. Our pick is attached to a Westar on Coral Way and SW 22nd Ave. First, it’s located in Miami-proper’s best stretch of cheap gas stations, meaning a fillup AND lunch here is still probably cheaper than just a tank of gas elsewhere. But it’s also home to a pan con bistec that stands up to anything in a legit Cuban restaurant... and a pretty solid medianoche.
Nobody who claims to “eat healthy” would ever readily admit to eating full meals at a gas station, right? Well, not unless you’re in South Beach, where apparently even the gas stations offer healthy, homemade salads and wraps from a mother and daughter who serve everything sans-dairy. The go-to at this West Ave Texaco is the peanut butter and jelly almond milkshake, but the entire menu is based around nut milks. So the lactose intolerant who still love a good indulgence can enjoy dairy-free drinks without worrying about the mephitic effects a few hours later.
That awkward gas station island that sits between Biscayne Blvd and NE 4th Ct at NE 54th St already has racked up a reputation as having what may be the best beer selection in the city. They’ve got over 200 brews that can’t even be found at Total Wine or Whole Foods. But the REAL hidden gem here is the fresh food they serve all day, like Miami’s best falafel outside Aventura. Also on the menu: a well-seasoned Philly cheesesteak and a Turkish specialty sandwich called Tashka, which we haven’t seen anywhere else in Miami. Much less a gas station.
There are some downright outrageous burgers in Miami, but those crazy concoctions all have one thing in common: They’re expensive. Want a Facebook post-worthy burger for less than a value meal at the airport Wendy’s? Head to this Exxon station on NW107th Ave and NW 58th St, where the Special Burger comes with American cheese, a fried egg, ham, six sauces, shoestring potatoes, and a whopping $7 price tag. The rest of the menu is long on Venezuelan specialties that don’t sound nearly as artery-clogging, like parilla barbecue, arepas, and pan con queso. And even the likes of Anthony Bourdain have thought enough of the place to pay it a visit.
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