El Carajo Restaurant Tapas & Wines

Tucked inside a gas station, (yes, a gas station) you’ll find El Carajo International Tapas & Wines. Located at 2465 SW 17th Avenue, El Carajo doesn’t look like much from the outside. That is, until you walk inside and enter a Miami wine lovers paradise. 

El Carajo is the perfect restaurant to enjoy Spanish tapas and wines. This restaurant has become my go-to spot for picking up a bottle of 2013 Evolución Cabernet Sauvignon. I like to gift it to friends and family (and of course, myself). Everyone appreciates wine gifts! Priced at $8.89 before tax, this Chilean wine is a steal. I sat down with El Carajo Co-owner and Sales & Marketing Manager, Carlos Fonseca to get the 411 on this affordable Cabernet Sauvignon. If you are looking for a good wine under $10, look no further. You also won’t find this wine at any other location in Miami or online (trust me, I tried).

Aside from taking the time to educate me on Evolución and tasting wines, Carlos told me more about himself and this cool spot, while we tried Evolución.

A family-owned business, El Carajo was founded by his Cuban parents (I know, I was surprised too). It all started with a love for Spanish cuisine and thinking outside the box (I dig that). His parents opened the gas station in 1981. It wasn’t until 1989 that his dad had the genius idea to sell wines. It took awhile for customers to start buying wine at the gas station. That is, until the “cool factor” of buying wine at a gas station kicked in.

In 2005, his parents alongside business partners opened the original El Carajo on SW 57th Avenue, which quickly closed because of disagreements between partners. Shortly after and in 2006, the restaurant was reopened inside the gas station. Now managed by Fonseca and his two brothers, I asked Carlos what’s like to work with his siblings. He says that it’s great. As with all family, they have some differences from time to time, but having different roles in the business avoids conflict.  

By the way, if you’re wondering where the name “El Carajo” came from, it was born after a discussion between Carlos' father and his original partner. During a meeting to pick the name and after several hours of heated discussion, his partner became frustrated and said “Carajo!”, and his father said “that’s it!” After discussing it over, they quickly agreed on the name El Carajo, since they both knew the real definition of the word: the crow’s nest.

If you haven’t been to El Carajo yet, stop by for some wine or stay to enjoy tapas and Spanish cuisine (you can thank me later). At El Carajo, you can enjoy all the Spanish cuisine your heart desires, from cold and hot tapas, to paella and large plates for people who don’t like to share (who goes to a tapas bar and doesn’t share?). I recommend the hot tapa, Croquetas Sazonadas. Choose from cod, ham, chicken, or chorizo (just get them all!). For a cold tapa, try Combinación MesónJamón, Embutidos y Queso Importado (holy sh*t, what a mouth full). This cold tapa brings together cured pork loins, serrano ham, Spanish chorizo, and manchego cheese. Both pictured below. Truthfully, everything is good here. Just like with wine, it just all really depends on your palate and what you like.

Combinaci  ó  n Mes  ónJamón, Embutidos y Queso Importado

Combinación MesónJamón, Embutidos y Queso Importado

Croquetas Sazonadas

Croquetas Sazonadas

Now enough of me being a foodie, let’s move on to my tasting notes on Evolución.

Appearance: Ruby red color.

Nose: Swirling my glass without spilling my wine was easy. Figuring out the aromas was the hard part. Not going to lie, I sniffed the wine about 10 times (maybe more). Thankfully, Carlos reassured me that it would get easier with practice. So what did I smell? Earthy, fresh, fruity and a little bit of floral.

Taste: My favorite part. This cab is a modern (as Carlos calls it), easy-drinking, fruity wine. A bit dry, medium-bodied, with a smooth finish.

So grab your friends and head to El Carajo!

Special thanks to Nicky Valdes,  my unofficial proofreader.