The Night Stuff
Miami Nights Cuban Restaurant takes the fresh ingredients of the Caribbean, some Jamaican influences, a dash of French, African, and Chinese tastes, and finishes it up with a dusting of island life.
Have you ever thought about visiting Cuba? Maybe stopping off in Miami to soak up the cuisine and culture before traveling to the Caribbean for some Havana nightlife? The summer heat, the fresh Caribbean flavors, the music, and dancing? Fortunately for you, Oklahoma already has plenty of summer heat, and the Valdes family has brought Havana from Cuba to Miami to Tulsa in the form of Miami Nights Cuban Restaurant and Lounge.
Cuba’s food is as unique as its heritage. It starts with the flavors and recipes of the Mediterranean brought to the new world by the Spaniards. Add in the fresh ingredients of the Caribbean, some Jamaican influences, a dash of French, African, and Chinese tastes, and finish it all up with a dusting of island life. The result: bright and savory dishes that take your taste buds on a tropical cruise.
“Cooking has been part of the family for generations and generations. I’m the fourth generation,” says Abel Valdes, who serves as the chef, bartender, and manager of Miami Nights. Valdes has been managing Miami Nights since his father, Fransisco Valdez, opened it two years ago. “We started as a nightclub; then my father thought of me and made it a restaurant and club. We’re more of a nightclub on the weekends.”
You can feel the Miami vibe as soon as you step inside. Miami Nights is spacious and airy, with tropical trees adding a touch of greenery. Cuban instrumentals set the scene, playing overhead. A vibrant light-up palm stands in front of the bar, brightening the dark interior. Glass fishing floats and lobster traps decorate the ceiling and walls, paying homage to the island life. “Cuba is made up of mountains, plains, and beaches. The culture ranges from ranches to bar parties. The decor at Miami Nights encompasses all of that. We have Cuban vibes,” says Valdes. “The culture, the experience.”
A station stocked with fresh-cut sugar cane sits near the entrance, where Miami Nights prepares an extra-special treat: sugar cane juice. “We’re the only people selling sugar cane juice,” says Valdes. Sugar cane goes in, and fresh sugar cane juice comes out. You might expect it to be too sweet, but it’s fresh, light, and delicious. It tastes like summertime. A bit of lime sets it off nicely. A splash of rum sets it off even better.
One of the most popular menu items is, of course, the Cubano — the authentic Cuban sandwich. “We’re the king of the Cuban sandwich,” says Valdes. “It’s a straightforward sandwich: roast pork, ham, and Swiss cheese.” Miami Night’s Cubano deserves its crown. After the ingredients are stuffed inside Cuban bread and dressed with pickles and mustard, the whole thing is finished in a type of sandwich press called a plancha, which heats and compresses the sandwich. This makes the bread delightfully crispy and the sandwich wonderfully hearty. The flavors complement each other perfectly.
The churrasco is another must-try at Miami Nights. This 12-ounce skirt steak is artfully seasoned and served alongside fufu (mashed green plantains) and chimichurri sauce. The mashed green plantains are garlicky and delicious. One bite and you’ll want all your steaks served with plantains instead of boring mashed potatoes. The chimichurri sauce is bright and sets off the seasoning on the skirt steak wonderfully.
Another favorite is the lechon asado, or Cuban-style pulled pork. Tasty pork is marinated with Cuban mojo, a garlicky sauce, and slow roasted. The result is tender, moist, and savory. This delectable dish is served with moros rice (Cuban rice and beans), yucca, and garlic lime sauce.
Valdes’ favorite will be yours too: the paella. Paella is a rice and seafood dish which originated in Spain, was adopted by Cuba, and perfected by the Valdes family and Miami Nights. The rice is a sunny yellow due to the saffron seasoning, and it’s prepared with generous servings of seafood. Miami Nights’ paella is a beautiful dish, with clam and mussel shells, shrimp, and pops of color from the red pepper. The whole dish is a fantastic plate of comfort food. Delicately flavored, served hot, and loaded with goodness, it will leave you and your tummy happy. You can order the paella frita which comes with shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, squid, and fish, or go for the paella valencia which adds lobster.
“People tell us, ‘Your food reminds me of my grandma or my aunt,’” says Valdes. “It makes you feel good. It’s all homemade, all fresh made. Freshly cooked.”
Miami Nights has even more to offer, though. Their generous pina colada will make you feel like you’re lounging on a beach, while their Cafe Cubano will have you thinking you’re relaxing at a Cuban street cafe. They offer drink specials like rum and coke, vodka and cranberry, tequila sunrise, and more for $3.50.
If you want to dance the night away, stop by on Latin Thursday. From 8-9 p.m., instructors will teach you to salsa, bachata, and kizomba. With the steps mastered, you’re ready to shake your hips and meet new people as the party gets going with music provided by dedicated members of the Latin dance community in the area.
Miami Nights Restaurant and Lounge
6510 E. 21st St. | Tulsa
Monday-Saturday: 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
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