El Carajo (The Crow's Nest) serves wonderful tapas and offers an extraordinarily fine selection of wines. To get there, however, you really do have to go into the gas station. As you make your way through the Coconut Grove section of Miami, just a block or so off U.S. Route 1, you arrive at what looks like a perfectly ordinary gas station, with pumps and parking spaces and a convenience store. You will think that this fine and widely-praised Miami restaurant you've heard about must be behind the gas station, or around from the gas station, or somewhere other than the gas station. But disregard those little voices of doubt in your mind. Go ahead and park in one of the parking spaces for the gas station. Walk into the gas station as if all you wanted was to buy a quart of oil, or a package of Slim Jims, or a Dr. Pepper. And when you do so, you will find in the back of the restaurant -- beyond the normal appurtenances of a gas-station convenience store -- an amazing array of wines, and a bakery whose shelves fairly groan with rich and tempting dessert items, and beyond that El Carajo, the great tapas restaurant you've been looking for.
The scale of the restaurant is intimate -- just a few tables. The look is Castilian brick-and-sandstone (fabricated, admittedly, but tastefully so), and the wait staff are unfailingly prompt and courteous. The selection of wines-by-the-glass is extraordinary; my wife thoroughly enjoyed her sangria, and I had a delightful Argentine malbec. The tapas that our party enjoyed included empanada de langosta (mini-pie stuffed with lobster), sardinas de santurce (grilled sardines), pulpo a la gallega (Galician octopus -- reminded us of being in Santiago de Compostela), and chorizo al vino (sausage in wine sauce). That list should give you a good sense of the variety of tapas, and the delightful dining experience, available to you at El Carajo. All you need to do is think counterintuitively, park at the gas station, and walk into the gas station.
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