In 2002, a cop named Alex Hernandez began stopping at Calle Ocho's El Exquisito for a caffeine-and-medianoche refuel. Even after he left the force, he remained a regular. So when Heliodoro Coro, who opened the place in 1974, put it up for sale in 2011, it was easy to figure out who should take over. Hernandez quickly retooled the kitchen, brought in a new chef, and now pumps out pristine Cuban fare for camera-toting tourists and ravenous locals alike. The rotating list of daily specials is the reason to return. Finish your Monday with long-braised oxtails ($9.99); this unctuous, fatty meat slips rights off the bone. On Tuesdays, pause for lunch with fabada asturiana ($4), studded with meaty white beans and tangy rounds of the blood sausage morcilla. Meanwhile, the medianoche ($5.75) is perfectly reliable any time of day throughout the week. Sweet egg bread is pressed to a pleasant crunch on the outside, but it remains fluffy inside. The pork is perfect, and the juicy, savory shreds rest atop a layer of gooey Swiss cheese that provides a barrier for a mountain of sweet-salty ham. So don't fear the tour buses. In fact, show the visitors where to go. You're a banana republic ambassador.
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