Who: Eileen Andrade, chef & owner of Finka Table & Tap
Where: Miami, Florida
For Eileen Andrade, the chef and owner of Finka Table & Tap, cooking is in her DNA. Her grandparents, Raul and Amelia Garcia, who immigrated from Cuba in 1977, are the founders of Islas Canarias Restaurant, known for keeping the Magic City in supply of real-deal croquetas.
Eileen cut her teeth at her family's restaurant and bakery, making traditional empanadas, bocaditos, and pastelitos, while also studying traditional Peruvian cuisine and technique from the executive chef. By 2011, she was ready to step out on her own, opening the food truck CubanCube with her brother Jonathan; and a few years later, it was time to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Drawing heavily on her Cuban heritage, Finka Table & Tap puts a twist on traditional Latin food by incorporating Korean and Peruvian ingredients and techniques. "It wasn't easy to turn people on to kimchi, wakame, and shiso," she says. "But we have, and it's a great feeling."
Finka also takes pride in its fresh juices, homemade syrups, and craft cocktails — and, naturally, you can find her family's famous croquetas on the menu.
A Visit with Eileen Andrade & Her Kitchen
Pulling up to Eileen Andrade's house in West Kendall — exactly a half mile from Finka Table & Tap — feels slightly surreal. That's because her house looks like an igloo (yes, an igloo). Bright white and dome-shaped, its quirky outward appearance gives no hints at the modern interiors you'll find inside.
But once there, you see that somehow it all works. Her renovated whitewashed brick wall, spiral staircase painted to look like concrete, and wood-looking tile floors are the perfect foil for a mix of minimalist and industrial furnishings.
You instantly know that someone edgy but warm calls this place home. This conclusion is confirmed by the groovy sounds of indie rock band alt-J playing as a skillet of ingredients for Andong-jjimdak simmer on an industrial-style range, surrounded by glossy white subway tiles, stainless steel countertops, and open stainless steel shelving.
The dish is a potato and chicken stew with sweet potato noodles or, as she calls it, the Korean version of her native Cuban fricasé de pollo. (It's just the kind of meal you might find on the menu at Finka Table & Tap.)
How did you come to live in an igloo?
My parents bought this property many years ago. The igloo-shaped house was always the talk of the neighborhood. People always wondered who lived there and what they looked like. It was rented out for many years until I decided to remodel it and move in. It's a wonderful space that needed a lot of work.
What kind of renovations did you do?
We gutted out the entire house and pretty much redid everything: the floor, kitchen, bathroom, lighting — you name it! My fiancé and I are just moving in.
What's your favorite thing about your kitchen?
It's a small kitchen, but it has everything I need. I'm used to cranking out a lot of food from a small kitchen, so it's not new to me. My Viking range and custom-made hood make me really happy. The exhaust fan is so intense that I feel like I'm back at Finka!
Do you have a favorite memento or keepsake?
My grandparents who started the family business passed away recently, so we keep two very nice sculptures at the entrance of the house that belonged to them.
What's the smartest thing about your kitchen?
I like keeping an open space. Too many cabinets make you hide clutter, and I hate clutter. If you force yourself to have open shelves, you will most likely stay more organized.
What do you love to cook in your kitchen?
I love cooking traditional dishes, whether it's Indian, Korean, Cuban, Peruvian, or Caribbean cuisine. Before I opened Finka, I used to have tastings where I would try out five dishes a night and people would give me feedback. I did these fall-off-the-bone Korean ribs once that were to die for. I have no idea what I did that day, but I have not been able to replicate that recipe!
What can you tell us about the restaurant scene in Miami?
Miami is still up and coming as far as restaurants that are pushing the envelope go, but we do have a large amount of mom-and-pop restaurants that are making tasty food. I prefer restaurants that aren't pretentious and that focus on flavor.
Eileen's 5 Best Bites in Miami
- The croquetas at my family's Islas Canarias Restaurant pretty much paid for my college, so I need to give them props. The recipe has been in my family for over 30 years. They truly are the best croquetas I have ever had.
- I love the ajiaco and chicharrones at El Mago de las Fritas that El Mago himself makes on Saturdays. He reminds me so much of my grandfather, so sitting down at the counter with him, sharing a bottle of wine, and eating his delicious food takes me back to my childhood (minus the wine, of course).
- The Korean fried chicken at KYU is one of my favorite versions of the dish. It's not doused in sauce like at most places (including my own). Its flavors are quite simple, but that dish with an Old Fashioned is something I crave a few times a week.
- I love Chef Bee's cooking at NaiYaRa. He masters the perfect amount of sweet and spicy in most of his dishes. His Tom Kha Gai soup is a great introduction to all the amazing things he has on his menu.
- The spring rolls at Lung Yai Thai Tapas are the freshest and crispiest spring rolls I have ever had. Everything on the menu is great, but the spring rolls are something I have to get every time I go.
Thank you for the visit, Eileen! Stop in for a bite at Finka Table & Tap at 14690 SW 26th Street in Miami starting at 11:30 a.m. daily.