Five years ago, while waiting in line at a Westchester “ventanita,” a window where you order food, Alec Fernandez came up with the biggest idea of his life. After ordering two croquetas and waiting for his order, the then-23-year-old Cuban American noticed that the person behind him ordered the same thing. Then the next customer ordered the same but added a tostada.
That, he says, is when everything clicked!
“People say dos croquetas as much as they say Google in Miami,” said Fernandez.
In the years that followed, he and his Aunt Vicky Carballo created Dos Croquetas, which has become a Miami sensation. Fernandez and Carballo produce croquetas with mac and cheese and bacon, buffalo crack chicken, and medianoche, among many options.
The pair first opened pop-ups in West Kendall and then in Doral. A few years later in 2019 they opened a storefront in Westchester, and in 2021 they appeared on the show Big Food Bucket List on Food Network Canada.
What’s more Miami than croquetas? If you were born and raised in this city, you grew up savoring them, and if you recently moved here, you are most likely already addicted.
Croquetas have been around for quite a while, but only recently have these fried, salty pastries traditionally filled with a ham paste become a craze. Foodies go around town looking for the best croquetas, then post photos on social media. South Florida has caught on.
Fernandez and Carballo have contributed to that croqueta success. In fact, she is the mastermind behind all the recipes at Dos Croquetas. When her nephew first contacted her, she was reluctant. Carballo at first thought the idea was crazy and impossible, so she challenged her nephew to do the croquetas on his own.
A few days later Carballo received a call that would open her mind to another level of entrepreneurship, since she had been a caterer for several years. “Hey tia, I made them, so come by and try them,” said Fernandez.
And that is exactly what she did. Carballo went over to her nephew’s place, and was shocked by how good they turned out. From that moment on, she decided they would build what she tells her kids is a “croqueta empire.”
This duo started back in 2016 with an $80 table-top fryer and four pounds of meat, just making small batches while they tested and developed flavors.
“The menu was based on things Alec and I like to eat,” said Carballo. Then one day the idea of a pop-up came to Aunt Vicky, because they needed a commercial kitchen to be able to produce larger amounts of food.
“Once we got into that kitchen it was very bizarre and surreal,” said Carballo. Even though the kitchen was in the middle of nowhere, near Miami International Airport, people would show up after seeing their promotions on Instagram.
Carballo believes that curiosity about pop-ups was part of their initial success. She remembers that people would pull-up in their cars and between laughs would say they were not sure if they were doing a “drug deal” or going to a “strip club.”
And although it was a lot of work because they had to build everything up and tear everything down at the end of each day, she remembers those times with a lot of gratitude, because eventually, customers became like family and helped them grow the business.
On May 10, 2019, the two finally opened Dos Croquetas restaurant at Bird Road and SW 105th Ave. It was a dream come true not only for them but for all those croqueta lovers who had been enjoying their handcrafted specialties only by pick-up or delivery.
The official opening day was a success as people lined up until 2 a.m. to get a chance to enjoy their menu as well as Laces IPA and Father Francisco beer from Wynwood Brewing. Customers were also introduced to the guavarita lemonade and Jupiña margarita-lit slushies, as well as their versions of the orange, peach, guava or pineapple mimosas.
Another big accomplishment for this family-owned business is the nationwide shipping service which they launched a while back, but lately has gained more traction. When the croquetas arrive, they can be air fried, oven baked or deep fried, so if you do not live in Miami you can still savor these delights.
Recently, the restaurant’s kitchen has moved to a new spot in Medley, a warehouse area near Hialeah and Doral. With more space, they can increase production. They hope to increase the number of monthly croqueta box subscriptions, which include customers’ favorite 20 croquetas, free sauce upgrades and VIP taste tester privileges that allow them to experience the latest products before they go public.
Today, Fernandez oversees the entire business. His passion for marketing has taken this croqueta bar to the next level. Among his favorite menu items is the medianoche, which won an award at Burger Beast’s Croqueta Palooza for the People’s Choice best croqueta in Miami in 2019. He is also looking to expand the business and open new locations.
Although it’s been an excruciating experience, it has also been very rewarding, he says. “You cannot put a price on the experiences building this company. It has made me a resilient person for sure, and it has taught us that you just have to keep pushing.”
Vicky Carballo is just as excited about the future as her nephew. “People that say that they shouldn’t work with their family, it’s all good,” said Carballo with a big smile on her face.