Photo Credit: Caja Caliente
Popularity for the “Famous Cuban Tacos” continues to soar with Caja Caliente’s Design District Pop-Up and brick-and-mortar Coral Gables location. Starting as a small food truck in 2016, Caja Caliente quickly expanded into a bigger location in the heart of Wynwood with an eclectic outdoor seating area. The “Instagramable” Wynwood location became an overnight success with the help of rave reviews by loyal customers, social media influencers, food bloggers, and celebrities. In 2018 Caja Caliente was one of two Florida restaurants featured on Cooking Channel’s “Seaside Snacks & Shacks”. Numerous national and international TV shows have since been filmed at the famous location. Caja Caliente was also one of a select group of restaurants to be featured in both the 2018 & 2019 South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
Mika Leon, owner of Caja Caliente always planned to expand so in May 2019 she opened her first brick-and-mortar establishment in Coral Gables, Florida. The location is in the heart Ponce Leon Blvd and consists of a 1,500 SqFt space that seats 40-50 people which carries a “Tranquilo y Tropical” theme. Many of the pieces that were used for decor came from various islands, the Leon family’s home, including items from Cuba.
“When I designed the menu and interior decor of the restaurant, I wanted it to be an extension of me, my personality, and even my home,” said Owner, Mika Leon.
One of the biggest additions to the Coral Gables space is a tropical-themed beer & wine bar and with that comes a new happy hour spot for locals, with $3 to $6 Bites, $4 local craft beer, and $6 wines from 5 PM - 8 PM, Mon - Friday. For those who bar hop throughout Coral Gables and are looking to indulge in quality food, Caja Caliente is here to the rescue. Bringing new energy to the neighborhood.
“I’ve always had a passion for Cuban and Latin food yet I felt all the Cuban restaurants were the same, massive portions with little imagination. I wanted to share my family recipes in a fast-casual space with an array of menu options, where quality and freshness are the priority,” said Mika Leon.
In September 2020, Mika moved her food truck from Wynwood and found a permanent home for it in the luxe neighborhood of the Miami Design District. Perfectly set for shoppers and locals craving a bite to go or a bite to eat under their outdoor terrace, the pop-up is just what the Design District was missing. Caja Caliente’s Cuban-inspired comfort food on wheels, brings their famous Lechon Tacos, Vaca Frita Tacos, Octopus Tacos, Lechón Pulled Pork Sandwich, Cuban Tamal, Ceviche, Customizable Bowls and more. Locals can also expect surprise menu options from Leon’s mom, Lupita.
Caja Caliente is where it is today because of its non-complacent leader. Monica “Mika” Leon has spent the better part of the decade working in kitchens across South Florida. Her journey to Chef, restaurant owner, and television personality began humbly with Mika Bites, a wholesale desserts company she launched out of her mother’s garage just after college. With a recently earned business degree in hand and grit and passion to spare, Leon quickly went from home baker to thriving entrepreneur—proving that sweets were only the beginning.
The granddaughter of a successful restaurant owner in Spain, Leon always aspired to have her own one day. She started with a food truck in 2016 and, in 2017, expanded to a larger area whose parking lot she turned into an inviting outdoor dining space for customers. The nimble business model had always appealed to Leon, who was lukewarm on the idea of staying in one place. Her love of travel and seeing the world manifested in a similar desire to hit the streets of Miami with her unique Cuban tacos. The truck, she says, allowed her to explore different neighborhoods, introduce new people to her food, and get a lay of the land before deciding to settle down.
In 2019, Leon put down roots in Coral Gables with the opening of Caja Caliente’s first brick-and-mortar. It was a dream come true for the young chef who brought her family along for this new endeavor. Taking flavor profiles she picked up on her travels through the Mediterranean and combining them with family recipes passed down for generations, Leon’s cooking is highly personal. Traditional roast pork and homespun versions of arroz con pollo are featured on the menu alongside whimsical brunch plates and the healthy dishes she shares on her website, www.MikaLeon.com. Incubated during the lockdown, her website reflects Leon’s evolution as a chef. She focuses on healthy preparations of classic Cuban food and adaptations of her favorite desserts while also drawing inspiration from seasonal ingredients to create new dishes in line with her clean whole-food diet.
Concurrent to work in the restaurant, Leon has been cultivating a growing media career with appearances on the Food Network’s Guy’s Grocery Store Games, Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay, among other television shows. She was a finalist for Eater’s Young Guns awards and has been featured in countless publications, both local and national.
Merging her passion for food, cooking, and her family, Monica “Mika” Leon founded Caja Caliente and started her restaurant via food truck in April of 2016. The first Caja Caliente truck was a tiny truck serving up tacos on a 2-foot grill. Leon slowly expanded to opening right next door in a larger truck with an outdoor seating setup ready to serve the masses. Creating The Original Cuban Tacos ™, all tacos are made with the freshest ingredients, where quality and quantity go hand in hand. It’s safe to say it’s not your average taco with over 4 oz of protein in each serving. In addition to their signature tacos, the eatery features reinvented family recipes. All the dishes are made with love by her and her mother surrounded by cousins, uncles, and friends that work with her at Caja Caliente. It’s a family-run business and they wouldn’t have it any other way. In 2019, Mika brought her Cuban tacos and fan favorites dishes to Coral Gables in brick and mortar fashion, quickly becoming a local favorite serving up lunch, happy hour, dinner, and late-night bites. For more information visit www.caja-caliente.com or @Caja_Caliente #CajaCaliente on social media, Wynwood location, 2634 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33137, (786) 398-5137, Coral Gables location, 808 Ponce De Leon, Coral Gables, FL 33134, (786) 431-1947.