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Savoring The Flavoring Of Puerto Rico

Special to The Herald

February 8, 2004
Copyright ©2004 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

Myrna Garcia of Pembroke Pines said co-workers at three Southwest Broward schools, where she worked in the front offices since 1992, would marvel at her cooking.

''They especially loved my sauteed shrimp in garlic,'' Garcia said.

PTA moms, school administrators and other office workers at Silver Lakes Elementary School in Miramar, Pembroke Pines Charter Elementary East and Embassy Creek Elementary in Cooper City often gathered around her at lunchtime, tasting this and that. Last year, Garcia catered two school events.

''I think everyone finally guessed that I would leave someday and open a restaurant,'' Garcia said. They were right.

Now that Garcia is the proprietor of Pembroke Grill restaurant in Miramar, anyone can savor the flavor of Garcia's fine Puerto Rican cuisine.

Opened in early January, the restaurant is attracting customers countywide.

Open the door of Pembroke Grill, just east of 72nd Avenue in the Eagles Pride Plaza, and the sights and scents of old San Juan surround you.

Vivid murals display a panorama of Puerta de San Juan and el Passeo de la Princessa. Sunlight pours in from storefront windows to create the illusion of a breezy oceanside cafe.

From the kitchen, fresh vegetables simmer in a sonfrito blend and hearty sonocho soup with chicken, pork and beef tease the taste buds.

''I heard so much about the place I had to stop for lunch,'' said Marcellus Federick of Miami-Dade County.

Federick noted the friendly service, immaculate interior and cheery ambience as he waited.

Tony Hester, a barber at a nearby salon, said he tasted nearly every item on the menu, from roast pork sandwiches to flaky pastelitos, arroz con gandules and chicharrones de pollo.

''It's opened my eyes to flavors I've never tasted before. Everything on the menu is great,'' Hester said.

Garcia said her recipes are passed down from generations of mothers who crafted meals from ingredients fresh from the garden and butcher. Her chief cook is Jose Quiles, who also works at The Cheesecake Factory in Fort Lauderdale.

''Everything is cooked from scratch, just like grandmom used to make,'' Garcia said.

Family is important to Garcia. Her husband, Harry, is owner of the strip plaza. Son Harry Jr., 18, is the cook's right-hand man, and daughter Calia, 21, works part time as a waitress.

Garcia also operates a catering service offering Italian, Latin and continental dishes.

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