Cornerstone of culture: Miami Fusion Café brings Caribbean flavors to 280

NORTH SHELBY – Work obligations, budget constraints or travel concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic might mean that tropical vacation has to wait, but in the meantime, chef Luis Delgado is taking people on trips of the taste buds at Miami Fusion Café.

Delgado and his crew have brought the same dishes packed with Caribbean flavors from his restaurant in downtown Birmingham to a new location in Greystone Park on U.S. 280.

“This is our residential location,” Delgado said. “God gave us the vision to pivot, and then he provided. Here, we want to do the same thing we’ve been doing for the last 10 years.”

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in Miami, Delgado credits his grandmother with teaching him how to cook at an early age.

“I learned everything I know from my grandmother,” he said. “She’s definitely part of everything that’s in our flavors. When I was 7, I already had the talent of cooking. It was just like my art.”

After moving to Alabama about 12 years ago, Delgado decided to open his first restaurant in Alabaster and introduce residents to the flavors of the Caribbean culture in which he was raised.

Over the next few years, Delgado expanded the business to branches in Pelham and Hoover. However, he fell on hard times financially, lost the business and struggled with homelessness for more than a year.

Delgado eventually got back on his feet and relaunched his restaurant in downtown Birmingham in 2016.

The next hiccup didn’t come until COVID-19 hit last year, but Delgado and his staff didn’t miss a beat, helping the homeless during the holidays and feeding hundreds of first responders, among other things.

“We continued to do what we had to do to serve people,” he said. “We stand for serving the community, serving the people. Our heart is in ministry, and we use our restaurant for ministry.”

Ten years after launching his restaurant, Delgado insists his loyal customer base is more like a family, with members hailing from different backgrounds.

“We’re building a family, not a business,” he said. “Everywhere we’ve been, we’ve been a cornerstone for culture. Our vision is to educate the people on Caribbean culture, and it’s been working.”

Delgado said he and his staff are having a “great time” at the new Shelby County location, which features Miami Fusion Café’s first bar.

“In 10 years, we’ve never had a bar,” Delgado said. “We’re doing different mojitos and cocktails. We are launching a lounge that will open Friday with live music.”

Other special events are planned for the spring, including a monthly car and bike show in the parking lot, Delgado said.

The new location opened at 5511 U.S. 280 in November and serves lunch and dinner. Business hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30-9 p.m.

Delgado’s advice for newcomers to Miami Fusion Café is to “start from the top” of the menu. (He admits the Cuban sandwich is always a solid choice if someone needs a quick suggestion.)

“If they’ve never been here before, they need to come,” Delgado said. “It’s not even about the food; it’s about the experience.”

Miami Fusion Café also operates a food truck with hot meals to go.

For more information about the restaurant, visit Miamifusioncafe.com or follow @miamifusioncafe on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.