As long as I could remember, just about every cafeteria in the S Fl area offered a strong flavored yellow rice separate from another entrée such as baked chicken or fried chicken. In some cafeterias, it was called "Spanish Rice". The taste was remarkably the same no matter if you had it at Toby's, M&M, Polly Davis, Biscayne, Parke-Lane or any of the latter cafeterias that took over like David's or Cornucopia. From what I remember, Forum in Dadeland, Morrison's, and Picadilly had a different and bland tasting yellow rice that wasn't the same that had much less vegetables in it. None of us could put our finger on what was that taste. It wasn't chili powder, paprika, cumin, or saffron, but there was something in the flavoring that was pretty strong. Visually, there was no diced or chopped tomatoes, but there was a pretty high percentage of onion, red pepper or pimentos, green pepper, definitely garlic then you would find in most other yellow rice recipes. One thing that I did notice in Biscayne cafeteria's once I really started paying attention, was the presence of fried chicken cracklings scattered through the rice. Not much, but it probably came with the oil from the fried chicken instead of them using fat rendered from bacon or from ham hocks like Morrsion's used as their starter or the fond from browned chicken. I've made several cafeteria style recipes from the net like Luby's, and scaled the original recipe from Morrison's found on Phaedrus's website that used Vigo seasoning. That's not it, although the yellow was very intense to suggest a food coloring or Annotto agent like Bijol must have been in there for color.
Has anyone any idea or knowledge of how any of the old local cafeterias made their yellow rice? I remember many years ago, someone posed a similar question on Linda Cicero's or one of the other food writer's column in the Miami Hearld years ago with no immediate answer forthcoming.