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Friday July 6, 2012

Tienda Vieja

Tienda Vieja

I do not know of any good Colombian restaurants in Miami. Which is a real shame. I’ve been to Bogota, and the food is outrageously good and absurdly meat heavy. It’s typical to get a plate with three kinds of meat. A particular delicacy is Ajiaco, a rustic chicken and potato soup that comes with sides of sour cream and huge capers, all of which get mixed in. So how does Tienda Vieja, out west in Hollywood, stack up?

See the whole article and 4 photos

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Tuesday May 20, 2008

bbq eel

Scenes from Lung Gong BBQ eel center, house dumplings bottom right, spicy pickled turnips (if everyone tells you to try them you probably should) center right.

beef tongue heart and intestine

Beef tongue, heart, and intestine. I’m not kidding, and it was great (although it did not a tripe convert make of me; if you don’t like chewy meats, stay away from the white bits). Again, order from the traditional menu and the dry-erase boards posted in the restaurant. You may also to check out LG’s website, charmingly devoid of a menu or any other useful information, or any actual photos of any actual dishes served at the restaurant.

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Monday May 19, 2008

Haha — Rick Ross’ new album gets a 2.4 on Pitchfork. Update: Ross’ fried seafood joint, Hip Hop Grub Spot, was highly praised in the New Times’ best-of. It’s on 441, a couple of blocks north of Ives Dairy Road. (thanks, CB)

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Tuesday May 6, 2008

Pepe's

Pepe's

So, as I was pulling into Key West a few weeks ago, I called up our friend, and Key West authority, Squathole to figure out where to have a big post-100-mile dinner. “Pepe’s,” he says, “hold on, let me see if their address is printed on the bottle of hot sauce I bought there.” Well, it was, but whether through my bad hearing or S’s bad vision, I ended up with the wrong address: 506 Caroline, right off Duval. After looking for it, giving up, looking for someplace else to eat, not finding anything promising, I ended up finding Pepe’s up the street at 806 Caroline.

From first glance you can tell it’s going to be perfect: Pepe’s opened in 1909 and looks it. It looks a little shacky from the outside, but inside is surprisingly cozy, blending indoor and outdoor spaces with equal parts Key West shamble and fine dining. It looks empty from the outside but is actually packed — mostly with locals as it turns out, this being one of the places on the island they cherish.

Pepe's

The parrot guy holds court, and expounds on the joy and life-long commitment that is parrot ownership (tip: never buy a parrot at a pet store). The parrot doesn’t talk, but instead likes to imitate other animals. He does a pretty good pig. I made pals with seasoned locals Ollie, his wife, and the parrot guy, who could totally get babes if he tried.

So the food. Well, first beer: there is exactly one beer on tap. It’s Yuengling, and it’s $1 per glass, and it tastes absolutely perfect when it’s on tap and you’ve got no choice. (I strongly advocate the 1-beer concept to other restaurants, btw. It’s got charm, and so long as it’s a half-way decent beer it will make people happy.) I think I drank about 6 over the next couple of hours. The food is surprisingly gourmet. Pepe’s style fish comes with melted cheese, but I opted for the blackened. It came prefectly cooked, generously portioned, and with fancy presentation, vegetable, and mashed potato. The rule of thumb in the Keys seems to be that the seafood is fresher and better, but not really any cheaper, than Miami, and so it was. Apparently Pepe’s has a master pie baker, so leaving without pie is considered self-in-foot-shooting. There’s a daily pie special(!), Ollie ordered a slice to go, and I followed suit, which meant killer macadamia nut and chocolate chip pie for breakfast next morning. Need I say more?

Pepe’s Cafe
806 Caroline Street, Key West, Fl.
(305) 294-7192

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Monday May 5, 2008

Crabby Jack's

Crabby Jack's

Hey kids, it’s non-Dade week here at CM, bringing you a random sampler of attractions from “the greater South Florida area.” You know, I’ve always had a feeling about the expression “South Florida” — it’s an expression that you hear in Broward much more often than in Dade. It’s the Miami Herald, but the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, and I’ve always had the impression that it was an expression used by people who don’t live in Miami to make it sound like there’s no real distinction.

Anyway, on to Crabby Jack’s. Let me make clear that this is not a place to make a trip from Miami to visit. BUT should you find yourself hungry and driving down US-1 in the northernmost reaches of Broward County, I’d implore you to stop in for one of their Dolphin sandwiches.

CJ’s oozes old-Florida charm. The building looks like it was designed by the owner on the back of a napkin and build by his college buddies over spring break many decades ago. Exposed beams, brightly painted, hold the roof on, and big home made skylight let dramatic pools of light into the cavern-like room. Slats outside the winddows that circle the building let in a little more, but the feeling is not unlike a fort. “Stuff” covers the walls, but not in that charming-but-clean TGIFriday’s kind of way — this stuff is decades old. The menus stick together. Buckets on the tables hold flyers advertising 3-for-1 beers and bingo night. Most of the people in here on an early afternoon are sitting at the bar. A sign proclaims that smoking is permitted after 10 pm, and I think that’s an essential aspect of the atmosphere; it doesn’t reek of cigarettes during the day, but it has that “people smoke here at night” vibe. The waitresses wear tiny shorts and stockings, just one step above Hooter’s uniforms (one of them spent a good solid 10 minutes adjusting her boobs in her tank top in plain view of me, not that I’m complaining or anything).

But oh, that fish sandwich. Unbelievably moist, tasty, and generously sized. It comes plain or blackened, big slice of lemon, tomato and lettuce on a good roll, with near-perfect fries and that tartar sauce that makes you realize what tartar sauce is supposed to be — more creamy than mayonnaisy. Perfecto.

Crabby Jack’s
1015 S. Federal Highway
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
954.429.3770

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Thursday April 17, 2008

Alex was recently charged $6 for a bagel with lox at Mo’s. Is that excessive? What’s the going rate for a bagel with lox?

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Wednesday April 16, 2008

Mo's Bagels and Deli

Mo's Bagels and Deli

So, we were just talking about the North Miami bagel/deli circuit, and I thought I’d mention my favorite. A little less cramped and hectic then the Bagel Cove and not overpriced like Sage Bagels, Mo’s has that old-school, family-run atmosphere you’re looking for. (There’s a new place up the street at Miami Gardens Drive and 18th Street that’s distinctly not what I’m talking about here.) The food is what you’d expect from a diner, but with massive portions and skewed towards your Kosher stuff. Delicious breakfast specials, massive sandwiches, homemade soup. You get the picture. By 10 am on weekends every table is full, and there’s a line out the door. Service is usually pretty good.

Mo's Bagels and Deli

Lox lox lox, and fish, smoked fish.

Mo's Bagels and Deli

So, does somebody really want to tell me this isn’t a “real” deli? True, it’s not from the 60s, but cut them some slack. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with any of this stuff. I sort of just admire it while waiting in the checkout line. Note the back of the take-out menu for a list of stuff available to go by the pound: 8 different types of smoked fish, 8 different soups, potato pancakes, knishes, and something called Israeli Health Salad. (Actually, the “Salads” section is a hoot, and features turkey, shrimp, and egg salad, in addition to the ominously titled “Vegetarian Chopped Liver.”)

Mo's Bagels and Deli

And of course pastries. And yes, you get a little plate of sweet nibblies when you sit down. Yum! Oh, thanks again to Susan for letting me use her camera!!

Mo’s Bagel & Deli
2780 N.E. 187th St
North Miami Beach, FL 33180 (they say they’re in Aventura, I say no)
305-936-8555

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Thursday April 10, 2008

Yes, there are still Jewish delis in Miami.

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Wednesday April 9, 2008

Paul USA

Sometime in the distant foggy past (ok, 1889), Paul really was a single bakery in Croix, France. Over the last couple of decades, it’s expanded to a worldwide empire, with shops all over the world. Their foray into the US began in 2005, and currently consists of five shops all in our little neck of the woods. The North Miami Beach location is the center of the hub, where all the baking is done, and that’s where these pictures are taken.

Paul messes with my head a little bit. On the one hand it’s got a faux-rustic corporate sheen, with the fingerprints of expensive consultants visible everywhere (note, for example, the faux-mismatched chairs in the dining room). Walking in there feels more like walking into a theme-shifted Friday’s (or Starbucks, for that matter) then A La Folie. On the other hand, there’s the genuine French heritage, the decent food, and the wait staff with French accents. If you’ve ever been to Panera, it’s sort of like that, with maybe another notch up in quality and price, and the eurotrash theme.

So, the food. Above are my eggs benedict from a recent excursion. The goal was to spend as much as possible on brunch for two sans alcohol (and yes, you can get your brunch combo with Champagne or Mimosa), and mission accomplished at over $30 for what is, essentially, fast food. Mind you, the eggs benedict was delicious, as was every sandwich, pastry, and coffee I’ve tasted there. You line up, order your food, and they bring it to your table. All the bread is baked by Paul’s staff, as are the pastries (I believe?), and it’s served in that French style, where the portions are not overly large and everything has a small field-green salad on the side.

All the same, I’m inclined to give it the thumbs-down. The corporate stench that lingers in the air sort of ruins the experience for me. I can go to any diner and get food that’s almost as good and a lot more honest, and if I want faux-rustic corporate food I’ll go to Panera, Crackel Barrel, or some such, where it comes without the Epcot-planet overtones. Your mileage may vary.

Paul
14861 Biscayne Blvd. and other locations
N. Miami Beach, FL 33181

Update: In the comments, Kathie reports that Paul in Miami “doesn’t even compare” to Paul in Paris. Over at Flickr, BeanBlossom reports that service at Paul on Lincoln Road is terrible. (N. Miami Beach location always has gushingly good service. I sort of prefer medium snooty service with my French food, another reason I like Folie.)

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Thursday March 27, 2008

Boo, hiss: I stopped by Canela last night about 10:20 pm (went out of my way, because I know they’re open late), and arrived to be told by a waiter that they were closing because it was a slow night. Their regular closing time is supposed to be 11:30 pm. Look for more slow nights, Canela, because that’s bullshit.

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Monday March 17, 2008

If you’re going to review which restaurant bathrooms are best for doing blow, do it right and provide the criteria on which you judge: “7) Bidet? (Only problem is, you might never come out).”

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Wednesday March 5, 2008

“I will NEVER patronize Taverna Opa South Beach for as long as I live, because I actually like to EAT food and not have napkins strewn all over the table while I am nibbling, much less have some skanky ho from Baltimore purloining a Mediterranean ethnicity while shaking her ass over my tzatziki.” — Manola, who was charged $3 more for a drink when a woman bartender served it to her then when a man did.

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Wednesday February 20, 2008

Yawn: A list of 6 celebrity-owned restaurants in Miami.

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Tuesday February 19, 2008

37 photographs of hostesses at South Beach restaurants.

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Thursday February 14, 2008

Canela Cafe

Late dinner at Canela Cafe yesterday, primarily because it was the only thing open at 10:30 pm on a weekday; and a very pleasant surprise. Great crusty sandwiches, yummy tapas, and just about the perfect atmosphere. You know places like Lime — chain restaurants where they take the Starbucks aesthetic and attempt to apply it to a homey restaurant setting? Well, Canela is no chain, and it splits the difference between that a genuine comforting/dive type mood.

The only real problem was that out of a list of about 10 beers only 4 were in stock (the restaurant also turned to be out of ketchup?!). This was for the best, though because the star of the evening was the Sangria — a humongous 15-glass (orange glazed ceramic) pitcher full of sweet delicious redness plus tall glasses with fruit and a small pail of ice. Yes, technically this is not how you do Sangria but trust me it works.

The food was all neo-rustic, with fresh quality ingredients. Came out fast, too, which is always nice. And the service was great. Oh: Cholula hot sauce right there on the table, which is not something you see every day. And the menu turned out to be a real treat — the entire first page is charming preamble and background explanation on the various foods. It’s obviously lovingly typed by the owner, and obviously subject to frequent revision, because the online PDF version is quite different, and ends with a 24-point note: “Please excuse me with Spanglish menu.” (The prices have substantially risen since the online version, but what can you do?)

Oh, and did I mention the live music? When we arrived a Gibson SG and amp were set up outside, and shortly arrived a dude, back to us, who proceeded to noodle casually for awhile and finally sang a few songs in a hushed mumbly voice. It was perfect near-empty-restaurant music, and I didn’t realize until later that it was none other then Jesse Jackson. There you are then — a perfect meal.

Canela Cafe
5132 Biscayne Boulevard
305.756.3930

Update: An unfortunate habit of closing before the regularly scheduled 11:30 pm kind of sours me on the place.

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Wednesday February 6, 2008

The foie et bonanne (that’s goat liver stew, I believe) at Chez Merlin Le Jardin is ‘superb.’

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Monday February 4, 2008

Not only is Dogma some litigious bastards, but they’ll totally serve you beef if you order turkey and turkey if you order veggie-dogs and think nothing of it. Bah!

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Monday January 28, 2008

Check, Please! South Florida, a show about dining, premieres tonight at 7:30 pm. No idea what channel it’s on, or if it’s web-only.

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Tuesday January 15, 2008

Hofbräu München

Hofbräu München

We don’t need to keep talking about the lamentable closing of Eidelweiss, now going on two years ago, but the fact is that authentic German food is hard to find in Miami. You would not expect a Lincoln Road joint to be much more then a stopgap to this problem, and in fact when it first opened Hofbräu München had a Latin section on its menu, some vestige of the Cuban restaurant that previously occupied the premises. Well, a year on, Hofbräu has established itself as a perfectly wonderful spot. It’s much more casual then Eidelweiss, and in fact is sometimes listed as Hofbräu Beerhall. A few niggles aside, is a great place for food and beer.

Ah, the beer. Three varieties of Hofbräu (plus two seasonal), all of course imported from Germany, are on tap: a lager, a wheat ale, and a dark. The lager is the default choice, as good as anything you’ll find on tap anywhere in town. I like my beer a little more bitter, but it should be just right for an American palette. The wheat beer is for the adventurous, unfiltered (cloudy) and with a distinct hint of citrus. The dark beer is rich and delicious, and unexpectedly easy to drink for anyone expecting a stout. All the beers come in half and full-liter mugs, the latter of which is recommended: if you’ve ever had two pints of beer with dinner, a liter is not much more, and it will make you stronger.1

The food so far has been exceptional. You really want to start with the Hofbräu Wurstplatte, four big grilled sausages of various styles, each more succulent then the last. It’s served with the obligatory sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. And while this is some of the least healthy food you’re likely to find on Lincoln, it’s a necessary occasional cardiovascular-health splurge for any carnivore. For an adventurous snack, split a Münchner Wurstsalat among a few friends over beer — it’s cold sausage and swiss cheese with vinegar, which, well, it’s a thing, anyway. I do have to agree with complaints about the mustard. While Hofbräu has a tasty sweet mustard that accompanies the wurst, I couldn’t really do a whole plate with it, and honest to goodness, the only other alternative is packets of Gulden’s. This actually is not a terrible alternative taste-wise, but it kills the vibe, man, and I hope it gets addressed soon. No excuse, as decent German restaurant is available at Publix, and especially so since they’re already flying in the beer…

Speaking of killing the vibe, let’s talk about the prices. Those liters of beer? $12 a pop. The Wurstplatte? $19. (And so it goes, almost all the prices having been raised from those listed at MenuPages.) Pricey, yes, but not so terrible when you consider (1) the imported goodies, in light of the weak US dollar, (2) exorbitant Lincoln Rd. rents, and (3) that it’s obviously not that easy to run a German restaurant in Miami. Be grateful, and eat your wurst. Less tangible is the relaxed atmosphere of the place, which is also sort of rare on Lincoln Rd. The booths inside have been replaced with real beer-hall style tables and benches, and the wood tables and chairs outside are comfortable and right-minded to the experience at hand, and yet none of this seems fussy or contrived. Well, ok, the waiters’ leather lederhosen pants are a little contrived, but we’ll let that slide.

Hofbräu München
943 Lincoln Rd. (between Michigan and Jefferson)
Miami Beach

[1] I predict that one-liter mugs of beer are going to be the next big thing. In Bogota there are trendy new places, sort of Starbucks-equivalent beer halls, which have been serving them, and the practice has spread to some of the other restaurants. This is a trend that is ripe for introduction to America — you heard it here first!

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Monday January 14, 2008

Gridskipper’s rundown on the Miami dining scene: mostly a best-of in various upper-crust dining categories.

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Wednesday January 9, 2008

A great compilation of Florida-related posts on Chowhound. (via Spangdish)

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Thursday January 3, 2008

a pork is roasted at tom’s barbecue on eighth street…not a BBQ place at all, more like a super cuban dive”

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Here’s the scoop for anyone, like me, who’s passed by Pit Bar-B-Q in the last few months and been dismayed to find it closed: the original owner, Tommy Little, died. The good news is that it’s re-opened: under new ownership, but supposedly with the same cooks and same recipes. This is going to require some investigation.

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Wednesday January 2, 2008

The band that plays Tap-Tap on Thursdays is hot. Bass, electric guitar, tenor sax, and light drum-machine percussion, with revolving vocalists. I’ve seen them a few times, and not only are they great, but they really inhabit the space and fill the room without being overwhelming. They do traditional Haitian songs and jazz standards.

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Monday December 17, 2007

Can’t say I’ve ever given a thought to the plastic-wrapped plates of food that most restaurants on Lincoln Road display for would-be diners. Looks like the Miami Beach Commission has noticed, though, and decided to outlaw the practice on the grounds that it’s déclassé.

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Wednesday December 12, 2007

Another glowing review of Sheba, the only Ethiopian restaurant in Miami. Here is the Meatless Miami review. I still haven’t been.

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Monday November 19, 2007

A few places you can get Thanksgiving dinner, but there’s gotta be lots more, right? Anyone have any recommendations from years past?

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Thursday October 25, 2007

Bill Citara’s hilariously negative review of Cancun Grill in Miami Lakes. “Chicken mole is a disaster — a thin slab of rock-hard breast immersed in a sauce so insipid and one-dimensional it strips the olé from mole with a single bite.” Related: The best Mexican in Miami (hint: not a restaurant).

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Monday October 15, 2007

Rascal House

Rascal House, photographed in 2005. Closed in 2006. Update: OK, still open, but on its last leg. And the signage is all gone.

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Monday October 8, 2007

Mango & Lime has an list of restaurants to take out-of-town parents. You know, impressive yet safe. I’d add Tap tap and maybe Tapas y Tintos.

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Thursday October 4, 2007

You know what, fuck House of India. I’ve been there a few times with friends (who insist on going regularly despite consistently bad treatment) and while the food is fine, the service is uncomfortable and weird. But this takes the cake: they had a lady arrested because of a misunderstanding over $3 on her bill. And it pretty much sounds like their mistake. I’m sorry for you people in Coral Gables with restaurants that feel like they can abuse you because there’s no competition, but this place needs to be boycotted. Update: Also, fuck the asshole Coral Gables police officer who thought it would be a good idea to arrest this woman, and the asshole police chief who agreed. (via whl)

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Tuesday September 25, 2007

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba is obnoxious; if you can deal with that, you’ll probably love it. Exquisitely designed by Scott Kester, its shanty-space-pod interior, immaculate black-clad waitstaff, and perfect futuristic-Brazilian music give it a singular retro-modern atmosphere that would be right at home on TV.

Despite living no more than a few blocks of away since it opened years ago, I’d never been; this weekend a friend and I decided to give it a shot. It was Saturday afternoon and SS was fairly empty. We arrived, and . . . immediately had a problem with the hostess. You see, SS has two types of tables — 5 and 6-person booths, and outrageously uncomfortable tables for two. We didn’t like the first table we were offered, and even the second one was less then ideal. There were parties of two seated at booths, but it seems that we’d arrived after some sort of cut-off time after which this was no longer possible, in anticipation of the evening rush. A bit of tension ensued, and we ended up acquiescing to the cramped but not uncomfortable little table.

After that, though, the evening went rather remarkably well. Our waitress (the record will note that she was tall, beautiful, and really, really good at her job) eased our lingering irritation with an introduction the the restaurant’s aesthetic (“Japanese-Brazilian”), and got our waters. So I’ll cut to the chase: the food was great. We had beer, sake, several sushi rolls, edamame, and dessert, and every single thing was spectacular. The secret of their success is that all the portions are a little smaller, and a little more expensive, then you’d expect. Still, after tax and tip, we barely cracked $100 for two people.

The sushi rolls are a cut above. Try the Green Envy (wasabi pea crust, tuna, salmon, asparagus, and aji amarillo-key lime mayo) or the Neo Tokyo (yellowfin tuna, tempura flake, and aji panca), and you may wonder why you’re paying twice what you’d pay for the same amount of food in a regular sushi joint, but only until the first taste. There is substance to this here style.

When the kitchen was out of spoons for our dessert, they apologetically brought out two sets of huge soup-spoons and tiny spoons (then our waitress rushed out with the correct spoons, still warm from the dishwasher), which pretty well sums up how good the service was (but not everyone seems to have had quite this good an experience). I left feeling like quite the elegant slouch — Sushi Samba is style over substance, but only just barely.

Sushi Samba Dromo (menu)
600 Lincoln Rd. (Pennsylvania Ave)
Miami Beach

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Tuesday September 18, 2007

Holy crap, Daily Cocaine does it again, and this time it’s Haitian food. I want to go eat with this guy. See also La Vraie Difference, one of the first ever CM posts.

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Monday September 17, 2007

What is the best Mexican restaurant in Miami? Update: A review of Rosa Mexicana by Alex, who also has thoughts pertinent to this question.

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Cuchifritos

Cuchifritos in Miami at Daily Cocaine (his photo, and a huge screen-filling version is available over there). What is it? Well, “a light stew of pig parts (I’m pretty sure I inhaled some semi-crunchy strips of ears, maws, and stomach, and maybe some tongue, too), surrounded by two baked(?) green bananas (con guineo), was perfect for a hot late summer day.”

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Jane Feltes’s favorite places on South Beach (she’s from This American Life). La Sandwicherie — yum!

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Thursday September 13, 2007

Irène says: “We’re coming in to visit and are wondering if Miami or Miami Beach has a fantastic independent espresso cafe specializing in in-house or local roasts and crafted Italian espresso drinks. Love the Cafe Cubano, but living in FL, I miss the Italianos coffee.” Anyone?

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Thursday August 16, 2007

10 good cheap restaurants at Daily Candy. I’m concerned that lots of stuff on DC is paid advetorial, but this list looks pretty good to me.

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Monday August 6, 2007

Miami Spice: let the bullshit begin. Fuck you, Sushi Samba. Update: Lukewarm review of another MS experience, at $83/person. Enough to make a person long for good cheap food any day. Update: I was about to link to another review but I see that Rick is rounding these up. I’ve talked to a few people and read a few of these online reviews and have yet to hear a single MS report that’s more then “good.” And as Blind Mind says, “good doesn’t really cut it anymore.” Duh — especially when you’re spending $50 – 100 per person.

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Thursday August 2, 2007

What's up with Miami Spice?

Miami Spice website

Miami Spice gets way more gushing then it deserves. For $35, you get an appetizer, a main course, and dessert. Drinks and tip (“Base the gratuity on what full price would have been, not on the actual check.”) are extra. It runs August and September. Basically, this is a great deal if you’re a Fat American who (1) always orders appetizer and dessert, (2) likes going to posh restaurants, and (3) doesn’t much care what you eat there.

If you’re the coupon-clipping type, this means that you’ll probably eat out more in the next two months then you do the rest of the year. More power to you, but this is not the approach to life that I’m advocating. Part of the fun of eating out is reading the menu, and eating exactly what you’re in the mood for. That’s out the window. Restaurant portions are generous, and if you’re not full after a regular meal, you need to evaluate your appetite (and probably your waist size). Dessert should be split with a date. Also: you’re not saving money. Even if you drink nothing but tap water, you’ll be spending close to $50 per person (if you followed the tipping rule above). For just a few bucks more, you can eat like a normal person — a menu, a plate of food, and a glass of wine, and not have to check the scheduled days and meals when “the deal” applies.

Basically, this is a cheap (where “cheap = “inexpensive”) stunt by the restaurants to drum up publicity. Take the slowest months of the year, throw together a fancy website, send out some PR, and wham — you get “an event” that gets some traffic. A whole mess of sponsors kick in money and advertising help. Everybody wins.

Sure, some of these restaurants are outrageously expensive, and you could potentially get a great deal. Just weigh that against the possibility that Miami Spice customers have been snubbed in years past. I recommend you to go out and eat at nice places throughout the year, as the mood strikes you. Dress well, order what you want (the more expensive things on the menu are usually worth it), splurge on wine and coffee, tip generously, and generally live large for a night. Put it all on a credit card. When it’s paid off, repeat. You’ll be happier in the long run.

Update: The Herald article hilariously gives the [non-clickable] website as “ilove miamispice.com” — you guys are just messing with me now, right?

Update: Of the great minds please us to be thinking similarly.

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Tuesday July 31, 2007

I just came across this glowing review of French Kiss Terrasse at something called “Blind Mind.” Guy sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, and very impressed. Checked it with Consumable Joy, who had a good first impression there. Sounds like a place worth checking out, right? Here it is.

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Monday July 23, 2007

Graziano's

Graziano's

It’s odd that out of the three Graziano’s, the one on Bird Road is the only one that’s considered a pizzeria, because I took the whole thing to be a pizza joint, albeit a somewhat fancy one. I guess the other ones are “just” Italian restaurants. But the great thing about this place is how they do their wine. There’s a regular wine shop in the front where you peruse a very respectable selection. When you’ve figured things out, you hand your bottle(s) to your waiter or waitress, and they take care of everything else. Not only is it like getting to browse through a restaurant’s wine cellar before eating, but the prices are in line with what they’d be in a shop, not on a menu. Cheers to that.

The other thing is the wonderful staff. I’m not normally a stickler for service, but when drinking wine by the bottle, it’s important to have an unhurried evening, and out waitress struck just the right mix of attentiveness and distance. She brought out a fresh set of wine glasses for each new bottle. And while, this being Bird Road, not everyone was absolutely bilingual, I don’t get the sense that this is ever a real problem. And the pizza was sensational. Delivered variously on ceramic trays and cast-aluminum platters, each had its own personality and charm. The four-cheese + green and black olive was particularly formidable.

Prices on the wine started in the $10-15 range and topped out around $100 (they probably keep the good stuff tucked away a little), while the pie was around $10 for a single-person dose and $20 for a two-person. Parking was a bitch; the other Italian restaurant next door (same owner?) had most of the parking lot blocked off for their valet service.

Graziano’s Pizzeria, 9227 SW 40th St., (305) 225-0008.

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Thursday July 5, 2007

Royal Castle

Miami Memories has a great post up about Royal Castle.

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Wednesday June 27, 2007

Soyka gets the big thumbs-down from Meatless Miami. Update: Hmm… this is from December, but it just turned up in my RSS randomly …

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Tuesday June 5, 2007

Best of New Times best of listings

Best way to end up a millionaire in the restaurant business - Karu & Y - 71 NW 14th Street - Miami 33136 - 305-403-7850 - Just do like the owners of Karu & Y: Start with $25 million. Then spend close to that amount, and three years, to open a 25,000-suare-foot indoor/outdoor restaurant (42,000 square feet including special event spaces) in a desolate and dangerous 'downtown arts district' that doesn't yet exist. Give your dining establishment a name no one can understand, feature a cutting-edge cooking style that appeals only to a small cadre of foodie enthusiasts, and charge $18 for a cocktail, $24 for an appetizer, and more then $40 for en entree. If your're lucky, when all is said and done you'll still have a million of your dollars left.

How do I love this? Let me count the ways:

  1. It’s so true: every time I convince myself I need to splurge and try Karu & Y just to see for myself, I hear another horror story about it.
  2. Fucking hilarious: I can’t verify the 25-24=1 math, but even if remotely true it’s one for the record books.
  3. Just plain good: I read most of the best-of issue, and while it’s full of solid, sometime unexpected, choices and good writing, this stands out as particularly insightful. Yet . . .
  4. Manages to insult the entire city: see, we just don’t have enough “foodie enthusiasts” to enjoy this place’s “cutting-edge cooking style.”
  5. Exposes a certain meta-ness of the “best of” issue: you know some of their categories are custom-made for someone they just want to shout-out to. This is the best of all possible examples of that phenomena.
  6. It’s written in a style I can relate to: lots of punctuation, lots of linguistic asides, and lots of numbers.
  7. Exposes discrepancies between the print edition and the online edition: it’s right there on page 137. But online? No está aquí. Numerous discrepancies between the online and print editions have been spotted, but an entire missing category takes the cake.

Bonus reason: I love the way we get a partial line right before the column break where a weird box juts part of the way into the column (between “cooking” and “style”). Whazzup to my crack New Times layout department, slapping it together and getting it out there! Previously on “Let me count the ways:” What’s up with the Art Miami ad? and What’s up with the Sunguide ads? Also, let me point out that the entire text of the above listing is in the scan’s alt-tag, just to make this legit and accessible.

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Monday June 4, 2007

South Florida Menu Pages: easy to use, comprehensive menus for damn-near all restaurants, with virginal ratings. This has been tried before, and now somebody did it right. Get in there and write some reviews, people! Update: A number of the menus seem to be old information. Good for getting an idea of what the restaurant serves and how expensive it is, but not necessarily accurate for calculating exact pricing.

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Monday March 12, 2007

The Café at Books & Books gets four green hearts on Meatless Miami.

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Friday March 9, 2007

The New Times is worth picking up this week for the glossy pull-out “Menu Guide.” (Not to be confused with the online Menu Guide or the online Restaurant Guide.

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Tuesday February 13, 2007

Lung Gong

Lung Gong

You’ve heard about the “secret menu” that some Chinese restaurants have, with real Chinese food that most Americans wouldn’t even dream of ordering? Welcome to Long Gong, a cozy little place tucked into a strip mall on Tamiami Trail just west of FIU. The staff is absurdly friendly, and the authentic menu isn’t that intimidating: it’s in English, and includes a mix of the comforting and intimidating. Go with a big group, order some of both, and prepare to be amazed.

food crop.JPG

It’s difficult to get a good picture of the food, because we ordered probably about a dozen different things, and they bring out each dish as it’s prepared, just like in China, so that the meal becomes this very time-based experience of overlapping courses. Here we have (counterclockwise from left) chicken with chestnuts, broccoli, a spicy fish stew, duck (head chopped in half for easy brain consumption), more broccoli, and some soup. We also had steamed dumplings, fried whole little octopi, garlic cucumber, and a couple of fried-dough based things, both sweet and savory. Copious quantities of beer and sake were also consumed.

This was a grand feast celebrating a couple of friends’ departure to China to teach English for a year+. Here is a photostitch of everyone at the table, with the secret menu at far right. (Please to note the Miami Chinese restaurant roundup in c305, which also features Kon Chau.)

Lung Gong
11929 SW 8th Street
305-553-4644

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Thursday February 1, 2007

Spotty food and spotty service at Sushi Siam. I agree, and the Miami location is pretty much the same deal: occasionally great, often frustrating. Update: That link sure did break quickly. Basically, an out-of-town guy gal had a just-so experience having lunch by himself herself at SS. His Her least favorite was the steak teriyaki. [forgive my latent chauvinism.]

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Monday January 29, 2007

Luna Cafe

Luna Cafe

In the discussion about Sokya I said something about how it was the only restaurant of its kind in the neighborhood. Actually, just a few blocks south there’s Luna Cafe (not to be confused with Luna Star Cafe). Located in the bottom floor of a nondescript office building (and currently behind a serious construction barrier), Luna Cafe is in some ways the exact opposite of Soyka — less stylish, but with excellent service and spectacular food.

I think valet is the only parking offered; in any case it’s free so we gave it a shot. From that point on everything was easy. We were welcomed, sat down, and presented menus. Everything about Luna is a little old-fashioned, by the way; it’s got a sort of old-Miami vibe. It’s got style, but it’s not stylish.

The menu’s got a big seafood section, lots of pasta dishes, and a few risottos. The shrimp risotto was delicious, and so was the tuna (you’d think that blackened on the outside and rare on the inside would be difficult to do, but it came out perfect). We even tried the little chocolate soufflé, which came with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. Amazing. Most of the dishes cost between $15 and $20.

And yes, the service was great. Whenever we needed anything our waiter seemed like magic to appear, water glasses got refilled promptly (no wine tonight, though it would have gone wonderfully with the meal), and we were even warned that the soufflé would take a little longer then the other desserts.

They’re a little difficult to find with the never-ending Biscayne Blvd. construction, but it’s worth the effort. (Hint: it’s just a little south of the Publix.) Next time you’re in the neighborhood, well, you know what to do.

Luna Cafe
4770 Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, FL 33137
305-573-5862

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Friday January 19, 2007

“Considering Miami’s predominance of Cuban immigrants, it’s astonishing that truly wonderful, home-style, traditional Cuban meals are rare here.” But Pamela Robin Brandt found Las Delicias Restaurant to be to her satisfaction.

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Thursday January 18, 2007

The bad news: Lincoln Road Cafe, a Cuban restaurant that I always enjoyed, is closed. The good news: it’s now a German restaurant! Hofbräu München, which sounds great. This is very good, since Edelweiss is apparently permanently closed. (via Rick)

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Tuesday January 9, 2007

Fly on the Wall, a South Florida restaurant review site. An overproduced and bizarre one, that — the top rating is five flies? I’ll spare you the torture of their navigation system with some direct links: Soyka (two flies), Duo (four flies), and Touch (“The style of cooking is over made-up pretentious and condescending”).

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Wednesday December 27, 2006

Johnny Rockets pads the bill. Oh, and charging for a slice of lemon? That shit is wack, yo. And now it can be told: you never, ever tip on the tax. $28 for lunch for two at a burger joint . . . I just threw up a little bit in my mouth.

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Tuesday December 26, 2006

green heart Lolo has been rocking the restaurant reviews over at Meatless Miami. She’s squeezed a lot of functionality out of Blogger, allowing you to browse restaurants by neighborhood or search for the top-rated ones. Vegan-centric resource par excellence.

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Tuesday December 19, 2006

Pizza Rustica

Pizza Rustica

We’ve all heard or been in a million “best pizza in Miami” arguments, right? Forget it. Usually those are talking about New York style pizza, a thin-crust round piece of dough with a little tomato sauce, cheese, and maybe pepperoni. The not-so-secret is that pizza like this is so easy to get right that hundreds of places make it really, really well, which can be shocking if you’re only used to Hut/Domino/Caesar crap. Everyone’s attached to some little joint somewhere (in Miami they’re usually called “Steve’s,” for some reason), all of which make great pizza, I’m sure.

Pizza Rustica is something else. Big rectangular pieces (they slice them into six pieces so you can pick it up!) of Roman-style pizza smothered with any of a dozen+ very specific combination of toppings. They use a particular type of oven. They import their flour from Italy, for chrissakes. Cute girls will pop your slice into the oven for a few minutes and set you up with a coke or a beer (on tap, but nothing good) if you’re eating there. I think all the “slices” are $4, but all it takes is one and you’re stuffed. I don’t normally tip when I’m ordering from a counter like this, but here I always do; come on, they’re running around that hot oven all day, right? Plus, it rounds it up to $5 (no messing around with tax), and so the best $5 meal in town.

Pizza Rustica

Here’s a slice of the eponymous Rustica (bad photo, sorry). Prosciutto, tomatoes regular and sun-dried, black olives, artichoke hearts, and whole basil leaves. Serious business. On a second visit, or for vegetarians, might I recommend the potato pizza — it sounds weird but trust me; the potato is sliced very thin, and paired with a few other specific ingredients, and it works. All the varieties are like this — very specific combinations of a bunch of ingredients. Caprese salad pizza? Chicken Fiorentina pizza? You get the idea. They’ll also custom make (round) pizzas with any combination of 35(!) ingredients. Forget the silly arguments: this is the best pizza in town by a long shot.

There are three locations on the Beach: the one on the corner of 9th and Washington is the original, though the other two have a little more seating inside. There’s also one in Ft. Lauderdale which I’ve never eaten at. Google maps does a good job of finding them.

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Wednesday December 13, 2006

Soyka

Soyka

Soyka is owned by the same guy who brings us News Café and the Van Dyke. It gets respect for being the first restaurant along a pretty sorry stretch of Biscayne Blvd., but too often this translates directly into bloviating about how amazing and unique it is. Sorry, but Soyka is one of the most consistently overrated restaurants in town.

The food is inconsistent at best. I’ve eaten there a couple of times, and everything seems to be prepared and conceived very well, but a lot of the dishes come out bland or otherwise unremarkable. I get the feeling that if they tightened up the menu it would be a lot better. I wouldn’t criticize it for being overpriced if the food was always spectacular, because it’s obvious they’re using quality ingredients and employing a degree of craftsmanship, but as it currently stands it qualifies as moderately overpriced.

The service has been described elsewhere as being very good. I have no idea what they’re talking about. On a recent visit, and random request to our waitress had about a 50% chance of being correctly and timely fulfilled. There was a bit of attitude at least once when we corrected her. As I recall, the service wasn’t so great on past visits, either.

The layout is nice. It sort of an industrial warehouse with a select few posh restaurant touches. The ceilings are high, with exposed concrete and steel, and are offset with nice wood, leather, and wicker furniture; it’s a very nice space to be in. Enough to overcome the other shortcomings? Actually, it might be. If you’re frequently in the neighborhood, you don’t have many nicer dining options, so you may return often enough to learn what’s really great on the menu. After that, it might be a decent place to pop in for a business lunch. The rest of us will stick with the fancy pizza place next door.

Soyka
5556 NE 4th Ct
33137
305-759-3117

Update: Everybody but me seems to love Soyka, so maybe I need to give it another chance. See the comments.

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Wednesday November 22, 2006

Tere catches some shit at Oneburger. You might could find their menu on their website (oneburger – dot – com) but make a sandwich, because it takes at least that long to load this flash monstrosity. I once again extend my sympathy to Coral Gables residence, as they continue a search for one — just one — competent restaurant in their fair city.

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Tuesday October 31, 2006

Los Tres Amigos

Los Tres Amigos

Los Tres Amigos (here) will be familiar to anyone who frequents the area near the Jackson Memorial Hospital or the Allapattah grocery district (where I took a lot of these photos) has driven by it. Brook recommends the crap out of it, and we stopped by last week for beers and food.

Los Tres Amigos

In retrospect, some of those are actually Halloween decorations, but I’m sure the inside passes for perfectly overdecorated even on the worst of days. This is one shot, but really every nook and cranny is tricked out.

Los Tres Amigos

The eponymous Tres Amigos Enchilada. Two types of mole, three types of meat, beans, rice, queso cheese, and sliced radishes (wannabe Mexican gourmets take note!) — yum! Also note: two types of salsa, plus sliced jalapeños, plus beans served with the tortilla chips. Also note: Negra Modelo served in a salt-rimmed mug with a slice of lime (I was skeptical, but it works).

Los Tres Amigos

Brook swills one. Meanwhile, two guys by the door were super cool. They were blasting the jukebox (f’realz Mexican music with a little Reggae thrown in) and drinking beer, and occasionally taking cell phone calls and reaching behind the machine to turn it way down, then back up.

Los Tres Amigos

Also worth a visit: a little shop attached to the side of the restaurant. We have sombreros, candy, t-shirts (religious and soccer), clay jugs, hemp bags, keychains (religious and soccer), a shelf of hot sauces and salsas, pork rinds, toy torros, and chotckes that may or may not have been for sale. Worth it.

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Wednesday October 25, 2006

wtf Dogma Grill?

dogma grill

Our litigious, intellectual property-obsessed, too-much-time-on-its-goddamned-hands society is running amok again. Our own local heroes, Dogma Grill (I will not link them in a house . . . you know the drill) has successfully sued another fancy hot-dog restaurant into submission.

We expect this crap from big stupid corporations, but a small local business? For shame. Oh, wait. But just you wait for the details: the name of the business, which would have caused confusion in the consumer’s minds? “Hot Dogma.” That’s right: the only similarity is the stupid pun. Turns out our local heroes p0wn that pun. More confusion: the offending restaurant is in Pittsburgh. I suppose Miami residents on vacation up there would have somehow associated the restaurants, and somehow . . . done harm to something, is what Dogma Grill, or rather it’s owner (a former MTV executive) was thinking. Good job, guys. Way to stick it to the man.

Pittsburgh residents are rightly pissed, but there’s not much they can do. But there’s something we can do, allright: get our hot dogs somewhere else. Anyone know a good place that serves fancy schmancy dogs?

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Wednesday September 27, 2006

Huh? Did someone say gentrification?

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Tuesday September 19, 2006

Captain's Tavern

[This post was contributed by Michael Froomkin of Discourse.net (local blogging since 2003!), as part of Miami Cross Blogination. I’ve got a post at Miami Beach 411 today.]

First thing is, the Captain’s Tavern is easy to miss. It’s been around forever—more than 25 years, and that’s more than forever in the South Florida restaurant business. Even so, plenty of people who’ve lived here for years have never noticed what may be the area’s top fish restaurant, located at 9621 S Dixie Hwy in Kendall. Here’s why: You’re driving south on US 1, it’s dark or it’s raining, and you’re concentrating on the nuts passing on the right, or swerving on the left. You pass Dadeland on the right and cross Kendall Drive, you go under the 826 entrance ramp overpass, there’s Evening’s Delight (no, not what you’re thinking—they sell fancy fancy gas grills and hoods) and—whoops!—you’ve missed the turn. The Captain’s tavern is on the left, plunked at a funny angle in the middle of a large parking lot. Here’s a map. You may need it.

That large parking lot is a good thing. By the time you get there it’s almost full. The Captain’s Tavern is bigger than it looks, and it’s probably full too. You’ll have to put your name down on the list—no phone reservations accepted unless you have a really big group—and hang around in the crowded but well-stocked bar, or the tiny overcrowded waiting area, or even outside if it’s not too wet or too hot. Get there early—before 7:00, and you’ll probably waltz in. By 7:30 on a Friday or Saturday night, it’s a 30 minute wait. Get there around 8:30, and it’s often much longer. Hang on. It’s worth it. And if it’s not too late and you have half an hour or more, tell them you’re going for a walk (if you ask nicely they’ll hold your table if you miss your turn), then pop over to the original Kendall Bookshelf, still the best used book shop south of Miami Beach and only three doors northwards, and load up on paperbacks while you wait.

Eventually, you get a table. Be sure to notice the specials board on the way in—it won’t be visible from anywhere else, and it tells you which dozen or so fish are fresh today. If you’re very lucky, you might get seated near one of the colorful fish tanks; that will keep your eyes off the pretty tacky nautical decor, which looks likes it hasn’t been changed much since they opened.

The decor doesn’t matter. It’s a full room of happy people tucking into large portions of great food. They’re not the people who make the South Beach scene. They range from UM student young to grandparent slow; many are families with two or three generations round a big table. If you have little kids, hope especially hard for a fish tank—keeps them happy all night. There are probably more Anglos than Hispanics in the mix, but who can tell for sure given the general hubub. Not a see and be seen scene, just lots of happy people.

You’ll have to ask for the wine list. You must ask for the wine list.
For despite having probably the best priced wine list in town, they won’t give you a wine list unless you ask for one. Let me say it again: this is a great wine list. The Captain’s Tavern has probably a couple of hundred wines on its list, from good to very good (and maybe better – I haven’t tried the top end) all priced at about the same as you would pay if you bought it at Crown. None of this 200%-300% markup that infects the fancy places in Coral Gables or on the Beach. The Captain’s is making a different sort of statement. There isn’t much need to get past the first couple of pages, which list the bin ends and specials. There’s always something very nice for under $20, and if you are lucky there may be some fairly exotic choices at very reasonable prices.

Starters are a problem. There are so many good ones. There’s the Lobster Bisque, which is delicious although it’s not so refined as to threaten a Michelin chef. There’s also a great, but very peppery, Conch Chowder that is more unusual, and comes with a plastic thimblefull of sherry that you pour in and cuts the pepper very effectively. Or maybe the stuffed mushrooms. Or the huge plate of spicy Thai calamari salad. Or the super-fresh and generously portioned sushi.

Every dinner gets a little salad with a choice of dressings (I like the creamy garlic, the kids divide between oil & vinegar and blue cheese).

Then the main course. So often in Miami the main course is a
disappointment after the appetizers. That’s not true here. You can get any of the fresh fish of the day (you did check the board on the way in, right?) cooked how you wish: blackened, stuffed with crab, “island style”, grilled, fried, and I’ve probably left some out. Or you could try the crab cakes. Or a selection of large and slightly pricey oysters. Or maybe, topping the regular price chart in the high twenties (market price lobster might be more), one of the house specials such as the Cataplana Seafood, a large bowl of fish and seafood swimming in a tomato-based sauce. The Admiral’s Platter is great selection of grilled fish and steamed shellfish, with a good-sized piece of lobster, plus some scallops and shrimp. A hungry person could finish the Admiral’s Platter—I’ve managed it. Sometimes. You’d have to have amazing capacity to eat a whole Cataplana; it’s suitable for splitting between two diners, which the Captain’s Tavern will do for a small extra charge.

I’m told there are great deserts—especially the brownies, available until they run out, sometimes even on days when they’re not on the menu. I wouldn’t know. By that stage I’ve always been too full to even think of desert.

The Captain’s Tavern is a great place to go with friends. The staff are friendly, helpful, but don’t hover over you or rush you, and you walk out happy. By the time you add it up, it’s not a cheap date, but it’s a nice one.

Oh yes. They serve meat too. But who would be silly enough to order it?

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Friday September 1, 2006

Sunshine State with overheard snippets of conversations at the S&S diner. With gorgeous photos. (Previously re. the S&S: 1, 2).

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Thursday August 24, 2006

Holy moly! Someone got good service at Gables Diner! (The food was a different matter, but then you can’t have everything, now can you?) Update: btw, how do you spell “moly”?? I’m getting 448,000 google hits for ‘holy moly’, 100,000 for ‘holy moley’, and only 986 for ‘holy molly’. Update: Definition of “moly”: “a mythical herb with a black root, white blossoms, and magical powers.” So that sounds right.

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Tap Tap

mural

Of all the restaurants in Miami, Tap-Tap is my favorite. I’ve eaten there more often then anywhere else (except maybe the two Taco Bells near my work), and dragged friends, family, girlfriends, friends of family, and just about anyone else there, sometimes kicking and screaming. When I have this much to say about something, it’s often best to ignore the reader’s needs and resort to bullet points:

truck with seating in the back

I recommend going early and often, and taking out-of-town guests here. It’s actually a little absurd that I’ve been doing this blog for well over a year, and haven’t properly written about Tap-Tap.

Tap-Tap
819 Fifth Street
Miami Beach
305 672-2898

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Thursday July 20, 2006

Le Tub

Le Tub

Le Tub, on A1A in Hollywood, is more Key West then Key West, a truly bizarre half-restaurant, half-maze which calls into question the sanity of the city’s code enforcement while laughing in the face of false indoor/outdoor dichotomies. Signs posted every few steps throughout the unairconditioned restaurant say “multi-level,” and they are not joking. The entire palace looks like it was built out of an old pier, and no single piece of floor goes more then a few feet without some steps in a random direction leading to another platform. Oh, and did I mention that the key decorating motif are painted toilets and bathtubs? Wow. (To get the most out of the surrealness, try arriving after dark and completely drunk and/or high.)

Le Tub

Now, on top of all that, Le Tub has recently had their hamburger declared the best hamburger in the country by GQ magazine. As a result, bozos from all over flock there. As a result of that, waiting times on the $10 burger ($10.50 with cheese) fluctuate from one to two and a half hours. No problem there, right? Dress lightly, and come prepared to drink a lot of beer. Bring cash, because they don’t take credit cards, and the jukebox is overpriced (but after a couple of those beers you won’t care).

Le Tub

Oh, right, the burger! Yes, it’s good. And yes, it’s worth the ten bucks. It’s gloriously huge, made with delicious sirloin, and served outdoor-stand style on a disposable plate. Fries are extra; get exactly one serving for up to four people – they’re amazing and the order is huge. We were in a hurry and had to rush after eating; for the more leisurely I suggest a stroll on the beach after your meal.

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Monday July 10, 2006

What's up with the S&S Diner?

ss diner

Uh-oh, first Smitty’s closes, and now the S&S is threatened. According to this article sent in by an anonymous reader, the site of the S&S is shortly to contain another giant condo development. The developers have “agreed to maintain the S&S building as a restaurant,” which sounds a little ominous to me. They will also build a new kitchen (‘cause they’re demolishing where the current kitchen is), which to me implies that the place will close at least temporarily.

The Miami city commission still has to approve the project, but I see no reason why they wouldn’t: developer doing as he likes with his property, agreeing with the recommendations of the historic preservation board, blah blah. This is cause for some major concern!

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Thursday July 6, 2006

HA! Tere’s also unhappy with Gables Diner. The fact that she keeps going there (and half-apologizes for them) once again proves my theory that there’s a dearth of decent restaurants in the Gables. Ironically, right?

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Friday June 30, 2006

Alabama Jack's

Cardsound

Down in Florida City, on the way to the Keys, Card Sound Road splits off from US-1, providing an alternate route for one leg of the trip. Card Sound Road takes a straight two-lane shot through some classic Florida brush. There’s very little to see, and the lack of any particular place for a speed trap makes the posted speed limit a moot point for many drivers. The Village of Card Sound Road is a couple of shacks and houseboats clustered around the one little curve in the road. At the very end there is a toll bridge ($1) which officially takes you to the first of the keys and begins the stretch back towards US-1. Just before the toll sits Alabama Jack’s.

Cardsound

Built on stilts over the water channel next to the road (you can see water between the slats of the floor) with no air conditioning, Alabama Jack’s is an airy place. The menu is all about seafood beer, and various types of fries: everything a grown boy needs. (Respectively, I’m going to recommend the crab cakes, Key West Sunset Ale, and sweet-potato fries.)

Cardsound

Hell yes: the Cardsound Machine Band plays country music (with the occasionally obligatory Jimmy Buffet tune thrown in) Saturday and Sunday afternoons. If you’re expecting The Gambler, you’ll not be disappointed. The hours are a bit funky: the band quits at 5 pm, and I believe the whole place shuts down an hour or two after that. Odd for an open-air place that you’d think could do good business with folks coming back from the Keys late on a Sunday night, but there it is.

Cardsound

Just past the restaurant, the grand gateway to Monroe County. See the bridge in the background?

Cardsound

We climbed to the top; this is an idea of what you’re way into the middle of. Pure Florida loveliness.

Cardsound

On the way back to the car, the restaurant was empty except for a few bikers, the band having long packed up and left. And so it goes. I think I would have liked Key West more in the old days, before air conditioning. There’s something about resigning yourself to being hot and sweaty all the time that beats darting in and out of air conditioned little buildings that seems to be right for that place. Almost every restaurant and bar on the island has AC now, so maybe Alabama Jack’s is more Key West then Key West?

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Thursday June 1, 2006

Gables Diner vs. Prezzemolo

gables diner and prezzemolo

Let me begin by saying that I’m perfectly willing—eager, even—to stay up for hours and hours debating the right of any restaurant to charge $5.95 for a pint of Bass Ale. I don’t care if the same pint will run you $4 elsewhere in town: if you have some slightly pretentious interior, and are located in an allegedly hip part of town, feel free to charge the six bucks (since, and it might also bear emphasizing that the price was clearly marked on the menu, and nobody held a gun to my head and made me order one).

Having said that, I’m never going back to the Gables Diner again. I went with a group of friends last night, and two of us decided to split a pizza, the rest ordered sandwiches and whatnot. The sandwiches and whatnot came out all at once, and we were told the pizza was on its way. Which, um, it wasn’t. The sandwiches were decent enough, but even after they were long gone (a good 20 minutes later) the pizza was nowhere in sight. I should add that, except a quick water refill very early on, our waitress avoided our table like the fucking plague during all this. Then she had the gall to act all surprised when I got up, walked over, and told her to cancel the pizza order. Whatever; we were having fun, and nobody was actually left hungry. But it’s not right, and it’s also not right that after all that we were left sitting around waiting for the check.

Compare this, shall we, with Prezzemolo, another place we stopped at recently. Tucked in a strip mall just west of US-1 on Le Jeune, Prezzemolo is tinny, but it’s hip, and serves unexpectedly sophisticated food (I obviously took the photo above long after they’d closed). You can BYOB (or BYOCM1), and there’s even a liquor store next door. The star attraction is a long list of specialty pizzas. “Gourmet ingredients on a thin and flaky crust,” is one of those things you’ve heard over and over, but Prezzemolo’s pizzas really are unique and wonderful, and yes, many of their ingredients are imported from Italy. A particularly inspired one features gorgonzola and pears (!), and there’s a list of choices that include piquant cured meats.

We also had the most helpful waitress ever, who went through quite a bit of trouble to accommodate our fairly large party, suggested walking to a gas station for beer (the liquor store was closed), and even had the kitchen make a special smaller version of one of the salads for one of us that wasn’t very hungry. I didn’t get to try the desserts or coffee, but I’m told they’re every bit as great as would be expected from a top-notch little Italian place. Nice work, guys. (And thanks to Dig and KH for introducing us to this place.)

Gables Diner
2320 Galiano Street
Coral Gables
(305) 567-0330

Prezzemolo
4702 S Le Jeune Rd
Coral Gables
(305) 669-6119

[1] Sorry, it’s an inside joke. Regular readers are implored to (a) indulge me, and (b) believe me when I say you’re really not missing much.

Update: Prezzemolo has closed and Gables Diner is still around. There’s no justice in this world.

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Wednesday May 24, 2006

Nice: Channel 10 tested the ice at a number of local restaurants just to see if it had, say, fecal material on it. Well, whadya know, they came up positive in quite a number of cases. Click the link for a list of places you may want to avoid, and wonder about the places they didn’t test (or the guy who scooped some ice after sloppy wiping right after Channel 10 left). Personally, I don’t get too worried about stuff like this, but I’m heartened to see Jerry’s on the list of non-fecal bacteria list.

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Thursday May 11, 2006

Kon Chau

Kon Chau Restaurant

My friends and I have been to China, and we can confirm that what you’ve heard about American Chinese restaurants is almost always true: the food they serve — indeed, the whole dining experience — is very different from the real thing. However, we (really them; I sort of just tag along) have discovered a couple of places that come close; today, a dim sum place (next to Lucky’s, actually) called Kon Chau. The menu is a single piece of paper with check boxes; you generally order about two items per person and everyone shares the whole lot. Part of the fun is that it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re getting from the english translations on the menu, which include “Pan fried turnip cake,” “Pork paste roll with oyster sauce,” and of course “Fish porridge.”

Kon Chau Restaurant

Four of us ate a veritable feast (which included three Tsing Tao’s) for something around $35. We had some duck soup, some fried dough shrimp thing or other, the aforementioned turnip cake (which is actually delicious), a plethora of various steamed dumplings, and a few other things, acompanied by wonderful green tea. We skipped the beef organ meat items (though I’m assured many of them are wonderful, too).

It may sound like a place for the gastronomically adventurous1, but considering that not eating one or two ordered items is no big deal, it really isn’t. Highly recommended.

Kon Chau Restaurant
8376 S.W. 40 St.
Miami, FL 33155
(305) 553-7799

[1] Yeah, I said it: gastronomically adventurous.

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Tuesday May 9, 2006

Miami foodie earns its pay: BYOB restaurants in the Miami area. If anyone knows of any others add them in their comments section, and let’s get a comprehensive list going. BYOB is the best idea EVAR.

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Monday May 8, 2006

Tere reviews Randazzo’s Little Italy, and leaves room for a deliciously bizarre digression: “although I side with the wife in the personal divorce matter, I side with Randazzo as far as the restaurant goes – it’s successful, unique to the area, and offers real damn good food. And on Giralda Avenue – where restaurants go to die – that’s a pretty valuable thing.”

Girl can write. Somebody get her an SD400 and she’ll be dangerous.

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Wednesday May 3, 2006

Miami Foodie gets its first review out in style. “Jumbo’s ain’t your typical 24-hour soul food joint, they’ve been doing it for over 50 years . . .”

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Thursday April 13, 2006

Tapas y Tintos

tintos party scene

Ok, I’ll be honest – I stumbled onto this place, which is a couple of blocks from my apartment, semi-randomly, not even really knowing what tapas were. So yes, tapas are a Spanish dining thing: imagine ordering a bunch of scrumptious appetizers for your table instead of regular dinner and you’ve sort of got it. It’s all about sharing, trying new tastes, and a more relaxed, social approach to eating. You can see why it’s big in Miami, yes?

So anyway, Tapas y Tintos [but don’t click – you’ll only cause yourself unneeded Flash-loading stress] has a reputation (I find out subsequent) as the best tapas joint in the county, so it’s no surprise I was impressed. We ordered a “Popeye y Olivia” (garbanzo beans + spinich), a shrimp thing in olive oil with prodigious amounts of garlic-clove-halves, and a goat cheese with marinara sauce, a great bottle of wine (all the bread you can eat is part of the deal) and paid about $75, even after bumping the obligatory 15% tip up a bit. The garbanzo beans were eh, the shrimp was tasty, the goat cheese was an unexpected star, and the wine made everything drift by slowly and with a relaxed ease.

Now, we’d gotten there early, but by the time we left it was obvious what a scene this place is. Outside, the seats are comfy wicker, suitable for relaxing and Española people-watching. Inside, the atmosphere is more intense, and a lot of the seating seemed to be stool-style around a coffee-table type thing – maybe fun, but maybe also less comfortable. Apparently Tapas y Tintos has live music, and is semi-clubby on weekend nights, so this is obviously all part of the fun.

More reading about tapas here, here, and here. Any other tapas places worth checking out?

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Sunday April 17, 2005

La Vraie Difference

La Vraie Difference, 5912, NE 2nd Ave

We all love Tap-Tap. But there’s a nagging doubt about . . . well, its authenticity; it just seems a little too westernized. La Vraie Difference, in Little Haiti, leaves little room for such doubt. No menus; we were told that “Fish, spinach, and fish-kebabs,” were the choices of the day. We ordered the fish-kebabs, and (due to some glitch of communication,)
were served a suculent goat and cabbage stew, fried rice, and an entire plantain each. Tasty stuff, though (and vivid). Would have been even better if we’d though to order beer. A wall-mounted television played a video of a . . . actually, I’m not sure I can describe the video. Chad remarked, “I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life now.”

They do take-out, but believe me, that is not the way to go. Also, the guy at the next table had the fish, and it looked amazing.

La Vraie Difference
5912 NE 2nd Ave, Miami
305 758 1062

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