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Need help with dining in Miami/Fort Lauderdale area for January 07

I am putting together an executive retreat for my husband's company which will be in January. We are staying in Sunny Isles Beach right between FLL & MIA. There will be up to 14 adults who are accustomed to fine dining. We are not interested in overly noisy "happening" kinds of places, but want to have a nice meal and conversation. I need to plan 4 dinners.

Places I'm considering are:

Barton G. (I know it may be noisy, but sounds like fun)
Chef Allen's
Neomi's (restaurant at the hotel we're considering, and will do one dinner at the hotel for convenience)

I want the dinners to each have a different atmosphere and dining experience. I have been on some of these trips where I came away sick of the overly precious food.

Thanks for any advice you can give me!


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  1. Chef Allen's is a good idea, I haven't been for a while but it's a fine example of the "Mango Gang" and certainly a "fine dining" kind of place.

    I've never done Barton G but we'll be going in early December for my wife's birthday. It seems like a bit of a silly place (more show than food), but I'll report back. I went to this spot back when it was Starfish run by Kerry Simon and the space itself is fantastic - an old Miami Beach house that's been used as a restaurant since the 1920's.

    Never heard of the other 2 you mentioned.

    If you are in Sunny Isles, one of the places I would definitely add to your list is Timo. It's right there in Sunny Isles, and it is easily one of my top 5 Miami restaurants. It's not a big place but I'm sure they could accomodate your group with advance notice. The menu changes every couple months but has something of a Mediterranean influence. I always enjoy going there. The chef is actually a Chef Allen alum (as well as several other impressive restuarants, look at the bio on the website) but the style is very different - just good food, not as deliberately "New World Cuisine" as Chef Allen (and that's not a knock on Chef Allen either).

    Another of my favorites is Talula (around 23rd & Collins Ave.) Husband and wife chef team, both came from great restaurants, not nearly as see-and-be-seen as much of South Beach dining. While the food is excellent, I will say we've had very weak service when we've gone there with a group and so it's a somewhat hesitant recommendation for your circumstances.

    I'm also hesitant to suggest someplace before it's opened yet, but one of my favorite local chefs is Johnny Vinczenz, who currently has a place on Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale (which I haven't been to) and is opening a new restaurant in the Astor Hotel on South Beach, supposedly in November. Years ago he had a South Beach restaurant that was one of my favorites. The FTL location actually may not be geographically undesirable for you anyway. If I could describe his style, I guess I'd say it's like Bobby Flay if you were to substitute Caribbean for Southwestern influences. Big bold flavors, nothing subtle about it, and it's usually pretty darn good.

    Another place to consider is Mark's Place, either the one on South Beach (in the Nash Hotel) or on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale. Does a very nice job of incorporating local ingredients into dishes that are usually pretty inspired or unusual without being completely off the wall. We had a group at the South Beach location, which is small and you can almost feel like you own the place. It's a somewhat peculiar spot (in a half-sunken space behind the lobby of the hotel) but if you're there to be with your group and enjoy conversation I think it works well.

    For something a little different (and good) there's Ortanique in Coral Gables. Nuevo Caribbean, much more Jamaican/islands influenced rather than Latin American, and really delicious.

    1. I like Himmarshee Grill in Ft. Lauderdale. I second Ortanique in the Gables, and you might want to try Acqua (in the Four Seasons).

      1. We`love Chima in FLL. It's a Brazilian rodizio..ayce. There is a salad bar and then skewers of meat (mostly different cuts of beef) are brought to your table; and you are served meat cooked to your desired level of doneness.

        I've been to a few of these around the US and Chima is far and away the best quality food, service, and atmosphere that I've found. Good wine list too.

        Nice contemporary atmosphere with landscaped patio for pre or after dinner.

        1. Liza>

          Will the 14 of you have transportation? It is possible to organize the 4 dinners in the Sunny Isles vacinity and just walk or take a quickie taxi ride...

          Best Bets:

          Il Mullino opened at the Aqualina this year, Timo is just across the street, La Goulue is new to the nearby Bal Harbour Shops, Cafe Ragazzi is just south of there in Surfside, Chef Allen in Aventura is lovely as is Il Migliore Trattoria on Miami Gardens Drive.

          My thinking in your planning this trip is "keep it simple." You can eat REALLY well without schlepping everyone all over the city...


          Il Migliore Trattoria 2576 NE Miami Gardens Dr 305-792-2902
          Chef Allen's Restaurant 19088 NE 29th Ave 305-935-2900
          TIMó 17624 Collins Ave 305-936-1008
          Café Ragazzi 9500 Harding Ave 305-866-4495
          La Goulue 9700 Collins Av 305-865-2181

          1. If I'm anywhere near FLL and desirous of a top notch dining experience I'm heading for Eduardo De San Angel. Awesome gourmet Mex in a lovely space with excellent service. Only drawback is no hard liquor...beer and wine only.

            1. No to Barton G -- In my experience, not even close to being worth the money. But note, they are changing the menu now, so I can't state this for sure, but I have been through several menu changes in the past and the food is decidedly mediocre for the most part.

              Also no to Il Mulino (the one in sunny isles, never been to the one in ft lauderdale which is a totaly different owner and I don't think it is an upscale place). It is good but not worth the money.

              I have never been to the great ones in FTL but you should consider them as I hear near universal prase on them all..
              You already got Chima...
              Eduardo - Grooving Gourmet's choice
              Johnny V - Frodnesors suggestion, I used to eat at the Astor when he was there (coming back soon apparently) and it was great, apparently he has not lost a step .
              Cafe Matorano
              Casa D'angelo
              Sunfish Grill
              Rainbow Palace
              Marks - I have been to the sobe one quite a few times (last time was a year ago though) and found it to be very good FTL is the original.

              Keep watching this thread as I am probably going to hit at least a few of these places before your trip...

              Other south beach places
              Prime 112 - only don't get the steak other food is great, but is a happening place. You would have a private dining room for a table of your size so it wouldn't matter as much.


              Joe's Stone Crabs - Institution, single most profitable restaurant location in the world. The king crab claws are expensive but awesome btw and are the reason I go here.

              Talula which has been mentioned

              I would not recommend you go all the way to the gables for food in your case as you have enough great restaurants in your area to choose from without driving 45 minutes-an hour each way depending on traffic. You probably shouldn't bother with south beach either, except perhaps for Joes as it is a one of a kind place...

              As an aside, if you are into Dim Sum, or want to try it, make it to Mr. Chu's for lunch in south beach and make a day of it by walking along lincoln road.

              1. Wow! Thanks for all the responses.

                Y'all have convinced me to skip Barton G. I thought it looked overpriced and I'm not excited to spend that much money on mediocre food.

                We will have transportation, so we can go some distance. OTOH, I agree that we don't need to drive for an hour just for dinner.

                Has anybody been to Creek 28? It looks absolutely GORGEOUS on the website. The chef is "Kira Volz, formerly chef of the Abbey Dining Room."

                I'm still looking at menus and schedules so keep the suggestions coming!


                1 Reply
                1. re: Liza Lee

                  Creek 28 it a really nice space if the weather is good, the patio is beautiful, but indoor seating is limited. The food isn't to prententious and my experiences have been executed very well. The staff is uncommonly friendly for the south beach area. The wine list is very interesting and everything seems to be priced real decent.
                  I would also suggest Timo because it is close to where you will be and I have had o.k. luck there. I have been really pleased with my apps there but so-so with the entrees. The service was great as well.

                2. Creek 28 is a really nice space, I went there years ago when it was another restaurant and have always wished something would stick around there. Have not been since the new restaurant opened. I did go to the Abbey when Volz was there, and while it got lots of critical acclaim, I was unfortunately underwhelmed.

                  Advisorgirl, is La Goulue open and have you been?

                  I saw Ragazzi mentioned, they do great pastas there (also a fantastic stuffed artichoke appetizer) but it's a small place, always crowded, always a wait and I'm not sure of their ability to accomodate a big group.

                  I actually think the original Mark's Place was in a spot on 125th St. just down the causeway west of Bal Harbour - not FTL. In any event, that one is now gone but both the South Beach and FTL locations are great.

                  1. Casa D'Angelo

                    Excellent Gnocci & Lasagna & Zab, Good Meats...Seafood - unknown.

                    K I went to Casa D'angelo. I thought the restaurant was very good and I think their pastas are their strong suit. They have an excellent zabaglione (I had the cheesecake with zab - the cheesecake was very good but not as good as macalusos in sobe). My favorite dishes I tried were the gnocci and the lasagna.

                    Overall, I think this place is a little overrated because it is so highly rated...Did not try seafood this time. I would highly recommend going to this place, if you feel like having pasta.

                    I will post more as I hit these places.