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Nov 10, 2006 10:31 PM

Miami and Ft. Lauderdale dining

My husband and I are going on a Caribbean cruise leaving from Ft. Lauderdale. We plan to spend a few days in Miami beforehand and are looking for some good chow. I prefer local gems to tourists traps. No need to return to Joe's Stone Crab. We visited about 6 years ago and really enjoyed Cuban food and some of the local seafood (my husband loves Grouper).

We are visiting from Seattle so we'd really love some of the local cuisine. As far as price, lots of moderate options, maybe $50 pp not including tax and tip. Also cool coffee shop recs are welcome too. Is International News still around? Not sure where we are staying yet, but probably South Beach. Last time we stayed at Loews and loved the location close to Lincoln Mall. We'll probably have a car, so not confined to that immediate area. I remember liking the Coconut Grove neighborhood too.

We also want a lunch option in Ft. Lauderdale since we need to be on the ship at 3:30 pm.

Thanks for any suggestions on dining or lodging.

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  1. You're thinking of News Cafe, no? Still there, still going strong. Another good place for a nice breakfast on the beach is Front Porch Cafe - really good whole-grain pancakes. Icebox (on Lincoln Road) also does a very good breakfast, but doesn't get started until around 10am if you're an early riser.

    Food scene in Seattle is leagues ahead of what there is here (and coffee shop scene, needless to say) - I'd rather have a few days there than here, but grass is always greener I suppose.

    For good dinner options with some local flavor, using Cuban and seafood as hints --

    I think the best eating on the beach is at Talula (around 23rd & Collins). Really good tuna tartare starter, I like the shrimp tamale, any soup special is usually good, and there will usually be at least a few fish with some intriguing preparations for entrees (along with a bunch of other good stuff).

    Also good, esp. for seafood, is Nemo (down on the south end of Collins). The crispy-skinned yellowtail is my favorite. Locals are probably tired of this place (it's been around a while now) but I still think it's solid. Also a very nice space.

    For a great grouper sandwich, find your way to Garcia's and sit outside on the benches looking out on the (polluted, industrial, but charming in its own perverse way) Miami River.

    For an authentic Cuban experience, go to Versailles on 8th Street. The food is pretty good, but it's the chandeliers, mirrors and lights (like its namesake, only tackier) that really make the experience complete.

    In Coconut Grove there's a place that does very good ceviches (and a huge variety of them) called Jaguar. They also do an odd collection of Mexican and other Latin dishes that is surprisingly often pretty good (I'm usually wary of the mix-and-match approach).

    If you're mobile, Ortanique in Coral Gables is one of my favorites. Caribbean high-brow cuisine, really well done. Not more than about 20 minutes from the Beach. If you like seafood, try the Caribbean Bouillabaise.

    A somewhat unusual suggestion, especially if you're heading to Coconut Grove - in the back of the Citgo gas station at 17th Street and US1, there is a fantastic little tapas bar called El Cararjo. Dozens of tapas dishes as well as a few entrees, plus you can take any wine off the shelf at retail price and pay $15 corkage to have it with your meal (and it is a remarkably good selection, like a real tiny wine boutique). The piquillo peppers stuffed with bacalao and topped with a squid ink sauce is one of the best dishes I've had anywhere.

    In Fort Lauderdale, someone on this board recently fielded several suggestions and they followed up and said their favorite was Johnny V's. Imagine Bobby Flay if his influence was Caribbean food instead of Southwest.

    Happy travels!

    1. for excellent food that is reasonably priced, i'd also recommend creek 28 - the restaurant in the indian creek hotel. the food is not cuban influenced or "local;" the menu is eclectic, but there is definitely a middle eastern focus to a number of the dishes and the vibe is very laid back and friendly - none of the bad attitude that seems to infect so many servers in south beach.

      1. I second Ortanique. By far, my favorite restaurant in Miami. In Ft Lauderdale, Eduardo de San Angel for gourmet Mexican and Cafe Vico for Italian. Both in Ft Laud are true local gems.

        1. We loved Mark's Las Olas on Las Olas Blvd in Ft. Lauderdale, best place we ever ate in Florida (including anyplace in South Beach), great food, good service, nice ambiance, entrees were in the $20s as I recall (we were there in May) and well worth it.

          1. If you get wine or drinks, Marks Las Olas is very expensive!