Two Boston 'Hounds Headed to Miami
Two thirty-something foodies are leaving winter behind to spend a fun, 4-day weekend in Miami. We'll be staying in a resort (pool AND beach access won out over the scene of Ocean Drive) but want to set up some fun dinners for the Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings we'll be there.
We are adventurous eaters- and love a good cocktail. What I don't want is a high-priced, over-rated meal at a trendy restaurant that's more about model-watching than good food. Where do the locals grab a bite? Where's the best cocktail or bartender? Where are the hidden jewels?
Price range: $15-25 per entree?
Thanks for your suggestions!
SOBE: No particular order
Tap Tap and order Chikcen or Fish. They serve the best Mojitos on earth there btw.
El Chalan - a bit divier and cheaper than you might be looking for solid
Puerto Sagua - see el chalan
Parilla Liberty - avoid pancake desserts though
Sardinia - might be too trendy for you but price is right and food is interesting (Sardinian). I like going here for late lunches to avoid crowds.
If you are staying sunday, I would strongly recommend you do an expensive brunch @ nemo or the ritz carlton. You can basically eat from 12-4 for 60 bucks/person and at the ritz you get free champagne/mimosas. Food is a bit better at nemo though, so it makes it a tough decision. I usually stuff my face then not worry about dinner :). I heard talula has a great brunch too and so does the forge (apparently the forge is soul food).
Splurging for brunch is a great idea. To the recs I would add at least one place on Lincoln Road (a pedestrian mall at the north end of South Beach). Icebox is good (just off Lincoln) and the Cafe at Books & Books (a small independent bookseller) is surprisingly good with lots of menu items focusing of Floridian/Floribbean food.
we are from the boston area too, here for the winter. i would not recommend sardinia or joe allen- their location is nothing to seek out and their food is average, nothing you can't get at home.
this would probably exceed you budget, but the one thing i look forward to down here that we don't eat up there are stone crabs. i do think joe's have the best and that they are worth the splurge.
for a good cocktail, the bar at smith & wollensky is so nice for drinks- outside right on the cut, you can watch the boats coming and going.
You also might want to try le bon (between 5:30 & 7pm only) on linclon. Any time after happy hour it gets expensive. As far as Joe Allen and Sardinia go, both are solid-very good restaurants and present good value for the money in SOBE. I would not describe either as having merely average food.
Hidden jewels? Really depends what you want. Going purely on the food, my suggestions would be:
Timo - sort-of-mediterranean in Sunny Isles (North Miami) - prices may be slightly higher than your range (not by much), I think this is some of the best cooking in town right now.
Yakko San - fascinating Japanese tapas place in North Miami. Everything BUT sushi (though they do sashimi and some variations like onigiri, which is a big rice pyramid filled with fish or other goodies). Big hangout for sushi chefs and other restaurant folks after hours (they're open till way late, like 3am).
If you want a litle more local flavor, try one of the Argentinian parilladas. My regular is Las Vacas Gordas (Normandy Island - 71st St. on the beach) but this is not necessarily b/c it's better than any other but only because it's closer to me. Get a mixed grill, usually about $20 for a big plate with a variety of cuts of steak, sausages and other parts (usually get some mollejas (sweetbreads) and chinchulines (instestines), the latter in particular an acquired taste), shmear it with chimichurri, maybe add a provoleta (nice melted white cheese), a cheap bottle of malbec...
There's also some good tapas places, always good for the adventurous eater: Canela Cafe (around 50th St. & Biscayne), El Carajo (in the back of a Citgo gas station (!) off US1 and 17th Ave.). If you search this board you will find my odes to El Carajo.
If you're looking for something in the more touristy areas - and that's not a sin - on Lincoln Road there's pretty good Italian at Rosinella. Le Bon (mentioned above) is also a nice call for moules & frites, and a great selection of belgian beers. El Rancho Grande (on a side street just off Lincoln Road) does decent Mexican. Mr. Chu's, on Washington Ave. and 8th Street, does great dim sum (a hard thing to find in So. Fl.)
I'm not a big cocktail person (in part because the cost of cocktails on Miami Beach often approaches your entree budget!) but there are some nice places to get a drink. Smith & Wollensky is a good call. The outdoor bar in the back of the Shore Club is a nice place to hang out. At Barton G's (a silly place, don't eat there), when I was last there they had a head bartender that was one of these mad scientist types (dirty martini w/ olive and blue cheese in a little dissolving "pez" type thing) but I think he's gone. A very pleasant place to have a beer and pop some conch fritters is Scotty's Landing in Coconut Grove next to Grove Key Marina.