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3+ days in Miami - Mostly Latin American chowing -- Please critique my picks (Long)

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First off, I just want to let you Florida hounds know how much I appreciate all the guidance you've given me already! Thanks again, hounds!

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In April, we're visiting Miami for 3 full days and a morning; the last visit was in April 2005.
Staying near Bayside (for convenience -- have friends staying there, too).

We'd like to taste mostly authentic Latino dishes this visit, preferably cuisines that are under-represented at home in SF.
This visit, we're mostly staying away from Nuevo Latino. (Except maybe Cacao for a birthday dinner.)
Our primary focus is Cuban. (We would also usually pick Spanish dishes, but we are enroute to Spain.)

Reference (links to other posts):
--> Comida Criolla: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/363850
--> Arroz con Pollo: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/381759
--> Bayside (old related post; updated): http://www.chowhound.com/topics/132954

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SCHEDULE
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Here's my schedule. Please feel free to recommend changes.
Note this schedule only has meals. (We'll also want to snack!)...

--> WED - Miami
Breakfast: Sergio's -- (Sun-Thu 0600 to midnight, Fri-Sat 24 hours)
Lunch:
Havana Harry's -- (Mon-Sat 1100-2300)
-or- Canela Café -- (Mon-Sat noon-2330)
Dinner: Benny's Seafood -- (Mon-Thu 0900-2200, Fri-Sat 0900-2300, Sun noon-2200)

--> THU - Miami & west, then return for dinner for friend's birthday
Breakfast: Casa Larios -- (Daily 0700-2300)
-or- Latin America Restaurant at Red Rd (Luis Galindo's Latin American) -- (Sun-Thu 0700-0100, Fri-Sat 0700-0200)
Lunch:
Road trip west on Highway 41: (food to go)
On way east: Get food To Go, from Gilbert's and maybe Blue Sky
Dinner: Cacao Restaurant -- (Mon-Fri 1130-1500, Mon-Sat 1800-2230, Thu-Sat 1800-2330)

--> FRI - Miami & north, maybe visit Ft Lauderdale friend in morning, then return
Breakfast:
Las Olas Café -- (Mon-Sat 0700-2000, Sun 0700-1700)
-or- Confiteria Buenos Aires -- (Daily 0700-2100)
Lunch: Little Havana (lunch specials Mon-Fri 1130-1530)
Dinner: La Carreta -- (Sun-Thu 0800-0200, Fri-Sat 0800-0500)

--> SAT - Miami (preferably between downtown & MIA)
Breakfast:
Islas Canarias #1 -- (Mon-Sat 0700-2300, Sun 0800-2300)
-or- Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop -- (Mon-Fri 0600-1600, Sat 0600-1400)

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LIST
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Here's my list of choices. Please feel free to recommend changes.
(After regular/nicer restaurants, are casual places for breakfasts/snacks, & bakeries.)

** Been there. Plan to visit here or eat here again during this visit.
* Been there. Would eat again, but probably not this visit, due to time constraints.
++ Never been there. Will visit or eat here during this visit.
+ Never been there. Would be nice to visit or eat here.
[ * ] -- Been there. Okay, but probably won't eat there or visit during this visit.
[ - ] -- Been there. Wasn't good enough to want to eat or visit here again.
MNT - Miami New Times "Best Of" award

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REGULAR SIT-DOWN ($-$$)
** La Carreta, Calle Ocho
** Benny's Seafood
+ Havana Harry's
+ Luis Galindo's Latin American Restaurant aka "Latin America Restaurant at Red Rd"
+ Casa Larios - 7705 W Flagler St
* Islas Canarias #2 - 13697 SW 26th St (Coral Way, Kendall) -- Had good meal here.
-or- Islas Canarias #1 - 285 NW 27th Ave (Little Havana)
Little Havana Restaurant - 12727 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami
Tap Tap -- save for next visit
Ay Mamá Inés
[ * ] Versailles
[ - ] Puerta Sagua - 700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach 33139, Ph: 305-673-1115

NICER RESTAURANTS ($$ or above)
++ Cacao Restaurant
* Porcao -- Had good meal here.
* Las Culebrinas - 4700 W Flager St, Coral Gables -- Had good meal here.
Graziano's Miami - 9227 Bird Rd, Miami 33165
-also- Graziano's Coral Gables - 394 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables 33131
Los Ranchos - 401 Biscayne Blvd (Bayside) -- A contingency pick.

BAKERIES -- Any more recommendations on places to visit?:
** Confiteria Buenos Aires - 7134 Collins Ave
** Gilbert's on Bird - 5777 SW Bird Road [SW 40th St] (same center as Blue Sky)
++ Gilbert's on Coral Way (new; moved from * Gilbert's on Douglas)
+ La Nueva Fe Bakery - 2975 W. Fourth Avenue [Cuban party platters MNT 2006]
[ * ] Don Pan - very many locations
Miramar Bakery - State Rd. 7, Hollywood [best Cuban coffee & bread; visit if in the area]

CASUAL EATS (Inexpensive) -- Any favorite snacks or breakfasts to note?:
** El Palacio de los Jugos - 5721 W. Flagler Street ["Best Last Meal on Earth" MNT 2006]
El Palacio de los Jugos - 10140 SW 56th St (Miller Rd), Miami 33165, Ph: 305-275-0030 [3guysfrommiami.com favorite branch]
El Palacio de los Jugos - 14300 SW 8th St, Miami 33184, Ph: 305-226-3141 [Music on Sundays]
** Blue Sky Food By the Pound No 5 - 5751 Bird Rd [SW 40th St] (same center as Gilbert's) -- Visited, but not eaten here
-also- Blue Sky Food By the Pound No 1 - 1239 West 44th Place, Hialeah
-also- Blue Sky Food By the Pound No 7 - 3803 W Flagler St, Coral Gables
-also- Blue Sky Food By the Pound No _ - 12761 Bird Rd [SW 40th St], West Dade
-also- Blue Sky Food By the Pound No 8 - 10734 Sw 72nd St
-also- Blue Sky Food By the Pound No _ - 6452 Northwest 186th Street, Hialeah
+ Canela Café - 5132 Biscayne Boulevard [Sit-down service at night; Best Cuban restaurant MNT 2006]
+ Sergio's - 3252 Coral Way, Miami 33145, Ph: 305-529-0047 [Good breakfasts]
-or- Sergio's - 9330 SW 40th St (Bird Rd), Miami 33165, Ph: 305-552-9626 [Good breakfasts]
+ La Casita - 3805 SW 8th St
+ Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop - 186 NE 29th St [Best Breakfast Special, Best Cuban sandwich MNT 2005]
El Rey de Chivito - 6987 Collins Ave [for Uruguayan sandwich Chivito]
El Rey de las Fritas - 1177 SW 8th St [for Cuban hamburger Frita]
Tinta y Café - 268 SW Eighth Street [Best croquetas MNT 2006]
Las Olas Café - 644 Sixth Street [Best Cuban sandwich MNT 2006]
Villa Habana Restaurant - 3398 Coral Way [inexpensive sit-down; Best Café con Leche MNT 2006]
Latin American Cafeteria - 401 Biscayne Blvd (Bayside) [NOTE: This is ONLY a contingency choice if little time, for breakfast on last day])
+ Robert Is Here - 19200 SW 344th Street, Florida City [a must-visit if in the area]

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Thanks! -R-

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  1. Whoa. Here's my shot at random recommendations:

    I'd go to Sergio's for lunch vs. breakfast and have a pan con bistec (thin steak sandwich). I'd have breakfast at Gilbert's since the cafe con leche and pastelitos lend themselves more to breakfast than lunch. Also, most Cuban restaurants have the same breakfasts whereas a bakery you'll have a wider variety (sweet or savory pastelitos, croquettes, etc.). Would definitely go to Havanna Harry's. Canela Cafe is a little north of where you'll be and the street is a mess due to construction. Plus I'd rather go at night for tapas (more Spanish than Cuban). Casa Larios I'd go to for lunch (the one on Flagler). I'd go to Confiteria Bueno Aires vs. Las Olas just to break from Cuban. Also, there's a chain of Argentine deli/markets with bakeries called Estancia Argentina (one in Coral Gables, one near Aventura, one in southern Miami). I'd recommend for breakfast as well and possible a place to buy some Argentine food (with the exchange rate, it's much cheaper than European imports). La Carreta to me is more of a lunch spot and I'd try something else for dinner (e.g. Las Culebrinas or move Havanna Harry's to dinner). Graziano's is a great pick for dinner just to break out of the Cubaness. It's reasonably price, good atmosphere. They also have two deli/markets near their restaurants in the Gables and Bird Rd. similar to Estancia Argentina. I like their empanadas better than Estancias and they have a wider variety (try the pancetta, caramelized onion and prune one, it's awesome). Palacio de los Jugos is a madhouse and I don't know what the deal is except that it's cheap. El Rey del Chivito is definitely a Miami only experience (or at least one that you'd have to travel to Punta del Este to get). They specialize in sandwiches which contain all the elements for cardiac arrest: thin-sliced beef, canadian bacon, fried egg, mayo along with lettuce and tomato to make you feel better. They also make a chicken version which I actually prefer. They also make Uruguayan style pizzas and pizzas with chickpea flour. Nearby there's an Argentinean gelato shop called Dolce Vita with the usual suspects plus tropical Miami flavors. Lastly, Robert is here is a heck of a drive from where you're from and unless you like produce it's too far for a short visit. It's a one of a kind place where you can get fruit that grows well in the tropics but it wouldn't be worth it for the short time you have.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Holy Vaca Frita!!!

      Sorry to say this...you are a friggin chowhound to umteenth degree!!!

      Remember - spontanuity is the spice of life...take it easy. You'll have a heart attack trying to slepp to all these places...for crying outloud R traquilize yourself.

      Don't worry so much about MNT...the reader's votes are skewed and the writers poll is skewed by ad dollars.

      Oh my God I got a headache just trying to contemplate all the places you mentioned in just 3 days...Lord have Mercy. Obviously, you need to narrow down that list considerably. You will be so sick of Cuban food after that overdosel...I will take a shot at this, but remember this: you really want to try what you can't get on the left coast SF BAY to be exact, no? So, why not break it into other cuisines that are rare out there, Cuban being just one of the many offered here in the MIA.

      Cuban Breakfasts are good, in fact Iove them, but three in 3 days will have your arteries looking like Crisco! Have a full Cuban breakfast 1 maybe 2 days max. Get some of their awesome pastries and a cafe con leche another day (those too will coat the arteries for sure, but boy are they good!) I especially dig the guava and guava/queso. Should you like and find the ones with coco, they too are good. Enough said on the breakfast, except this, if you are downtown try Offerdahl's for a nice American style ala Noah's. John was a highly revered Miami Dolphin in his day and does a very nice job, in fact he sold his first mini chain to Einsteins. BTW Front Porch CAfe on Ocean Drive is considered the best breakfast bar none, News Cafe on Ocean is also good. The New's Eggs Smoked Salmon (Benedict Style) are unavailble even over at Sam's in Tiburon.

      Lario's on the Beach on Ocean Drive would be good for lunch or even dinner if you'll e here on the weekend they will have an authentic Cuban band playing inside. Outside is great for people watching.

      Garcia's on the Miami River, close to Downtown, would be great for either an early or late lunch during the week it gets very busy. Fresh Seafood Cuban style. Fresh Stone Crabs are very much worthy of trying if you haven't already done so. You will not be getting this SF(south fla) delicacy in the other SF...that's for sure. They blow those crabs the sell at Fisherman's Wharf out of the water and are a MUST try. FYI they should slip off the cartlidge or they've been frozen-a big no-no. Joe's Stone Crab in SOBE is the originator and will cost you an arm and a leg, but it's unique to MIA. Garica's will have them too.

      Salmon Salmon is a very great Peruvian joint in a non descript strip mall and hood. You should consider Peruvian if it has yet to proliferate the Bay area. Francescos is the other Peruvian place you should consider, or even El Chalan (various locations).

      That Buenos Aires Bakery is awesome, it's a snack not a meal.

      Los Ranchos is an awesome Nicarguan Steak House. If you go to the one in Bayside, it's right on the bay and they offer 2 4 1 dinners early on...late lunch or early dinner?

      Robert is Here is pretty cool...but not for a meal. A nice Strawberry shake and some fruit yes, no meals. There's a very quiant and authentic Mexy Tiki close by, it's called La Fondita. Better than anything I ever had in the Mission. Tacos ala Carte anyway.

      El Rey de la Fritas is something you will never see out yonder and well worthy of a quick nosh. There 2.75 for one! I hope they finally reopened in Little Havana on SW8th St and 18th Ave. It should be, they were supposed to open in December! Unreal, Ia jonesing for one right now! Lunch or Lunch app....

      Enriquetas is good for lunch or breakfast and close to downtown. Check out their daily specials.

      Another bakery worth considering is El Brazo Fuerte near the Gables. Gilberts is good, I have yet to find their new digs.

      Good eats...I'm out!

      ciao

      1 Reply
      1. re: netmover

        Wow, I thought I overdid it a bit when planning meals on trips! I can't hold a candle to that agenda.

        I've never had breakfast at Sergio's but I like their sandwiches for lunch, esp. pan con lechon. Tostones are also very good.

        I've never been that impressed by Blue Sky.

        Canela is a very charming place but I think there's better food at other places. It's a sort of Cuban/Spanish hybrid and I think if you're in it mostly for the food there are better options.

        In particular, I know you're moving on to Spain after, but one of my favoriate local secrets is El Carajo, I little tapas place in the back of the CITGO gas station at SW 17th Ave. & US1. The piquillos stuffed w/ bacalao are fantastic. My first time here was to get a tapas fix after a trip to Spain and I tell you, this dish in particular was as good as anything we had in the motherland.

        Also if you want to branch out ethnically a bit, and give your arteries a bit of a test, I might suggest you try a Uruguayan specialty, the chivito sandwich at El Rey de Chivito, around 70th Street & Collins Ave. It is an astonishing amalgam of sliced churrasco steak, bacon, ham, mozzarella, a fried egg, mayo, olives... It's basically breakfast, lunch and dinner all packed in a greasy bun. I wouldn't attempt it more often than once a year, but it is a decadent pleasure.

      2. lax2mia, netmover, Frodnesor -
        Thanks for your passionate replies; your recommendations and comments are immensely helpful!

        ...Don't worry, I'll trim, rearrange. All the chow-worthy also-rans will not go to waste, because now we have a handy list I can refer to for future visits!

        If I have anything I'd like a little more info on, I'll ask (have another week+ to go) --
        but this is more than enough for me to go on now!

        Much thanks! -R-

        P.S. I'll do a writeup when I return, which would be at the end of May.

        3 Replies
        1. re: R from SF

          There is only one missed, and that is more for atmosphere than food - Versailles. It is the quintessential Cuban diner/restaurant. At least stop and have a cafecita at the outside counter and see the Cuban royalty go by.

          1. re: R from SF

            get pinapple juice and/or watermellon juice @ las olas.

            1. re: tpigeon

              Thanks for the tip! -R-