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Tips needed for Miami and The Keys

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I am going to be in Miami and then traveling down to Key West (first trip to south FL) later this month and would love some tips on where to eat.

Thus far the plan is to take one night in Miami for a "splurge" meal - as a former Manhattenite I know though that cost often does always equal taste - so the pick doesn't need to be a fancy place. I'd like to have something that I won't be able to find elsewhere or something Miami does especially well. E.g. I'll save pizza for NYC (though I'm sure Miami has some good spots). The restaurant can be "sceney" or not - the food is def more important but I'm not turned off by trendy spots per se. My first choice right now is Michey's as it's been getting a lot of press and seems to be a "home grown" restaurant. I'm also considering OLA, Talula, Chispa and Ortanique and am certainly open to other ideas.

I'd also like advice on more downscale places in Miami - good food, prices and a fun atmosphere. So far my first choice in this area is Tap Tap - esp since good Haitian isn't always easy to come by. Any feed back on Tap Tap or other suggestions would be appreciated. Also I'd love some good breakfast / lunch ideas. I'm staying at The Standard but have a car and am willing to drive.

As to Key West - I'm more interested in the low key local type spots. I'm thinking 1/2 Shell, B.O.'s, 5-Brothers and El Siboney - thoughts? Also does Ambrosia really have good sushi?? And I know this is a bit played out but where does one really get the best key lime pie, preferably made with fresh juice? Lastly for the drive between Miami and Key West I've singled out Alabama Jack's and Craig's - good choices?? Other ideas??

Thanks in advance for any recommendations!

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  1. I haven't been down to the Keys for a while though others can surely respond and a search of this board will probably yield some helpful results. As for Miami, I think you've pegged the high points for an upscale-ish meal.

    I like Michy's very much but am often concerned that folks who have read the national press may come in with overly high expectations. I think of it as a really good neighborhood place that has some excellent dishes, but I'm not convinced it belongs in anyone's "top restaurants in America" type lists. And I really genuinely don't mean to dump on the place, it happens to be one of my favorite local restaurants. If you go, expect a funky, fairly intimate place, with an interesting menu with lots of choices done in small portions so you can sample several. Most importantly, I do suggest you study up here before you go - the dishes are somewhat hit or miss with some items a lot better than others. Here's a good start -
    http://www.chow.com/topics/358521

    By the way, appears that Chow has FINALLY upgraded their search function. Hallelujah!

    The other places you mention - Talula, Ortanique, OLA, Chispa - are exactly the places I would suggest for someone looking for a really good "Miami" restaurant experience. I've named them in my personal order of preference. I would add to that list Timo in Sunny Isles and Michael's Genuine in the Design District.

    Tap Tap is a nice call for funky downscale place, though I've never been knocked out by the food. There's some nice suggestions for budget dining on South Beach here, except you should ignore the suggestion of Nexxt which is a Cheesecake Factory-knock-off-tourist-trap -

    http://www.chow.com/topics/389948
    http://www.chow.com/topics/385330

    For breakfast/brunch, probably one of my favorites on the beach is Front Porch Cafe (one of the few good places to eat on Ocean Drive), which has great pancakes. Ice Box Cafe on Lincoln Road is also nice.

    1. Upper Keys = Calypso
      Middle-Lower Keys = Square Grouper
      Key West = Ricky's Blue Heaven (Breakfast,Lunch and yes Dinner!)

      1. Just search keys on this board, lots of good recent info,oh, and enjoy your trip...they're truly a beautiful place.

        1. It sounds like you've already done some searching around on this board, which is a good start since there are plenty of threads asking for suggestions for the Miami-to-Key West trip. Another great stop on the ride down is Robert Is Here, a tropical produce stand/milk shake shop in Florida City. They usually have locally grown kent mangoes this time of year. They're amazing. I've always found the sushi at Ambrosia to be the best in town. If you want to try Blue Heaven, I'd suggest breakfast. However, I always prefer getting a cheese toast and a bucci and having breakfast on the bench outside 5 Brothers. Getting a sandwich there for lunch and finding some shade in the cemetery a block over is also a nice idea. Waterfront Market is good for deli, produce, fish, meat, juice bar, etc. Let us know how it goes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nick

            Thanks! I've narrowed down dinner in Miami at bit more. I'm still feeling good about Michy's becuase it sounds like a place where the food is put at the forefront and I've done my research and have a pretty good idea of the dos and don'ts. Next up is Talula becuase everyone seems to love it. The only draw back is that it may be a little more sedate than I'm looking for. Lastly, OLA. I think the scene aspect could be fun (my boyfriend enjoys food but would also appreciate a hipper vibe) and I like the strong nuevo cuisine focus but I have some reservations about the possibility that the food quality may suffer a bit more than I'm willing to trade off for the atmosphere. As to price they all seem about the same with OLA a bit more and Michy's a bit less - correct? So I guess the question I have to answer is whether the "place of the moment" vibe is worth checking out Michy's? Or is the promise of really solid food worth it at Talula even if the scene is a bit more quiet? Or lastly will I be disappointed at the quality and leave hungry (I don't mind spending money on food but hate it when quantity and quality do not support the cost) at OLA?? Decisions, decisions!! Thanks again for everyone's time and guidance!!

            1. re: amyvt

              You are right that Talula's vibe is a bit sedate by South Beach standards. I haven't been to OLA's new location in Sanctuary - I loved the space they had on Biscayne Boulevard and was disappointed by the first place on South Beach they had moved to, but suspect the new space is better.

              You're also probably about on target on pricing, though it really depends at Michy's on how you order. If you do 3 small plates (some of which are more substantial than others) it's probably just slightly less than what you'd spend on an app and a main elsewhere, but the difference is marginal.

              The food is generally pretty good at OLA and you shouldn't leave hungry. Highly recommend you split a sampler of ceviches, and my favorite dish is the "raspado de pato" (a seared duck breast paired with a delicious, semi-crispy rice dish).

              You can't really go wrong with any of them. If you're thinking about Michy's, make reservations - it's constantly busy.

              -----
              Ola Miami
              1745 James Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

              Michy's
              6927 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33138

              Talula
              210 23rd St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

          2. On your way down to the Keys, stop in Marathon for lunch at Keys Fisheries Market & Marina - stuff is right off the boats, you eat at a picnic bench overlooking the marina - Joe's almost-quality stone crab for 1/4 the price

            1 Reply
            1. re: YosemiteSam

              Thanks again - I'm really looking forward to all the sure-to-be great food and I promise a full write up upon my return! In the meantime feel free to pass along any other ideas that might spring to mind . . .