Dinner in Coral Gables/Coconut Grove
We're taking our freshman University of Miami student out to dinner for his 18th birthday, along with his roommates. Any suggestions in the Coral Gables/Coconut Grove area? We're looking for something better than the chain stuff he'll probably eat for the next four years (lord, we've tried to educate his palate!), but not something too intimidating for a couple of 18 year olds.
During the 4 years my daughter attended UM (graduated this past May and onto Chicago for grad school...woo hoo...restaurants galore!!), our absolute favorite dinners were at Miss Saigon Bistro, 9503 S. Dixie Highway...a few blocks south of UM; and Casa Larios, 5859 SW 73rd Street, South Miami....kinda sorta just south of Shops at Sunset Place. Nothing intimidating in the least! Lots of great places in the Gables...our favorites there were Chispa and Ortanique on the Mile...and of course, you're right near the Grove but we haven't dined there very recently. And don't underestimate your education of his palate...it's bound to pay off in a few years after the beer haze goes away (sorry Mom...:)) and we'll find him here giving us HIS recs!
Here are my recommendations for the Grove...
French Kiss (Bird Rd, next to Flanagans - great value and food but away from Center Grove's action)
Le Bouchon du Grove (Main Hwy, Center Grove - food is always good but its a tad pricey)
Ristorante D' Il Frasca (Commodore Plaza between Moe's & Christabelle's - not your American-Italian fare, this is authentic, light and delicious)
Christabelle's Quarter (Incredible decor, somewhat expensive, food Ive had there was good but I havent been in a month or so and Ive been hearing some negative reviews lately. Worth a visit just to walk around, then you could head next door to Il Frasca)
Tu Tu Tango (Cocowalk, always a good time. I take visitors here to give them a good feel of Miami/Grove and its always a good time)
Jaguar (Grand Ave, next to Cocowalk - great restaurant, tasty ceviche, cool atmosphere, moderately priced)
Panorama (S. Bayshore inside Sonesta on 8th floor - food is OK but view from outside deck is pretty sweet)
And if you really want a 4-star dinner, head to Grove Isle and hit up Baleen. I was there for Miami Spice last night and the food was incredible as usual. Only thing I didnt like was the dessert and I dont usually do dessert so I didnt care. Just remember that Miami Spice is good to save $$$ but when you add wine those savings get tossed right into the Bay...haha)
So many good places to choose from! For most interesting, try Francesca's in Coral Gables. It's Peruvian but don't let that scare you away - plenty of everything that people like to eat. Tastes so fresh and different, especially the seafood dishes. Next, for excellent and really inexpensive (yes, it is possible) Japanese/Sushi, try Shibui. Not in Coral Gables but worth th 20 minute drive. A great steakhouse is Capitol Grille. Finally, for a 5 star dinner but bring money - Norman's in Coral Gables. Hope this helps.
I have to second Francesco's. However, for a couple of 18 year olds, I think Coconut Grove would probably be more fit. This is where they will party for the next four years (hopefully only four and that way you know where to picture them ;-)) Le Bouchon is a good choice because although the food is upscale, the ambiance is casual and fun. I also happen to think their food is great, but I haven't been there recently. Whatever you do, stay away from Greenstreet. It is a disaster.
What about Maroosh in the Gables...Middle Eastern restaurant with belly dancers on weekends. There is also Randazzo's which is a great Italian restaurant owned by a former boxer. They have mobster movies playing on big screen tv's, huge portions perfect for boys and the former pro boxer comes out and greets guests. I have had a birthday party at Maroosh that was pretty successful...they have a room upstairs that is semi-private and you can bring your own cake if you like. Casa Larios was mentioned and has nice outdoor seating. I like La Gastronomia in the Gables as well...they have brick oven pizza, great pastas and too die for dessert. Hope this helps.