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Miami January 11 - 14

saturninus Nov 26, 2007 12:15 PM

Hello Miami Chowhounders! Philadelphia Hound here.

I will be staying at the Hotel Astor (956 Washington Avenue) for a long weekend in January.

Last time I depended on Chowhound for my trip to Montreal, I ended up having an amazing culinary experience but missed out on everything else!

So this time I am looking for reccomendations that are convient to the hotel where I am staying or great attractions. I don't tend to like to do very touristy things, but I love shopping at boutiques, looking at architecture, etc.

Restaurants and cocktails are a must, but the restaurants must be very vegetarian friendly. I do not eat any meat or fish but love cheese, etc. My boyfriend eats everything. We are also looking to stay within a tight budget. Most meals (especially breakfast and lunch) should be under $15 a person and one or two meals can be a bit more. We prefer interesting places to over the top mega-restaurants.

  1. t
    travlnmike Jan 7, 2008 11:13 PM

    please bring down a good cheesteak from philly as there is no place i have found down here in my 28 years that makes a good one.They cant get the roll right here.Maybe its true the water is too soft.I grew up on lee's hoagies at 19th and cheltenham,but the best i've had is at john's roast pork.South fla is famous for stonecrabs from mid october to mid may,so go to joes takeaway and have the non vegetarian feast on them as you indulge in the pastas and salads .

    24 Replies
    1. re: travlnmike
      saturninus Jan 8, 2008 05:09 AM

      I don't eat meat personally, but we here on the Philly Board love John's Roast Pork and DiNic's.

      1. re: saturninus
        saturninus Jan 15, 2008 10:43 AM

        Hello all! Reporting back.

        All in all a great trip, and I feel bad saying this, but from a culinary perspective I wasn't blown away. Started our first morning at the Ice Box. I found the menu uninspired. Everything vegetarian (there wasn't much) had mushrooms mixed in, so I ordered the Egg Box without meat. Really, really dull. And expensive.

        We skipped lunch and headed to Sardinia for dinner. It was nice to get away from the insanity of the beach area. For starters we genuinely enjoyed the three cheeses we ordered, they were flavorfull and served at the correct temperature. The small salad served with had nice ingredients but was severly oversalted. Also the bread was excellent.

        Entrees were not as impressive. My goat cheese and spinach ravioli was OK, but lacked personality. My SO ordered the branzino which seemed fresh, but came with boring roasted vegetables that was plated cheaply.

        We both ordered two glasses of wine as well and shared dessert. The tab came to $126 before taxes. I wouldn't pay more than $70 for that meal normally.

        The next morning we hit the Front Porch Cafe. Another boring menu with inflated prices. I can't find the menu online but I ordered an egg dish on a biscuit. It may have had the word Bonanza in the title, which was embarassing enough. The worst part was the potatoes, which were the softest, least edible potatoes I have ever seen beside an egg. The bill was at least $30.

        Lunch was better. We hit Juice and Java that looked like nothing on the outside but was quite nice on the inside. A large menu with plenty of vegetarian items at a reasonable price. I couldn't complain! I ordered a wrap with tofu.

        Dinner was the best part of our trip. We loved Tap Tap. Thank you so much for sending us there! Reasonable prices, the best service we had, strong drinks and yummy food. It was nice to try Haitian cuisine as we don't have any here. I ordered the stewed vegetables for an entree which sounded boring but was flavorful and delicious. My SO ordered the grilled conch.

        Thanks everyone for the reccomendations and I'm sorry I don't have more positive things to say! Perhaps on my next trip to South Beach I will fare better, or maybe being a vegetarian doesn't work very well in that area.

        1. re: saturninus
          Frodnesor Jan 15, 2008 12:26 PM

          Sorry you didn't have better eats. A couple general thoughts on some of your disappointments ->

          - you complain of uninspired breakfast menus. I rarely look for much inspiration at breakfast, and honestly can't think of many inspired breafkast menus I've ever seen here or elsewhere (though a breakfast plate w/ grilled octopus, pork belly and a fried egg at Tom Douglas' Greek-influenced place, Lola, in Seattle was certainly interesting). I'm not usually big on sweet breakfasts, but the item to get - at both IceBox and Front Porch - is the pancakes.

          - Sardinia - among my favorite things there are the vegetable antipasti, which you apparently missed out on. Too bad. Goat cheese and spinach ravioli doesn't sound terribly Sardinian, and I think they've made a mistake by expanding their menu to include more "generic" Italian dishes rather than focusing on regional items.

          1. re: Frodnesor
            Blind Mind Jan 15, 2008 12:32 PM

            I gotta agree with Frod... Expecting breakfast and a pasta dish to blow you away is asking a little much. Those are 2 things I rarely order out. I can make them just the same at my house with relatively little effort.

            1. re: Blind Mind
              saturninus Jan 15, 2008 01:04 PM

              Maybe I'm spoiled. Here in Philadelphia our breakfasts are often very creative. I often go to a restaurant called Morning Glory - my favorite is the Neighborhood Fritata - goat cheese, roasted red peppers, spinach with a phenomenal homemade biscuit, grits and warm fruit. Super fresh and more than I could ever eat for $7. The only time I eat plain omelettes or eggs I don't expect to pay more than $5.

              I think it's fair to hope for delicious breakfast items and pastas. Especially when you are on vacation and can't make breakfast at home. As a vegetarian, it's often what I get when I eat out, and some are far superior to others.

              I did miss out on the vegetable antipasti, and it's a shame what I ordered wasn't traditional. But I have had mind-blowing pasta dishes, many times - where the ingredients are flavorful, complex and worth $16. Despite my bad choice the branzino was also nothing special.

              1. re: saturninus
                t
                tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 01:15 PM

                You should have had the french toast at ice box.

                1. re: tpigeon
                  saturninus Jan 15, 2008 01:25 PM

                  Darn. I wish I liked sweet breakfasts foods. Oh well!

                  1. re: saturninus
                    t
                    tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 06:22 PM

                    Oh, must have missed that part, sorry.

              2. re: Blind Mind
                Icantread Jan 15, 2008 01:05 PM

                You can have some great vegetarian pastas, just don't ask me to name a place right now that has them. Sardinia has some excellent salads that would have done the trick. I third the breakfast comment however. I'm always at a loss when it comes to breakfast in Miami. Hopefully they bring a Mimi's Cafe down here soon, or someone opens a nice breakfast eatery. It'd be instantly full

              3. re: Frodnesor
                t
                tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 01:13 PM

                They did not make a mistake, sardinia does "regular" italian very well. You are mistaken.

                1. re: tpigeon
                  Frodnesor Jan 15, 2008 01:48 PM

                  *You are mistaken.*

                  TP - no, I have an opinion. It may be different from yours, but that doesn't make it mistaken.

                  I think it's unfortunate that what I find so interesting and exciting about Sardinia - the focus on authentic regional specialties, rather than the same generic "Italian" menu as 100 other South Florida restaurants - is getting diluted. Just looked at their website and learned that the chef spent several years in Florence (and, I was surprised to see, also worked for the group that opened TiraMesu locally), and I'm not suggesting he's not good at other regional cuisines. But no matter how good it is, the last thing Miami needs is another caprese salad or another veal milanese.

                  1. re: Frodnesor
                    lax2mia Jan 15, 2008 02:44 PM

                    Doesn't this "dumbing down of menus" topic keep popping up? Yagu in the Gables dumbed it down, Table 8 dumbed down their wine list. Unfortunately now it's Sardinia's turn. Next time you're in a region-focused restaurant, whether it be regions in Italy, Asia, S. America, etc., listen to some of the fellow diners around you. Invariably you'll here someone ask for something pedestrian and common. I've experienced it at Yuga and Sardinia. It's the state of the typical diner in S. Fla.

                    1. re: lax2mia
                      t
                      tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 03:43 PM

                      Please name me one instance where sardinia has "dumbed down" its menu. State facts. Every item mentioned in this thread has been on sardinia's menu since day 1.

                      1. re: tpigeon
                        Frodnesor Jan 15, 2008 04:57 PM

                        All right, maybe I'm mistaken. Last time I was there, I noticed mozzarella and tomato salad, carpaccio, oxtail w/ risotto milanese, vitella milanese, fettucine carbonara, all but the first of which are northern Italian dishes.

                        I hadn't noticed any of these on prior visits though perhaps it was just because there were more interesting things to explore. I do see others have previously commented on the veal milanese.

                        1. re: Frodnesor
                          t
                          tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 06:16 PM

                          My guess is you haven't been there since the summer. Since then, you can't get dinner options off the lunch menu which the fettucine was.

                          That all being said:

                          Mozz and tomato may or may not have been there day 1 but it was on the menu pretty soon after it opened. It is very good btw but I don't order it much for the same "pedestrian" reasons you just mentioned

                          vm - day 1

                          fettucine carbonara - is lunch only and they use fresh pasta with pancetta -- excellent execution, far better than others I had on the beach. This was not day 1 but you couldn't have lunch either day 1. Lunch does tend to be more pedestrian than dinner...

                          Oxtail w risotto - this and the lamb shank replaced the osso buco (RIP) which is also not sardinian, but was great. The lamb shank and the oxtail are very good but not as good as the osso buco. I would say that the oxtail if not sardinian is not dumbing down the menu either -- lamb shank is sardinian.

                          The reason they don't serve the osso buco anymore btw is the price had doubled within the last year and they said they would have to charge too much for the dish.

                          Carpaccio is new - they do veal for lunch beef for dinner - I will give you that but that alone does not mean the menu is coming to an end. They also added diver scallops and sefood paella w fregola to the menu which I have not seen on the menu of other italian places here - and if those to are dumbing down, I will be more than happy to be dumbed down then because both seafood dishes are excellent.

                          I have to say, Sardinia is my go to place and I go there on average of twice per week whether it is lunch or dinner. I know this place really well and I just have to point out inaccuracies. It is ok not to like the ravioli (which is very good, btw) but to say sardinia is dumbing down because of it is just plain inaccurate.

                          I just came back from a quck bite to eat there. I had:

                          Lentil soup with spanish mussles (special) - not sardinian most probably but not pedestrian by any means (you wont find this at tiramesu or rosinellas any time soon). Very good but my least favorite of the spanish mussles dishes I had there (probably because I don't love lentils - the other spanish mussle dishes were amazing and put Joe Allens and Le Bon to shame).

                          Macaroni with veal ragu in a pastry with gorgonzola sauce (special) -man was this good. Most probably the gorgonzola sauce is not strictly sardinian but the rest is pretty true to the cuisine.

                          Millefogile (napoleon) - My favorite dessert there. It is just great. Far better than any dessert they had when they first opened.

                          As for the specials, it was the first time I ever saw either dish available btw. Like I said, specials are constantly changing and are usually great.

                          Hardly pedestrian on dumbing down, I would say...

                          1. re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
                            t
                            tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 06:42 PM

                            I'll be back soon and will report. I promise :).

                            1. re: The Chowfather AKA sobe
                              t
                              tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 06:48 PM

                              One more thing and I am done ranting :). One of the great things about sardinia is that I have been there over 100 times and almost every time, there was something new on the specials that was great which I never saw before. There are not many restaurants I can think of where this is true. This is why I jumped on frod and lax. Whose opinions I greatly respect.

                              1. re: tpigeon
                                Frodnesor Jan 15, 2008 07:58 PM

                                Actually I was there about two weeks ago for dinner. And a fettucine carbonara is on the website's dinner menu as well, which was updated pretty recently.

                                Please note that I never said either "pedestrian" or "dumbing down," only that I preferred the focus on authentic regional dishes to "generic" Italian. Though that certainly is part of my concern. Since they still have many of the Sardinian dishes, maybe I should just be happy with that and ignore, if I so choose, the more "generic" offerings (as I've apparently done on several visits up to my most recent one).

                                But, TP - 8 machine-gun posts, most not even in reply to another response? To quote Brian Fantana's advice to Champ Kind in Anchorman, "Take it easy, Champ. Why don't you sit this next one out, stop talking for a while."

                                In all seriousness, it's great to see someone so enthusiastic about a restaurant, and I'm in complete agreement that having a variety of specials and new items on the menu is a great thing, especially for us locals who are repeat customers.

                                1. re: Frodnesor
                                  t
                                  tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 09:33 PM

                                  I guarantee you fetuccine carbonara is not on the dinner menu. They have a bucatini with red sauce and pancetta on the dinner menu which has been there for as long as I remember.

                                  I checked their website and the dinner pastas are indeed incorrect on the menu. They are the exact same as the lunch pastas, which is obviously incorrect. Notice there is no ravioli on the dinner menu nor any orichette with wild boar sausage which was on best bites in miami(just the lunch orichette with pesto and tomatos).

                          2. re: lax2mia
                            t
                            tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 03:46 PM

                            One more thing I would like to say. Sardinia has gotten better, not worse since it opened. I think the concerns on the board are misplaced. If sardinia goes downhill, I promise to let you all know.

                          3. re: Frodnesor
                            t
                            tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 03:42 PM

                            Don't think sardinia is going to turn into a standard italian place anytime soon. Frankly, their menu is not very different from when it first opened (except for the fact they didn't have lunch at all).

                            They have different specials almost every day, some of them very "red sauce" in nature, and believe me, they do them just as well as the "sardinian" dishes they serve and they are a treat because they are usually executed so well.

                            I happen to like sardinia's veal milanese :). It has been on the menus since day 1 btw...

                            1. re: tpigeon
                              y
                              y2ksrvivr Jan 15, 2008 03:46 PM

                              I like veal milanese too. Is there any other dish you would rec that is more indicative of the restaurant in your opinion? I am new to the site and after reading some posts have figured that most local people seem to like this place and I would like to experience too.

                              Thank you in advance for any recs.

                              1. re: y2ksrvivr
                                t
                                tpigeon Jan 15, 2008 04:38 PM

                                My favorites are the orichette w wild boar, the diver scallops (new dish), seafood paella with fregola (new dish), animelle (sweetbreads).

                                They have different specials almost every day, most of the time they are amongst the best thing to have there, sometimes they are not though so caveat emptor.

                                I will say if you see spanish mussles, or seared tuna, get it. They also always have spagetti lobster amongst the specials. I love this dish too but it comes with the shell and is higher maintenace than other dishes I like just as much so I don't get it often.

                                You also have a great selection of veggies, cold cuts and cheeses there, in case you want to go in an entirely different direction. My favorites are the brussel sprouts and the beets but all the veggies are great.

                                For dessert, unless they have a good special, you have 3 choices, panna cotta if you want to eat light - Millefogile (napoleon) or duo di mousse if you want a more substantial dessert. If I had to pick a favorite it is the napoleon, but they are all great.

                                1. re: tpigeon
                                  y
                                  y2ksrvivr Jan 15, 2008 09:04 PM

                                  Thank you so much for all the recs. This is the reason I joined this site and I most cetainly appreciate your aid. I will try to go there soon and report back. The paella intrigues me as do most of the others to be perfectly honest :-). Thanks again!

                2. Blind Mind Nov 27, 2007 05:02 AM

                  Hit up Pita Plus for lunch (I believe its between 11th and 12th on Washington). They have the best falafel pitas Ive ever had, period. Get em loaded with all the fixins, especially if you like spicy food. Enjoy!

                  20 Replies
                  1. re: Blind Mind
                    saturninus Jan 7, 2008 10:38 AM

                    So here is the list I came up with for my trip - any final things to add or remove? I think I need more. Ideally near 10th and Washington.

                    I had to remove El Chalan and Mr. Chu's because I was worried about vegetarian options, plus I couldn't find Fusion Restaurant.

                    RESTAURANTS
                    Pizza Rustica (pizza by slice)- 863 Washington Avenue
                    Piola (pizza with Catibury Cheese) – 1625 Alton Road
                    Ice Box (breakfast) – 1657 Michigan Avenue
                    Tap Tap (Haitian) - 819 5th Street, 305-672-2898
                    Front Porch Café (breakfast) - 1418 Ocean Drive
                    Pita Plus – 1049 Washington Avenue

                    DRINKS
                    The Delano (The Rose Bar) – 1685 Collins Avenue
                    Segafredo Café – 1040 Lincoln Road

                    1. re: saturninus
                      Frodnesor Jan 7, 2008 11:34 AM

                      I consider Front Porch and Ice Box breakfast only places (though they're open for lunch & dinner).

                      If you're looking for a splurge meal, consider Sardinia (been several times and highly recommend) w/ great vegetable and cheese antipasti and pastas; also consider Escopazzo (haven't been recently but intrigued by new menu), with a strong focus on organic ingredients (proclaims itself the first organic Italian restaurant) and several vegetarian options.

                      1. re: Frodnesor
                        saturninus Jan 7, 2008 12:52 PM

                        Both Sardinia and Escapazzo seem great, but not cheap. More than $20 for a vegetarian entree is a lot for me. Which of the two do you think I would prefer? I can't go to both. Ideally dinner would be under $20 for an entree.

                        1. re: saturninus
                          Frodnesor Jan 7, 2008 02:44 PM

                          I've not tried Escopazzo in years so can't vouch for it.
                          According to the Sardinia menu online, you can get 3 vegetable antipasti for $14 or 5 for $18 - same prices on the cheeses. Several pastas also under $20.

                          Janie's mention of Taverna Opa reminds me that Ouzo, which used to be in Normandy Island, has moved down to South Beach (same neck of the woods as Sardinia). Haven't been since they moved but it was pretty good at the old location - lots of meze, dips and salad options for vegetarians.

                          One other comment on Janie's - a lot of Cuban black bean preparations will involve some pork products.

                          1. re: Frodnesor
                            janie Jan 7, 2008 04:39 PM

                            Didn't know about this place, Ouzo, thanks for the heads up..will ask my best friend about it, she lives right around there...Which is better these days? Taverna Opa or Ouzo..I checked out the online reviews for Ouzo, and it got good reviews from Herald, but New Times gave it serious thumbs down and this was a recent Dec. review. Is Sardinia a place you could bring a 2.5 year old in tow?

                            1. re: janie
                              Frodnesor Jan 7, 2008 07:36 PM

                              I've not tried Opa so I can't compare. I'd call the New Times review more mixed than a "serious thumbs down." (I'll link to it below). The mixed dips (except the tabbouli, which isn't really a dip anyway), grilled octopus (which is my favorite thing there, and quite good), avgolemono soup, whole sea bass, and braised lamb shank all got thumbs up, though some other items didn't. I do concur on the general notion that more authenticity, rather than less (new menu attempts to include more "Mediterranean" items rather than sticking with Greek dishes) would be welcome. The gripe that the Greek salad was dominated by cucumber and tomato with some onions, peppers and feta betrays a bit of culinary ignorance on the part of the author - a traditional horiatiki or Greek salad does not have lettuce, this is the real deal.
                              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greek_salad

                              Anyhoo, assuming that the food hasn't changed too much from their North Beach version, I liked the mixed dips (w/ tzatziki, hummus. taramasalata, and melitzanosalata), the pita I've generally found to be nice tasty and toasty, outstanding grilled octopus, lots of nice grilled items (meatballs, sausages, quails), decent Greek salad, decent souvlaki (chicken and lamb), also like the rice w/ garbanzos and grilled vegetables that accompany many of the entrees.

                              As for Sardinia, it's a reasonably casual, somewhat noisy place and I wouldn't hesitate to bring a little one.

                              New Times' Ouzo review ->
                              http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2007-12-...

                              1. re: janie
                                t
                                tpigeon Jan 7, 2008 08:23 PM

                                Gotta say I am liking Ouzo less these days...

                                1. re: tpigeon
                                  Frodnesor Jan 7, 2008 09:57 PM

                                  That's too bad. Would be a shame if they lost their mojo after moving.

                          2. re: Frodnesor
                            t
                            tpigeon Jan 7, 2008 08:20 PM

                            I agree with you on front porch, but disagree with you on Ice Box. Unlike front porch, you can have a very good dinner at Ice Box, but I do agree that Breakfast/Lunch (served until 4) is better than the dinner. The difference is far more extreme for front porch.

                            1. re: Frodnesor
                              Icantread Jan 15, 2008 01:00 PM

                              I've never been as fond as others are with Escopazzo for the price. Sardinia is much more reasonable and nevertheless very very tasty. Also, I have really enjoyed Ishq the two times that I have gone. Good drinks, good food but only outdoor seating, so be aware of the weather if you go there

                            2. re: saturninus
                              janie Jan 7, 2008 01:54 PM

                              Here are my 2 cents:
                              -Juice and Java (although I like Julio's up in North Miami beach better) but tons of salads and many veg and non veg options--very fresh and reasonable: they are at 13th and washington: here's their site:
                              http://www.juiceandjava.com/

                              -I really like Pita Loca which is on 6th street between ocean drive and collins--really good spicy eggplant, salads, israeli morrocan style----veg and non veg options--little joint you can sit in or take out and eat on the beach right there
                              http://www.miaminewtimes.com/search/restaurants.php?oid=17895
                              can't find their menu online but info is above at link

                              -Taverna Opa--greek food is always a good choice because you can stick with country greek salad, or eggplant, or other mezze choices, or saganaki, fried cheese--etc---and lots of options---it's at 36-40 ocean drive www.tavernaoparestaurant.com

                              -A really good place that's further up (on arthur godfrey and alton) but you could cab it up there, would be Oasis, another really good medit food spot--very popular with the Mount Sinai hospital population (and for those including me, that have had many many meals there while being imprisoned in the hospital with sick famliy members--it truly lives up to its Oasis name--!)
                              Here's a link for their menu on menupages--it's a comfortable, cute relaxed spot--

                              http://southflorida.menupages.com/res...

                              -You should at least have some black beans, rice and maduras while you're there--so hit either Puerto Sagua, or even the Pollo Tropical (cuban fast food) would work--for a quick cheap lunch, there's a good one on 14th and Alton that puts some nice spicy kick into their beans.......

                              -I also really like Olivers Bistro--and there's a natural restaurant next door to it The Gourmet Carrot..that's pretty good as well--they are near 9th street on West Avenue which is one block west of Alton...both would be within your budget.

                              I haven't been here, but it seems to get consistent reviews for a little takeout spot..and it's in your budget
                              -Le Sandwicherie
                              229 14th St.
                              (305) 532-8934

                              -Sushi siam on lincoln is okay for veggie sushi or thai basics and you can sit outside and get the ambiance of LIncoln road if you desire---

                              -----------okay..hope this helps...

                              1. re: janie
                                t
                                tpigeon Jan 7, 2008 08:24 PM

                                I find olivers to be wildly inconsistent.

                                I think Thai house beats sushi siam and is closer to 10th and washington.

                                I also like Guru, but have not been in a while. 12th and washington (dinner only).

                                I think I was at pita loca once, I really liked it. I was definitely at a pita place on 6th between collins and ocean, I just don't remember the name...

                                1. re: tpigeon
                                  c
                                  chocolada Jan 7, 2008 09:15 PM

                                  Have mojitos at Tap Tap-- unsure of how many veggie options they actually have. You may also want to hit The Lido at The Standard. It's a local favorite and they have a great tofu dish as well as a very nice cheese plate. The view makes the place very romantic. You can go there and take a dip in the amazing pool.

                                  1. re: tpigeon
                                    janie Jan 8, 2008 07:30 AM

                                    I guess I've been lucky at Oliver's,--never had a bad meal there...my family and best friend also eats there alot and they also have not had a problem. When have you gone? Weekday, weekend, lunch, dinner? What did you order?

                                    -I used to really like Thai House, used to go to the one in NMB for years, but then had 2 disaster meals there and stopped going,,and had a couple poor meals in South Beach as well....this was a few years ago, have they improved? Did you notice any falloff in your visits there?

                                    -What is Guru?

                                    -Pita Loca is a cool little spot, nice Israeli guys there who do their best to please you. What I like about Pita Loca better than Pita Plus (which is the same as the one in Loehman's Plaza in NMB which I don't like at all), is their choice of salads, and combo salad plates, the freshness, their own laffa bread, and their hot sauce, nice and morrocan style! Much more similiar to NY style Israeli places.

                                    1. re: janie
                                      t
                                      tpigeon Jan 8, 2008 10:01 AM

                                      Olivers - had different dishes at different times of day.

                                      Never had a bad meal at Thai House.

                                      Guru is an indian place.

                                  2. re: janie
                                    saturninus Jan 8, 2008 06:07 AM

                                    Janie - an amazing list. Is there any way to know if the beans at the cuban restaurants have pork in them?

                                    1. re: saturninus
                                      Frodnesor Jan 8, 2008 06:42 AM

                                      "¿Hay puerco en los frijoles negros? "

                                      1. re: saturninus
                                        janie Jan 8, 2008 07:21 AM

                                        I know there is definitely no pork in the ones at Pollo Tropical, because years ago I asked, because I don't eat pork. As far as Puerto Sagua, I would definitely ask.(see frodnesor's advice below)..I've had the beans at Lario's on the beach, and there's no pork in them either..(I also really like their lemon chicken steak there, not the palomilla--prices for lunch aren't too bad).Most of the other cuban places I've eaten at are further North, South, or West, and not in your immediate area, so they wouldn't be relevant for you. For fast food cuban, pollo tropical is popular and cheap, and sometimes their maduras are better (sweeter and more carmelized) than ones I''ve had in more expensive places---

                                        1. re: janie
                                          saturninus Jan 8, 2008 07:44 AM

                                          Excuse my stupidity - what are maduras and are they vegetarian?

                                          1. re: saturninus
                                            janie Jan 8, 2008 08:46 AM

                                            They are fried sweet plantains (the green larger sized banana looking things I'm sure you've seen--they are a relative of the banana--so don't try making them with regular bananas, you need plaintains, the skin is thicker and they are larger, and completely different inside-sort of orangy looking), and of course, they are veg--and out of this world delicious when prepared right. They start out green, then they go yellow, and then black, when they are in their black but still firm point, they are very sweet inside (hopefully), and that's the best time to fry them up. There are also tostones, which are made when the plantain is in its green state and it's smashed and then refried and not sweet---here's the link with photo and info for it: http://icuban.com/food/tostones.html

                                            anyway, I prefer the maduras the sweet ones, and no matter where I've had them for some reason, they just always taste better in Miami!

                                            http://icuban.com/food/platanos_madur...

                                            see link above for photo and explanation from good cuban site from Miami---

                                2. Frodnesor Nov 26, 2007 02:45 PM

                                  Here are several threads on cheap eats on South Beach with some discussion of vegetarian options->

                                  South Beach recs for vacationing college kids
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/431074
                                  Cheap Eats in South Beach
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/399827
                                  Student Foodie Going to South Beach
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/385330
                                  Cheap South Beach Recs for Vegetarian
                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/425275
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                                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/457930

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: Frodnesor
                                    saturninus Nov 27, 2007 05:26 AM

                                    Thank you for the reccs!

                                    From the posts above, here is a list of places that sound interesting. What are your thoughts on these? I am looking for inexpensive, lots of vegetarian options, interesting food I can't get in Philadelphia as well as proximity to my hotel and daily travels.

                                    Pita Plus
                                    Chala
                                    Mr. Chu's
                                    Pizza Rustica
                                    El Chalan
                                    Fusion
                                    Front Porch
                                    Tap Tap
                                    Pasha
                                    Sardina
                                    Ishq

                                    1. re: saturninus
                                      n
                                      Noice Nov 27, 2007 05:52 AM

                                      Saturnius:

                                      The last few weekends I've been out to SB, I have enjoyed Pizza Rustica to the max. I am still shocked they can top such a sizeable piece of pizza with so much goodness for $4.50. When I have gone, they have had at least 8 different varieties, with everything from fresh basil, arugula, kalamata olives, etc. I tried the arugula pizza this weekend -- it was completely stacked with arugula. No skimping there on any of the toppings. I'd be hard-pressed to find a cheaper, more satisfying meal on the beach. You won't leave hungry. For your boyfriend, they also do a nice sausage slice, too.

                                      Noice

                                      -----
                                      Pizza Rustica
                                      863 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL

                                      Pizza Rustica II
                                      1447 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

                                      1. re: Noice
                                        saturninus Nov 27, 2007 08:25 AM

                                        Wonderful. It's a must! Is it sit down or just grab a slice?

                                        1. re: saturninus
                                          n
                                          Noice Nov 27, 2007 09:38 AM

                                          Saturnius:

                                          It's a slice place. There are a couple of tables, but it's mostly counter seating.

                                          The pizza won't change your life (the crust leaves something to be desired), but I don't think you can really find fault with it at that price.

                                          Noice

                                          1. re: Noice
                                            eatnbmerry Jan 7, 2008 06:17 PM

                                            Just tell them to "heat" it up for an extra minute or so. This gives the crust better appeal IMO.

                                      2. re: saturninus
                                        t
                                        tpigeon Nov 27, 2007 10:28 AM

                                        Pita Plus - Love it
                                        Chala - don't know
                                        Mr. Chu's - Do dim sum lunch
                                        Pizza Rustica - I like it but it is not amazing
                                        El Chalan - Really good
                                        Fusion - Somewhat inconsistent but good
                                        Front Porch - Breakfast only
                                        Tap Tap - Best mojitos in town, go with chicken or fish
                                        Pasha - nothing that special - pita plus is much better so is the greek place by the shore club. Pasha is good fast food, nothing I would go to on vacation.
                                        Sardina - I am a big fan, not very close to you though (1.75 miles away)
                                        Ishq - never been

                                        What about Puerto Sagua? Or is cuban good in philly?

                                        1. re: tpigeon
                                          saturninus Nov 27, 2007 12:30 PM

                                          If I don't eat chicken, fish or meat am I ok at these restaurants?

                                          No good Cuban in Philly - just great sandwhiches, Italian, pretzels, water ice...

                                          1. re: saturninus
                                            t
                                            tpigeon Nov 27, 2007 01:24 PM

                                            Veggie stuff I know:
                                            Pita Plus - Absolutely
                                            Mr Chu - They have veggie dumplings both steamed and fried that will work. You will need to ask about each one though.
                                            Rustica - fine
                                            El Chalan - Huge menu so you should be ok there
                                            Fusion - is vegetarian
                                            Front Porch - You will be fine
                                            Tap Tap - Unsure but I assume you will be fine
                                            Pasha - you are fine
                                            Sardinia - Great selection of veggies and the salad I had there was great (they have 5 or 6 different salads - though I am not sure if all of them are 100% veggie)

                                          2. re: tpigeon
                                            m
                                            mialebven Nov 27, 2007 03:58 PM

                                            I had a bad experience last weekend at Mr. Chu's for dim sum... the shrimp tasted bland and rubbery. There were only 4 tables filled, the turnover rate for dim sum was slow, and the food didn't taste as good as the dim sum across the bay in Miami.... I probably would just go with regular Chinese dishes that Mr. Chu's famous for - not dim sum. If you want dim sum, maybe you could check out the checklist for dim sum at Miss Yip - maybe it'll be fresher? Hopefully it'll be a better experience than what I had.

                                            1. re: mialebven
                                              Frodnesor Nov 27, 2007 09:12 PM

                                              Miss Yip has lousy dim sum.

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