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Jan 21, 2008 01:21 PM

Visit to Coconut Grove - Non-tourist restaurants?

Visiting Miami (From Baltimore) for a few days, staying near the Coconut Grove Convention Center (Royal Sonesta) and bringing my wife for some R&R. Looking to avoid the usual tourist spots that crop up in such areas and spend our evenings dining in locally-known spots (hole-in-the wall and upscale both ok if the food is unusual and/or memorable). What can if find in CG/vicinity of the hotel, and what may be worth venturing out a bit? Local seafood, and other regional (Cuban, etc) cuisines preferred. Thanks!

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  1. Jaguar - many varieties of ceviche and Mexican food. - casual

    Scotty's Landing - locals/casual open air bar & restaurant seafood surrounded by marina

    Cafe Tu Tu Tango - casual Tapas, American, Latin, Spanish, Contemporary, Eclectic, International

    Christabelle’s Quarter.- a beautiful New Orleans style multi-million dollar restaurant. First attempt failed now under new "chef". upscale.

    19 Replies
    1. re: 2top

      Let me add Las Culebrinas for solid cubano. And even though I haven't tried, Ideas seems to have some quality Spanish cuisine as the link below details:

      Enjoy your visit!

      1. re: eatnbmerry

        Just to clarify in case Brooksie is a purist. Las Culebrinas is not authentic Cuban, but I'd probably be more willing to call it Cuban than most any other Cuban restaurants in the area. Ideas is excellent, I know the maitre'd personally, but very very expensive.

        Also glad to hear about Christabelle's. Have not made it there yet

        1. re: Icantread

          Out of curiosity and yes to clarify, what is your definition of authentic Cuban?

          Because I know the menu pretty well, and apart from the Grove location I frequent the Flagler and Pinecrest locations often enough to get my fill of cuban food. Sure they have some Spanish thrown in (and what cuban place doesn't?) and try some modern taste twists on a few dishes but the overwhelming majority is pretty straight forward cubano and usually done very well like I previously mentioned.

          1. re: eatnbmerry

            Just the flavor profiles in general. A little bit of the twists here and there make it not quite cuban (though, ironically, it doesn't get more cuban than chicken battered in cornflakes with honey mustard). It's not what I grew up with as being Cuban. Unfortunately, as happens to everyone in Miami, I can't point to anywhere except my mother's and grandmothers' kitchens for what "Cuban" really is. It's a strange irony in Miami, and as I said before, when people ask for Cuban, that's my go-to choice for the quality of the food.

            1. re: Icantread

              With no insult to your Abuela (we all have/had them fortunately) I doubt if she/ours was a restaurant quality chef. That doesn't demean your/our warm fond memories of their cooking its just to say she cooked based on what she knew but probably didn't experiment or better yet, have the time/ingredients to explore new flavor sensations like a professional chef would say.

              But, Las Culebrinas not only offers the latter but more importantly to me, offers solid renditions of the former.

              Their masitas de puerco frita are top notch, ditto for the vaca frita, the sopa de frijoles negros, the camarones enchilados, the bistec de palomilla or empanizado if you like, and not to forget the yuca con mojo, the platanitos maduros or tostones. The arroz con mariscos is also above average on most days as is their pescado en salsa verde if you happen to find it as a special. In fact, they do seafood in general better than the vast majority of Cuban places.

              And since your "I can't point to anywhere except my mother's and grandmothers' kitchens for what "Cuban" really is. It's a strange irony in Miami, and as I said before, when people ask for Cuban, that's my go-to choice for the quality of the food." is not available to us (btw, If you're inviting I'm game) Las Culebrinas definitely has more than enough options to authentically fill "el sabor cubano" for the majority of people.

              So I'm sorry if you can't recreate your abulela's/mami's cooking (at least I can't) but that should be no reason to close your palate to other available versions.

              1. re: eatnbmerry

                Fair enough. The best I ever had as far as Cuban, was Havana Harry's at the peak of their game. My comment actually referred to restaurants I can point to right now. I thought about it after being properly chided, and with the absence of my mom/abuelas as you put it, Las Culebrinas is my go to place to hit that Cuban food craving. I guess you cannot better rate a place than it having that effect on you, so I will stand corrected.

                1. re: Icantread

                  No problema amigo!

                  BTW, haven't been to havana harry's in a couple of years now. Do you know if their famous "Pollo Vaca Frita" and stuffed tostones are still worth the visit ? If so, perhaps Brooksie is willing to venture there (not too far from Grove (5-10 min max cab ride) or into the Gables proper (about same ride)?

                  If willing I would highly rec Francesco's for top notch Peruvian where quality ceviches and seafood dominate the menu. Definitely one of the best "local" examples of Miami eateries.

                  See TP I like the place a lot too!

                  1. re: eatnbmerry

                    Honestly, Last time I went Harry's was on their second downswing in terms of quality, and they had just raised their prices a bit. Their french fries were no longer the homemade ones and some of the food was a bit off, though my palomilla was just as good as before. However, that was over a year ago as well. Otherwise, I'd still be recommending that place for Cuban!

              2. re: Icantread

                I gotta agree with eat on this. Las Culebrinas is Cuban. It may have some twists in some of its dishes, but it's Cuban. Vaca frita, fufu, bistec empanizado, masitas de puerco, flan...the list goes on. If they were to add coq au vin to the menu the place would still be a Cuban. Just because they take some artistic license with some dishes doesn't make it otherwise. It's what I grew up with eating Cuban and I'm sure you did too. (BTW, did you ever get stuck with the yellow rice with Vienna sausage and Veg-all? To me that was Cuban, but to others not. We had it at least a couple of times a month and I was OK with it till I found out what went into Vienna sausages. Blech!)

                1. re: lax2mia

                  You guys are right. Just because they're not tinkering around with Cocina Criolla recipes doesn't make it a pure Cuban.

            2. re: Icantread

              Just a yellow flag that reports on the food - and service - at Christabelle's have not been overwhelmingly positive and indeed often pretty lousy.

              I'm a fan of Ideas for upscale "serious" Spanish.

              1. re: Frodnesor

                Did you find Ideas to be "very very expensive"? Or was the "value for flavor" in line? Thanks.

                1. re: eatnbmerry

                  Been too long since I've been to recall with specificity, but I have no recollection of it being "very very expensive." I'm looking at the menu right now and it seems to be about in line with my fuzzy recollection - apps mostly in mid-teens, mains in twenties with some items higher. About on par.


                  1. re: Frodnesor


                    Definitely not cheap but like you say more on par with local fine dining establishments.

                    For "very very expensive" or more importantly, overpriced in terms of value for flavor, it seems that you would have to incIude Christabelle's. I have not been since a pre-opening look-see many months ago but more recent postings seem to substantiate your "caveat emptor."

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Interesting. When I went, I swore seeing some $40 dishes and wondering if they realized they were in a strip. Prices are definitely doable, especially for the quality of Spanish food. Btw, the same owners just opened a couture shop about 2 months ago in Merrick. They're actual trade missions from Castilla y Leon. They import their own foods from there as well, so they control the quality from start to finish

                      1. re: Icantread

                        Some of the imported seafood items in particular, like the langostinos, can be very expensive, but you'll find that to be true anywhere that's bringing this stuff in.

                        I heard something similar about the trade mission thing - which I think means they have some financial backing even if they're not packing every seat every night.

                        1. re: Frodnesor

                          exactly. The government of Spain is supporting them. In my past experience that's not a good thing overall. Lack of accountability and all that if someone's not there to oversee it. Then again, ANY restaurant where the owner/responsible manager isn't there day to day will be in big trouble.

                          1. re: Icantread

                            This is one example where it may be a good thing. I ate there not too long after they opened and thought they were doing some very good, upscale sit-down-meal Spanish cuisine (as distinguished from tapas). They've not been terribly busy and I think that would prompt most restaurants to try to change the formula, do something different, dumb it down, etc.

                            If they've got financial backing from the Spanish gov't it enables them to (1) be true to their "vision"; and (2) continue to procure high-quality product even if they're not raking in cash.

                            If the team over there were lazy slackers that would be reason for concern, but from my experiences there they take a lot of pride in what they're doing.

            3. re: 2top

              Just left MIA. THE great Cafe Tu Tu Tango is no more!

            4. The Grove isn't really a Tourist Trap haven. Certainly nothing like South Beach's array of Tourist Traps. Not much in the way of Top Quality though.

              2Tops Top 3 are worthy of a visit to dine...not so sure about Christabelles, which IS likewise worthy of a visit if just to see it and for drinks and maybe apps? The reviews have been mostly miss with few hits for dinner according to this board.

              Another one worthy of a visit is Los Ranchos Nicaraguan Steakhouse in Coco Walk.

              I highly recommend Jaguar for their Ceviches, specials and Mexy Cuisine. Tu Tu Tango is fun food and a great concept. Scotty's offers casual waterfront dining right on Biscayne Bay. And although it's a chain, I have had very good meals at the Chart House, also right on the Bay.

              6 Replies
              1. re: netmover

                Net you not fimiliar with Las Culebrinas or you don't like? Los Ranchos does a fine Nica style churrasco.

                1. re: eatnbmerry

                  I have never eaten at Culebrinas. I have a problem paying inflated prices for down home Cuban comfort cuisine. The only one worthy is Dougie Rodriguez from OLA, whose cuisine could hardly be deemed Cuban comfort cuisine!

                  1. re: netmover

                    That's too bad, cause they do a very nice job.

                    BTW, their prices are actually lower (at least a couple of bucks or more per entrée and even apps in some cases) than the Lario's SoBe (ok SoBe in general is overpriced) and about on par with the other Lario locations. Try it one day, I don't think you'll feel "ripped off" in the least.

                    As we both know, OLA doesn't belong in the same field and their prices more than reflect it. And while Dougie does some very innovative spins on el sabor cubano not too mention the whole latino scene, he'll be the first to say that a lot of his flavors are still rooted in his abuela's/mami's cooking like a good Cubanito!

                    1. re: eatnbmerry

                      That's good to hear about Culebrinas...I was wondering about the Larios on the Beach price comparision. I can justify paying Lario's prices due to their dynamite location. It's among the best options on one of the best streets in America...which is unfortunately lined with mediocrity chow wise.

                      Dougie does a traditional Pork dish that I was rather dissappointed with. However, there are others that draw from his heritage, but do not resemble it in the least...if that makes sense?

                      1. re: netmover

                        I also was underwhelmed by Ola's pork dish. And yes, drawing on the heritage without resembling is a very good way of describing what the whole "nuevo" cuisine thing does.

                        1. re: netmover

                          At the risk of sounding dumb, you always make sense to me Net :):).

                          Good point about Ocean Ave location. Lario's is worth it, especially when you apply your inmortal quote about the Clevelander the next corner over "at that price with that prime ass parking place thrown in for free".


                2. Agree with many of the recommendations below. Not mentioned in any of the posts is Berries, a nice neighborhood restaurant next door to Las Culebrinas. If you're willing to make a 10-minute drive south from Coconut Grove, you might want to check out Redfish Grill – good food in a unique (and somewhat hard-to-find) waterfront setting, tucked away in Matheson Hammock Park.


                  Ginger Grove at the Mayfair House Hotel (a short walk from the Sonesta) is good, too.

                  Enjoy your stay!

                  1. What about Basil in the Grove, the Brazilian restaurant?

                    1. The original comment has been removed
                      1. How's the food there now days? It used to have a great reputation, but I don't hear much about it these days.