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Sep 7, 2008 01:34 PM

Cafe Barcelona - South Beach

Went after seeing writeups on local "places to go, things to do" sites. It was bad. Horribly bad. Avoid it at all costs bad.

The concept is pintxos, tasty canapes which originated in the Basque country. So why the place was given the name of the capital of Catalonia should've made me suspicious (Bad omen #1). We gave the place the benefit of the doubt and opted to give it a shot. Given it's a tapas bar you'd figure a wide selection of wines, beers cocktails etc. There was a selection of 5 beers, a full bar, yet only 1 red wine by the glass (a cabernet sav. from Spain) and 2 whites (albarino and verdejo). Only 1 red from Spain, and it's a cabernet, not a tempranillo or other Spain-centric grape (Bad omen #2).

Ordered two beers as we looked thru the menu which in design looked like one you'd get at a dim sum restaurant (pictures with descriptions of the dish). The menu had promise. The majority of the menu was pintxos followed by some larger plates and other specialties. We ordered the jamon iberico pintxo with tomato, a plate of padron peppers, and huevos estrallados (a classic dish of fried potatoes topped by chopped fried eggs). The pintxo was pathetic in every way. The bread was soft and mealy, tomatoes were both underripe and mealy, and the it had two of the tiniest slices of ham imaginable (about 1.5 inches by 1 inch). The order of peppers was $7.50 and came with 7 peppers. For those not familiar with padron peppers, they're about the size of jalapenos but not as hot. They're sauteed in olive oil and topped with sea salt (which these lacked). So basically we paid over $1 for each pepper. You get a full plate a Xixon for the same price. Lastly came the huevos. The well done huevos. No runny yolk to dip the potatoes in. And again no salt.

It's the only time in my life that when asked by a server how everything was I said "Bad". Their response? "Would you like another beer?" This place is lost and it's focus is on helping resident Euros get their drink on. We were there fairly early but by the time we left the flow of Spanfranitalos was making its way in with cigarettes in hand (I thought if a place made over a certain % of its revenue from food then smoking was prohibited. Bad omen #3).

I usually give a place a second chance, especially if it'd just opened, but I felt so ripped off by this place that I've written it off entirely and wanted to pass on the warning. What a week, some of us got to go to Paradigm, others got ripped off at this sh-thole. Shows the depth of breadth of Miami dining!

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  1. There used to be a Cafe Barcelona in Coral Gables years ago. Some of the best paellas down here, but alas, like so many othes, closed and gone. Could not be the same owners, based upon your description, but thanks for helping me avoid making this mistake, which I might well have made.

    2 Replies
    1. re: truffled

      Owned by Tapas y Tintos next door on Espanola Way

      1. re: rockysobe

        Saw that on the back of the menu. Doesn't bode well for that place either.

    2. hi,
      actually i had a very different experience at cafe barcelona, so i wanted to drop in a good word for it. note that being from spain i am actually more demanding with spanish restaurants.
      first i think the place is not designed to be a restaurant, but rather an actual tapas bar, like the ones in spain. you go there for the beer, a wine of the house, etc.. and you have tapas on the side while you talk.
      i had pulpo a la gallega, cheese board and salmon montados.. good stuff. it was fresh, the quantities were decent. original spanish recipes and some autoctonous inventions.
      so you let time pass and around 10 or 11 the place starts to get filled with people and the atmosphere changes completely. it becomes more like a bar. the music is really good (for those of you who are into spanish rock, electronica, etc... alaska, dunkan du, etc.. on fri.night) this refers only to the weekend. during the week it looks more like a classy chillout. but it has a good atmosphere to it unlike a lot of more artificial hangouts in south beach.
      anyways that's what you do in tapas bars in spain. you drink, eat tapas and wait until the whole place fills with people. i'm quite glad somebody imported the concept to south beach.
      if you want more of a restaurant then there is always next door tapas & tintos (same owners but different concept). there you have a much wider selection of dishes, wines, etc.. in a restaurant setting. there are flamenco perfomances. in terms of spanish food i think the best you can find in miami. really. its quite close to the real thing which is rather unusual for spanish restaurants in the us.
      so, two thumbs up from me. highly recommed it both cafe barcelona and tapas & tintos.

      12 Replies
      1. re: marquitos

        I think OP was pretty clear in understanding that the place is a tapas bar concept not a restaurant - the gripes were with the quality and value of the food. Tapas y Tintos is the best Spanish food in Miami - really? Compared to where else that you've eaten?

        1. re: marquitos


          Por favor, tio! What part of Spain are you from that would put up with food like this (the Catalan part that serves Basque pintxos perhaps)? If I had this food anywhere in Spain I would've asked for the hoja de reclamaciones (complaints book) so fast they'd be in shock. The food at this place was, for lack of a better word, insulting!! If it turns into a bar, club, whatever, there's no excuse for food this bad. And yep, when in Spain I drink, eat tapas and wait until the whole place fills up with people, only in Spain they seem to care about the tapas they put out.

          BTW, since this is your only post I'm curious as well to find out what other Spanish restaurants you've been to in Miami to be able to boast that Tapas y Tintos has the best Spanish food in the city (I assume Por Fin and La Dorada must suck in comparison).

          1. re: lax2mia

            Ironically enough for this post, Tapas y Tintos is getting some kind of certificate of recognition (whatever that is) at the Miami Beach commission meeting next week.

            1. re: lax2mia

              hey lax2mia,
              i haven't said all other places in miami suck in comparison to tapas. what i said is that my experience there was good and therefore different to yours. the tapas i've had in cafe barcelona were actually very good. i've tried most of them since i frequented the place recently. i think maybe you went on a bad day when they were starting out or something, which i why i felt compelled to post a comment in its favour although i don't usually contribute to these forums.
              regarding tapas & tintos, i maintain that it is overall the best spanish food i've had in miami. granted i have not tried all the dishes in all the other spanish restaurants in miami. i've been to (for example) casa juancho, casa panza, los gallegos, delicias de espana.. some of these restaurants also have some good dishes but i think tapas does fairly well in comparison.

              1. re: marquitos

                I am usually very cautious about dining at places in the bowels of South Beach. Other than La Folie and my recent introduction to Mattarello, I wouldn't trust much else in that general area. That is just my bad stereotype but other than the old stand by's like Osterio and Escopazzo. Where else would anyone eat on Washington Avenue or Espanola???

                Mattarello was the first place in a long time to impress me on South Beach. But I will venture there for lunch this week to see what all the fuss is about both negative and positive.

                1. re: jmdhsmiami

                  Table 8 at the end of Espanola is an option too. I miss Dogma.

                  1. re: rockysobe

                    Do you mean Ocean Drive Table 8 or something else? Went once and wasn't all that impressed by it, especially sitting next to sliding doors like you are eating at a food seminar by Barilla at Publix!

                    1. re: jmdhsmiami

                      Yep, the hotel has an entrance on Collins at Espanola. Shame you didn't have good experience. I've had lots of good, not phenomenal, visits there. Also liked that they had a cheaper, but still good, bar menu (Short rib grilled cheese, chorizo stuffed fried olives, an "upscale" sloppy joe, etc.) Those doors are a little to gimicky but I prefer eating "outside" at or around the bar area anyway

                      1. re: rockysobe

                        you are right, I forgot that Espanola ends into Collins... Not too keen on going in that area as Jerry's Famous Deli gives me a rash whenever I am close to it.

            2. re: marquitos

              I could not agree more with marquitos. This is your typical tapas bar from Spain. My family is from Galicia so i get the concept of this bar too. Its not a pretentious bar from south beach with velvet ropes. Its a local tapas bar where you go for drinks with your friends and have a couple of pintxos. It is exactly what people do in Spain and that is why i enjoy coming here. The pintxos are delicious, but i mostly go there late at night to party. They have a great dj on the weekends who plays everything from spanish rock to depeche mode. And when it gets too packed inside we hang out outside on espanola way or walk to tapas & tintos which is right next door. It's like bar hopping in spain but instead your on espanola way in south beach. This is as authentic as it gets. I always have a blast when i go. And what do u know the owners are actually from spain! they must know a thing or two about tapas bars.

              1. re: pongo

                Wow. Sounds like a great place for a Friday or Saturday night. As for the food, it still sucks.

                1. re: lax2mia

                  LOL! I know you had a bad experience, but can't anyone write a good review on this tapas bar without having to feel bullied? You are taking this way too personal. I liked the food and i don't think it sucks.