visiting Coral Gables/MIA, your thoughts on my choices so far?
Will be in Coral Gables later this week for the holiday weekend(and a wedding). I've had a lot of fun searching this board and reading all your reviews and ideas, but was hoping to run my overall itinerary by youse experts;)
We are splurging on the Biltmore brunch and Joe's, and hoping to say economical or at least modest for the rest of our meals. Saw some talk about Joe's Take-Away rather than the restaurant. Where does one then eat the take away? Our hotel is the Coral Gables Hyatt Regency, so I don't think driving all the way back there to eat would make sense. Should we probably just eschew the take-away for the restaurant? Aside from that, here's our overall plan:
Friday- Fly into MIA mid-day, rent car then explore Little Havana, early dinner at maybe Versailles, El Pub or El Cristo, or all three plus whatever else looks good?
Saturday-big Lunch at Por Fin or Francesco, then wedding stuff for rest of day and night
Sunday- Brunch at the Biltmore(I have reservations), bloodbank to recoup some of our $$$, then dinner at OneBurger, CrepeMaker or Pardo's chicken?
Monday- leisurely breakfast close-ish to our hotel, maybe Greenstreet or Bouchon du Grove, then explore the Beach, including Cafe at Books and Books for a snack, and cap off the night with dinner at Joe's.
Anything else that is a must try? We weighed Michael's Genuine vs. Joe's and decided as Marylanders (i.e. blue crab fanatics), we had to give FL stone crabs a try. Is one day exploring South Beach enough? I mean, obviously not, but if you were visiting for 4 days, would you spend extra time there, or make the trip to the keys? I currently live in Arizona and am very seafood deprived, so any other affordable fresh seafood recommendations would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance!
Joe's restaurant is an experience in itself so if you don't have a picnic or boating trip planned, skip the take-away and eat in the restaurant for lunch or dinner but I think they're closed Monday for lunch. Also, you really have to try Michael's. I especially love lunch there. Books and Books is a nice lunch but nothing like Michael's.
On Friday when you fly in, go get your Versailles experience with a cafecito, but move on after that. Try Tinta y Cafe. It's at the eastern tip of Little Havana and their sandwiches, coffee, croquetas, etc. are great and nice ambience. The archetype of Versailles politically (they have a poster of Obama with a Superman S on his chest!).
I agree with Frod about Sunday choices, definitely change. I can speak for Copas y Tapas, Taberna Giralda and Miss Saigon, but I think Copas is closed on Sunday.
This from my last trip to Coral Gables:
Immediately getting off the plane in Miami I did what any self-respecting Chowhound should do: get to a bakery and order some pasteles. I'm not sure it matters which one, there are so many, but I happened upon Portofino Bakery on 27th Ave just north of 836. The pasteles de coco were kept warm, flaky, buttery, and so melt-in-your-mouth delicious, nothing like them are availabe where I'm from (DC area).
A tip I received on Chowhound also sent me to a Venezuelan bakery in search of tequenos. I found them at the almost completely hidden European Corrner in Coral Gables, in the building next to Casa Lario. It turns out they are so simple: cheese sticks wrapped in pastry. Why aren't these on every street corner? They are that good. An arepa stuffed with black beans, pork and cheese made for a quick, cheap meal.
Another Chowhound tip led me to El Nuevo Siglo on Calle Ocho for the Quimbombo on Thursdays. My Cuban sister-in-law hadn't heard of that dish since she was a child. At first I didn't know what to think when I saw that El Nuevo Siglo is a supermarket, but when I went in I saw a very old but handsome lunch counter complete with brick facade and a wine rack! The quimbombo is an okra stew. Nice vinagery sauce, served with addictive black beans, white rice, and boiled yucca. The nearby park with memorials to the Cuban 'martyrs' made for a nice place to walk off the meal.
I also tried the fried cheese and tortilla sandwich (plucheta?) at La Esquina Nica, but the combination of breaded fried cheese and hard fried tortilla was too much fried food for one lifetime.
Garcia's in Miami is a nice waterfront place on the Miami River with decent, unexceptional food. Highlight is the dolphin fingers and low is the oysters which had no flavor.
I hope you find this useful.
oops -- it was Repocheta at La Esquina Nica.. and some days there seems to be far more oily that others... on most days it's a tasty (albeit deep fried) delight. Meanwhile, I'm glad you liked the Quimbombo... El Nuevo Siglo is one of my favorite local food spots.. and they have a pretty decent Argentine & Chilean wine selection in their grocery area too.
Yes, it was thanks to you that I found El Nuevo Siglo. A real lunch counter.
I used to eat regularly at La Careta on Bird Rd., but I've been reluctant to go back since they've expanded so much. I went to a Dadeland outpost that was atrocious. I wonder if the Bird Rd.location could have gone so far downhill.....
I wouldn't choose "El Pub".. I live a few blocks away.. and sadly, despite really liking the owners, it's not where I'd eat (I've been in the back parking lot when the kitchen door has been open.. the smell back there isn't pretty and the food inside is mediocre, despite it having a following). Versailles should be a choice for one reason only: the entire see and be seen politico quasi cubanlebrity of it.. not for the food. El Cristo isn't on my rotation either -- too many good places to eat to spend time where I'd be underwhelmed.
For excellent cuban food: Habana Vieja 3622 Coral Way... the new place right next to where Tomo was, is quite good.. the counter at El Nuevo Siglo is good... Islas Canarias is good.
I'm underwhelmed by your dinner choices on Sunday, not because they're cheap, which is fine, just because they're not that good. I'd sooner go to Copas y Tapas, or Taberna Giralda, or Su Shin Izakaya, or Miss Saigon, or Fritz & Franz Bierhaus, or Le Provencal, or Maroosh. Maybe you can eat for $10-12 at the places you mention (though Pardo's is not as cheap as it should be), but for $15-20 you can have a meal you'll enjoy at least twice as much.
Note also the original Books and Books (well not quite the original, it moved locations) is in the Gables, which is probably a better stocked bookstore and also has a Cafe (though service can be shaky).