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Nervous about Miami options during Mem Weekend

I'll be visiting Miami for the first time in years this Memorial Weekend, which as I understand it is also Urban Beach Week. I've been advised to avoid SoBe and its congestion, and we're heading to Key West overnight Saturday.

Based on a lot of great comments I'm considering:

Joe's Stone Crabs
Michael's Genuine
Oceanaire
Red Light

Which do you recommend for dinner Friday and Sunday? I live in Charleston, SC so I'm used to good seafood and just cannot get enough, but want to try the distinctly Miami flavor.

Also want to try Enriquetas for the cuban sandwich and pan con bistec.

Thanks Chowhounds!

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  1. We traveled to Miami during Memorial Day weekend last year and didn't have any problems with Little Havana beyond rain. I wasn't allowed to plan anything about the weekend - I was just told to pack so I had no idea about Urban Beach Weekend until I heard about it on the radio! There went South Beach. We did drive down to see if it was any different that what we get in Daytona Beach and we learned too quickly it was worse and left.

    We had lunch at El Rey de las Fritas, cigars at Tops, dessert at Tosca Bakery during a summer downpour while exploring the neighborhood, a dinner at La Carreta and had breakfast at Versailles. It was a guidebook vacation but we had fun and saw very few tourists at these restaurants. We ate elsewhere, but we were very interested in food we couldn't get in the Tampa Bay area and Cuban food in Miami is much different that what we get. We also had an absolutely amazing meal in North Miami at Hiro's Yakko San - so much so that we almost went back the next night but found ourselves somewhere instead.

    1. The only place you've mentioned that's on South Beach is Joe's and it shouldn't be any crazier on Memorial Day Weekend than any other weekend. You'd probably enjoy the comparison of South Florida's local specialty, stone crabs, with the crabs you get in Charleston. If you don't want to deal with the wait at the restaurant (no reservations, long lines, secret maitre'd handshakes) you can go next door to Joe's Take-Out.

      Michael's Genuine is excellent and certainly one of the best meals in town. Make your reservations early.

      Oceanaire is decent but is a chain which you can find in several other cities. Some items are also very expensive for what they are.

      Red Light is a quirky place, slightly dodgy neighborhood, with often slow service, and good, reasonably priced, locally focused food. Everyone does not love it but if you've read up here, you'll have a decent idea of what to expect.

      IMO, the pan con lechon is the thing to get at Enriquetas. Again, just be advised it's in a slightly dodgy neighborhood without much else around.

      www.foodforthoughtmiami.com

      2 Replies
      1. re: Frodnesor

        Well, it's the eve of my trip to Miami and the Keys and circumstances have changed a bit. Both myself and my hostess were dinged by the economy and laid off from our jobs. So money's tight. We were supposed to go to Michael's tomorrow night, don't think we can swing it now.

        So Chowhounds... what recommendations do you have for me that are great local food restaurants that are easy on the wallet?

        1. re: Clairechat

          Red Light. It's like the poor man's MGF&D. There's also several threads with budget options if you search "cheap" and "Miami" ->
          http://search.chow.com/search?query=c...

          Sorry to hear of the change of fortune.

          www.foodforthoughtmiami.com

      2. I would avoid Joes. The restaurant wont be bad but the drive to and from will. I would do sardinia - you will be away from the crowds there and you will be able to get off the beach easily.

        1. South Beach will be a zoo on Memorial weekend. If you want to do Joe's, why not go for lunch instead of dinner? Same food, less hassle. You should also try some Cuban food if you want the real Miami experience. I like Red Light very much, but it is New Orleans style food which you can enjoy overlooking the river. At Michael's I only sit outside as I find the rooms too noisy, although some love the scene. If you are only down for the weekend and driving back and forth to Key West, you won't have much time anyway.

          1 Reply
          1. re: moralesmom

            joes is only open for lunch during the season,which ends may17th.There is no lunch,nor mon or tues dinners during the brief 10 week summer session.

          2. I'm not a huge Joe's fan, but in any event, you won't get fresh stone crabs there on Memorial weekend. The season ends before then. I do love Michael's and Red Light is also very good. Have a good trip!

            2 Replies
            1. re: pilches

              Thanks everyone for the great insights! If we were to do Joe's take-out, would we still be able to get stone crabs, albeight frozen ones?

              1. re: Clairechat

                I'm not sure, but the truth is, if you can't eat fresh stone crabs, you're better off eating something else. If you really want to try stone crabs, there are plenty of options to have them flown in fresh. Delaware Farms ships all over. Their website is delawarechicken.com.

            2. Trust your instincts...don't go to SoBe on Memorial Day Weekend. It's a real shame, but it is actually a dangerous place to be on that weekend in particular. If you want a wonderful meal go to Coral Gables and have dinner at Flemings or enjoy fresh seafood down in the keys. As someone who has lived in Miami for 20 years, I hope you return to SoBe and its surroundings soon. Best Wishes.

              5 Replies
              1. re: annatfer1

                I adore Joe's and have been 3 times this season....but I wouldn't go to SoBe on Memorial Day Weekend.....on a bet!!......It's just plain crazy over there.....You can hit Graziano's....Felming's is a solid recommendation.....Captain's Tavern a few minutes south is an ideal for excellently prepared seafood......Jaguar in Coconut Grove is a wonderful place to dine and their ceviches are legendary......I love SoBe....but there IS life beyond there.....And it's pretty darned good......

                Emac

                1. re: annatfer1

                  If you want seafood in Miami try Garcia's. It's on the river and always fresh. As for Coral Gables we have great restaurants here but I wouldn't recommend Flemings. It's a chain and not one of the better steakhouses imo. I agree that Jaguar is a good bet or for more upscale Peruvian try Francesco's in the Gables.

                  1. re: miamisweet

                    Wow! Y'all rock. Thanks for the great intel. I've made a res for MGFD Friday night - I'll head straight from the airport to the restaurant.

                    Ok Sunday, after we return from the keys and check out Vizcaya, which is the better choice - dinner at Garcia's Seafood or Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar?

                    1. re: Clairechat

                      I'd sooner go to Garcia's for lunch rather than dinner. For dinner I'd go to Jaguar.

                      1. re: Frodnesor

                        Joe's will be closed Memorial Day weekend, I believe. Stone crab season will be over and they wont have reopened for lunch or dinner (which they may not even do at all this season) by then..

                        good idea on the Key West---that's where we go every Memorial Weekend..

                        Blue Heaven, 7 Fish, Michael's and Louie's Backyard are our faves.