MIA: Ethnic Neighborhoods with Noshing Possibilities?
MSP hound here. Thanks, first of all, for all of the great info on your regional board (and Frodnesor, your blog). I'll be in town Mon-Wed night on short notice and have some great-sounding plans (At a glance, it looks like Joe's, Talula and Versailles for my dinners would be a good sampling).
That said, I'll have an afternoon to wander and was hoping to find a stretch of neighborhood to drop into markets, etc. and do a little noshing while enjoying the ability to wander outside in December without my nose hairs freezing.
I'm thinking something like the Mission in San Francisco. Just people going about their daily lives (as opposed to something like Little Italy in Manhattan). I have visions of kids selling churros, lunch counters in the back of grocery stores, whatever...just strapping on my running shoes and delighting the tastebuds a dollar or two at a time.
So, anything like this? I don't mind driving 20 or 30 miles (starting from the airport) if there's a good reason.
Thanks again. I'm really not too familiar with Miami and surrounding so I'm excited for the trip. I just wish I had more time to prep/do my own research.
Thank you both. Day 1 went well -- I spent a couple hours up and down Calle 8 and Flagler since it was lunch time and my hotel is over by the airport (not by choice). My first stop was at a place named only "Cafeteria"..just a small freestanding building on the north side of Calle 8, a few blocks east of my next stop, which was Exquisito Restaurant. I sampled takeout sandwiches from both -- a classic Cubano and a Lechon Asada sandwich from Exquisito. Both were solid. Also had fried plantains at Exquisito.
Being that I left 19 degrees and an impending blizzard at home, I couldn't resist the urge to dress like a slob in shorts and favorite t-shirt for a walk along South Beach. I didn't feel like showing up at Joe's or anywhere else respectable like that, so I spent a couple hours driving up and down the usual routes (up past the Fontainebleau, but not quite to the spots you recommended yet Frodnesor), then back looking for something "just right". I probably did several miles of walking as well.
After a good studying of the options on Lincoln, I popped into Sushi Samba. I don't have a menu in front of me, but it went something like this:
- 2 pieces of Saba Mackerel sashimi. I love oily, flavorful fish and mackerel is my go-to for sashimi. This was an outstanding representation. So much so that I ordered two more pieces later in the meal. Some of the best mackerel I've had in at least the last couple years (and that's not for lack of ordering mackerel)
- A roll with lobster, crunchy rice and a couple sauces. It was fine..just your average sushi place roll that sounded better in concept. The tiny lobster claw that accompanied was a nice touch though.
- The pork belly skewer on Peruvian corn. This was above average but some bites of the pork belly were a bit dried out. I guess I also expected this preparation to be salty like chicharron or carnitas, but it didn't have any salt at all. It would have worked well with the sweet sauce so I dripped a couple drops of soy sauce on there. I like hominy and wish it was used more in restaurants (at least in the Midwest where it's only found in pozole), so I enjoyed the corn.
I wish I had paired the pork belly with the miso sea bass version of this dish instead of the sushi roll above.
- The seared "otoro" kobe beef small plate. When you go to the menu, take note of the "gelee" that comes on this plate. Then, when you get this dish, push all but a tiny bit of it off to the side. The truffle creme and "Japanese mushrooms" were a nice accompaniment to the beef but the gelee was way too pungent and threw the dish out of whack.
The overall meal was better than I'm making it sound. I liked Sushi Samba and, if the Saba is any indication, would love to be able to go back for a broader sashimi sampling.
Who knows were I'll end up tonight -- depends how tired I am from my meetings. I sort of have my sights set on seafood which might mean Joe's. Then I'll have to lay on the beach and thank my lucky stars I'm not freezing and plowing snow off my driveway. I'll report back.
Just wanted to complete the report now that I'm back.
Day 2 was filled with work meetings. Afterwards, we had dinner at Flemings in Coral Gables. In short, it was a straightforward steakhouse experience. Since I get my beef and pork straight from farms up here, I chose to take a cue from one of my dining companions who had experience with the place and ordered the lamb chops. They were superb and very generous.
Yesterday I had a couple hours between meetings and my flight out. It wasn't far from the hotel that I stumbled across El Palacio de los Jugos #1 at the corner of Flagler and N Red Road. This is my kind of place -- it's probably good that I didn't find it earlier or I would have missed my meetings while sitting out there noshing for three days straight. I can honestly say I would try, and probably love, everything I saw there.
What I sampled was all very good -- tamales and a small dulce de leche cup from one place and lechon asada with rice and beans from another. I also sampled the arepas -- bright yellow and sweet, seemingly a little too perfect in shape...I'm not schooled in the numerous varieties of arepas but these were good enough to make me want to really seek these out when possible. Unfortunately, we have little to no arepas in MSP. I would guess these are a 3-out-of-5 star level...I'd be curious to hear more about it. Regardless, with such easy access, I would think this place is worthy of including in response to those "good food and fast near the airport" queries.
All in all, I ate well and enjoyed my quick self-introduction to Miami. Though I didn't get to most of the specific places you recommended (or even any of the ones I had planned), thank you again Frodnesor and netmover for your input. I hope to be back in the near future and I always save these kinds of threads for future use.
Washington Ave in South Beach still has it's pockets. South of Lincoln there are lots of markets, bakeries, cuchi fritos, etc.
Calle 8 in Little Havana will offer you fertile ground for what you are looking for. Flagler Street as well. You could do a loop stop where you like. I recommend El Rey de La Fritas for a snack if you've never had a Cuban style burger. 18th Ave and SW 8th Street.
Glad the blog has been a help. Here's a post that may be particularly useful for your quest, which has a map of mostly smaller simpler restaurants in the North Beach and "Biscayne Corridor" areas ->
I think the North Beach area (Miami Beach up around the 60s and 70s blocks) is a particularly fertile area for exploring Miami's plethora of "ethnic" eats. In fact, one of my next missions for the blog is something to the effect of "5 Countries in 5 Blocks" - which may understate the different cuisines you can try and overstate the geographical scope.
In this area, which is fairly pedestrian friendly, you can try El Rey de Chivito (Uruguay), La Perrada de Edgar (Colombia), Buenos Aires Bakery (Argentina), El Rincon de Chabuca (Peru), Moises Bakery (Venezuela), plus more. I also like Sazon's Cuban food. Sadly, I was underwhelmed by the churros at Manolo, which is supposedly famous for them.
A few blocks over on Normandy Circle is Las Vacas Gordas, a full-blown Argentine parrillada, plus a decent (not exceptional but OK) Thai place (Tamarind), good gelato at Dolce Vita, sushi floating on little boats around a river at Katana (the sushi is no better than passable, but still, it's on boats!), plus still more.
It perhaps lacks the character of the Mission and is a little more touristy, but otherwise somewhat fits your description. And don't worry - your nose hairs will never freeze in Miami.