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Dec 30, 2009 05:22 PM

South Beach or no for foodie/Chowhounder

Dear Chowhounders,

I will be visiting Orlando for 6 days, Miami for 4 days, and Ft. Lauderdale for two days, in January 2010, coming from San Francisco,

I booked a hotel at the Riviere Apart Hotel on 1400 block Collins Avenue for three nights. My wife and I are in our mid thirties, and mostly will do lots of eating while we are in Miami. We are not really into the beach or partying/clubbing at all, but I booked the hotel in South beach because it was a fairly good rate, around $120/night, and I did not know where else.

My question is, since we're mostly going to drive all around Miami (Little Havana, Coral Gables, etc.) for the food, would it be better for us to stay in Downtown, or in some of the other neighborhoods? I know parking is not great at all at the beaches, and i'm afraid the parking lots don't have in and out privileges. We'll be going out to eat/snack at least 3 times a day.

Some of the places I'm researching, in no particular order:
El Palacio De Los Jugos
Hy Vong Vietnamese
Islas Carnarias
La Estancia Argentina
Cuban Sandwiches (Enriquetas, Los Olas Cuban, Sergio's, etc.)
Tom Jenkins or Georgia Pig in Ft. Lauderdale

Thanks all!

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  1. SInce none of the places you're looking at researching are on the beach, it'd behoove you to probably find accomodations on the mainland. Most people that get a hotel on South Beach stay in that area with an occassional venture over the causeway to Miami proper. That said, there aren't many hotels near the places you're looking to go. But given your list, Coral Gables would be the most convenient choice. There's a few hotels in that area, but not sure their rates. If you want to go to South Beach, there's municipal lots that are $1 an hour so you can spend the day there walking the neighborhood for cheap.

    5 Replies
    1. re: lax2mia

      Thanks Lax2mia. I think I found a pretty good place and location: SpringHill Suites Miami Arts/Health District 1311 NW 10th Avenue.

      1. re: badbatzmaru

        Given the location, I think this hotel is mainly used by those that have business in the medical complex anchored by Jackson Memorial. The difference in neighborhood between the hotel in South Beach and this one is vast. In South Beach you'll be able to walk everywhere whereas here you'll have no choice but to drive. But since the places you've chosen to venture to are all off the beach then this would be more convenient. Just keep in mind you'd be going from a residential/tourist hotel on the beach to a more business hotel on the mainland.

        1. re: lax2mia


          Hideous choice.

          Stay on the beach as originally planned. Park at city garage on 13th Street.

          South Beach - Eat at LasOlas on 6th, Alibi on Espanola, Chalan on 15th, Indomania on Collins, Jimmyz on Alton and be sure to post a report later...


          1. re: advisor_Girl


            Is the location really that is a new hotel.....

            1. re: badbatzmaru

              It is an unusual choice. Nothing really interesting in the neighborhood and sketchy areas very nearby. Sort of like staying at an airport hotel...nothing except perceived convenience.


      Puerto Sagua on the beach is doable this time of year for Cuban. It's been there since the 60's and always packed so they definately have been doing something right for almost 50 years. It's as good as Isla Canarias IMHO...or very close anyway. Check out the 3D paintings of Cuba by the Skull sisters.

      La Sandwicherie on 14th between Collins and Washington is a good lunch or late night option.

      Go into Joe's Takeaway for a sniff. Seafood Bisque is off the chain as is virtually everything else they serve up there.

      I would go to Graziano's instead of La Estancia for my Argentine meal were I you. Go to the original store for a true Pampa experience:

      Graziano's Restaurant -
      9227 Southwest 40th Street, Miami - (305) 225-0008
      "Unique Argentine steakhouse with a great wine ..."

      It's been years since I've been to Hy Vong, I remember it being very good, but very long - read 3 hours...not sure if they have gotten their timing down yet?

      The Beach BBQ near your sobe hotel ain't bad and one of the more reasonable watering holes on the beach.


      2 Replies
      1. re: netmover

        I had also not been to Hy Vong for several years and also had fond recollections. I was back in the past year and it was not quite as good as my memories. The cha gio were still excellent but the cari ga was somewhat watery and underflavored. The timing is only slightly improved but they still run at their own pace there.

        I would agree that staying in the Jackson Hospital area solely for proximity purposes would be a waste as there really is nothing there. You're going to need a car regardless. If you want to shave the 5-10 minutes off your drive by staying on the mainland instead of the beach, I'd try to find someplace in the Brickell/Downtown area or Coral Gables.

        1. re: Frodnesor

          will not touch the food rec's as you have quite a few good suggestions. Regarding hotels, checkout where you can see a map of all hotels they promote and find decent rates with fewer restrictions than most discount hotel sites and sometimes a minimal discount for stays of 3 nights or more... Quickbook you can even cancel up to 24 hours before with no penalty and don't have to pay until check in while some hotels that give good rates require a non-refundable one night deposit.

          My suggestion is Circa 39 Hotel. In Mid Miami Beach and as stated already you need a car in Miami and Circa gives you a decent room, decent rate (upgrade sometimes if available) and a complimentary continental breakfast.

      2. If cost is a major consideration and you don't have your heart set on being on the beach, you might want to consider one of the hotels near Miami International Airport. I've stayed at both Hyatt Summerfield Suites and Hampton Inn Miami Airport-Blue Lagoon within the past couple of years. Both are ranked favorably at Tripadvisor. You can probably find a room at either for under $160 / night, including parking and internet. You will be within 5 minutes' drive of Calle Ocho (Hy Vong, Versailles, Luis Galindo's Latin American) and El Palacio de Los Jugos on W Flagler, and within 10 minutes of downtown Coral Gables. Dolphin Expressway is right nearby, making for easy access to points east (the Beach) or west. There are a supermarket and several pharmacies nearby as well.
        Traffic does get pretty heavy in the area during the afternoon (this is true of many parts of Miami), but generally isn't too bad in the evenings after rush hour.

        1. FYI - Georgia Pig is an old dive and nothing more. The Q is OK by my standards but the locals seem to think it's very good. I know nothing of Tom Jenkins in comparison.

          3 Replies
          1. re: freakerdude

            I've not really commented on the food list since that was not really what was asked, but I do have to say it's a peculiar list. Neither Vietnamese nor BBQ are particularly strong suits for South Florida. As to the former, it will certainly pale in comparison to what's available in San Francisco. As for the latter, I have never had the impression that the 'cue at Tom Jenkins or Georgia Pig would be worth a 45 minute drive.

            Palacio de los Jugos is a neat place with good food; does anyone get super-excited over Islas Canarias? Your Cuban sandwich sampler is as good as any, though I'd just as soon go to Enriquetas and call it a day. Estancia Argentina is more of a market than a restaurant, and for Argentine parrillada I'd sooner go to Graziano's or Las Vacas Gordas.

            You've also not listed any Peruvian, Uruguayan, Colombian places, all of which are well represented in Miami. You can find many right in the North Beach area (60s - 70s around Collins Avenue), some of which I've mapped out ->


            There are also some good places missing from my map - Moises Bakery for Venezuelan and Argentine sandwiches and baked goods, Buenos Aires Bakery. Also a new Colombian hot dog place just opened up which I haven't tried yet, Los Perros.

            1. re: Frodnesor

              Thanks to all the great suggestions. I usually do listen to the "locals," but I think for the hotel I'm going to stick with it. Have car, will travel. Two nights at the Summersuites, and two nights at a Residence Inn, both hotels averaging $150 per night including parking +wifi.

              Onto the restaurants, thanks for all the South, Central American, Latin, recommendations. My wife and I do not go out for these types of food here in San Francisco, though there are many fine choices in SF's Mission district. Just always stuck with the familiar Asian and European dishes.

              I have eliminated Vietnamese, Georgia Pig, and BBQ since there's so many choices on the list, and so few days, and tweaked some of the other restaurants per the great suggestions.

              Happy New Year's; Great eats and health to all!

              1. re: badbatzmaru

                I live on the beach just a couple of blocks from where you were going to stay and I concur that you are making a mistake staying on the mainland.
                Good "ethnic" choice in that neighborhood are Mattarello's (Italian, excellent lunch choice) on Washington just North of Espanola and Charlottes Cafe at 15th and Washington (Argentinian and now open for breakfast!) Charlottes Bakery right next door has excellent empanadas. All just a block or two from Collins and 14th.
                If you want to go more upscale BLT Steak at The Betsy on Ocean Drive between 14 and 15 is a great choice. You may also want to try Tap Tap Haitain food on 5th and Meridian. Enjoy!

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