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three days in Tamiami/University Park/Sweetwater

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Myself and a few work colleagues are headed to the Tamiami/Sweetwater area near Florida International University for three days in mid-February, Monday-Wednesday. We'll have one car to share between us, so I expect we won't be traveling too far in search of food. Any recommendations on lunch or dinner places relatively nearby, lets say lunch entrees $15-20 max, dinner $20-30 max? We will probably just have breakfast at the hotel.

The only place I've managed to find by searching the board is Lung Gong, which looks promising. I'm not at all familiar with the area, so I may be searching the wrong location keywords. We're coming from Colorado, so seafood, Cuban, asian would be great, but I'm happy for any recommendations in this out-of-the-way location.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. For Cuban near FIU, there's El Rey de las Fritas across the street (on 107th, I believe), and a Palacio de los Jugos location on Tamiami/8th Street a few miles west. The former serves fritas, Cuban-style burgers made with chorizo and shoestring potatoes. The latter is more of a cafeteria with lots of great Cuban staples for great prices, and fresh juices. Also out that way is a decent barbecue place called The Pit. It's not top notch, but decent, and they deep fry those little biscuits that explode out of the tube.

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    1. re: Nick

      For really good food, head over to Coral Gable to Cafe Abbracci or Da Vittorio. Both have great Italian food. At both you'll find good fish too. There's not much in Sweetwater. I know. I live near there.

    2. Thanks for the suggestions! I'll report back after our trip.

      1. Post trip report:

        Day 1, dinner: Shorty's Bar-B-Q, 11575 SW 40th St
        chosen for proximity to our hotel after a long flight. I had the pulled pork platter, coworkers had rib plates. The sauce was a bit sweeter than I prefer (I like vinegar based BBQ the best), and the meat was a bit on the dry side. Not bad, just ok. Also had the key lime pie, which was nice.

        Day 2, lunch: Lung Gong, 11920 SW 8th St
        I had pork belly in spicy sauce, coworkers had pan fried noodles with beef and one of the 'pancake' dishes. The pork belly was moderately spicy and also contained carrot, green cabbage, and peppers, and I liked this dish a lot. The pancake was sort of like a homemade wheat tortilla which was cooked, sliced into strips, and then added to a mix of meat (pork?) and vegetables, with a mild flavor. The pan-fried noodles were thin egg noodles (I think) with beef and vegetables in a sauce on top - this was reported to be on the bland side.

        Day 2, dinner: Nunzio's Ristorante, 11433 SW 40th St
        Italian restaurant very close to the hotel, closed on Mondays. I had the cheese ravioli in meat sauce, coworkers had seafood linguine, manicotti, gnocci in red sauce, and side of sausages. House salads were iceberg lettuce with a slice of tomato - it has been years since I've seen a plain iceberg salad served and I was a bit surprised. The ravioli was fine but nothing spectacular, the linguine was reported to be good but excessively oily. I tasted a small piece of the sausages, which apparently were slow cooked in the meat sauce until near the point of disintegration. Had the gelato for dessert which was extremely rich and creamy, but with a few ice shards.

        Day 3, lunch: Cerro Negro, 9613 W Flagler St
        A small Nicaraguan place next to Winn Dixie, this was a bit fancier on the inside than we were expecting, but the lunch specials were all in the $6-9 range. I had the shrimp stew with garlic sauce, coworkers had the "combo" special and steak special. A repeat of the iceberg lettuce with tomato house salads. I wouldn't describe the shrimp as a stew, more as shrimp with sauce, which was indeed very garlick-y. I got the green plantains, which were long fried strips, similar to banana chips; everyone else got the sweet plantains, which were in softer chunks instead. Three coworkers raved about the steak and combo specials, so this was the surprise hit of the trip.

        Day 3, dinner: El Chaman, 14241 S.W. 42nd St
        A Peruvian restaurant in a half-empty strip mall. The interior was nicely decorated with masks and large oil paintings of scenes from Peru, plus a rather odd disco ball. Lots of seafood options on the menu, most in the $15-25 entree range. I had the Arroz con Mariscos, seafood with seasoned rice, as did one coworker, the other coworker had Pescado a lo Macho con Arroz, panfried fish filet (catfish?) topped with sauteed seafood. Portions were very generous, and the 'seafood' was a mix of shrimp, scallops, squid, crab, and mussels. I enjoyed the rice dish very much, and my coworkers also enjoyed their meals.

        So the winners for the trip were Lung Gong, Cerro Negro, and El Chaman.