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Calling all Local Foodies! First trip to Miami ... how does my restaurant itinerary look?

Thanks so much for reading my post!

Two days ago, a close friend of mine surprised me with a trip to Miami for my upcoming birthday in a few weeks (I've never been to So. Florida but have been dying to go ... so excited!).

I spent the good part of yesterday reviewing all the chow blogs and various websites to bring me up to speed on Miami restaurants. Given the limited time I have (I leave the week after next) and the complete unfamiliarity with the Miami area, I would definitely appreciate any input, advice, suggestions you have with the tentative itinerary I've come up with below.

Just a couple of specifics:
1. We'll mainly be located around the South Beach area but we'll rent a car so I'm willing to travel outside to noteworthy destinations
- We're coming from SF and have been to most of the top-rated restaurants here (all types of cuisine) . For Miami, I'm particularly interested in local cuisine that I wouldn't be able to experience at home (e.g. Cuban, Caribbean food). Anything else?
2. We're not looking for anything super-pricey or formal but would like a combination of a fancy destination places as well as very casual eateries/take-outs).
3. Please let me know if there is too much overlap in my itinerary below (e.g. cuisine or experience would be too similar with other restaurants listed or from what I can find in SF) or if there's anything in particular I should know (e.g. not a good neighborhood or best time to go).

Itinerary (over three days)
1. Michael's Genuine (have resos for dinner and Sunday brunch) - which is better?
2. Michy's
3. Joe's Take Away (heard that stone crabs are a MUST when in season)
4. La Sandwicherie
5. Cuban restaurant - I'm unfamiliar with cubano food so could would appreciate suggestions (I've narrowed it down to Puerto Sagua, Versailles, El Palacio de los Jugos or Little Havana Restaurant) - any one of these clearly stand out over the others?

Should I replace any of these? Or have I missed an absolutely MUST-HIT place? I came across Sra. Martinez, which seems great too but we have a lot of tapas/Spanish places in SF so I'm willing to skip it.

Thanks in advance!

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  1. Talula is another higher end option. It is very good but I have not been in a while and someone just recently gave a downhill alert on it...

    other places to eat in south beach that will have something good you cant get in sf
    el chalan
    mirago
    baires
    the spot
    cheesesteak at the alibi - cupcakes too if they have them

    Le sandwicherie is good but nothing to go out of your way for

    5 Replies
    1. re: tpigeon

      Thanks for the suggestions, tpigeon! I just chose le sandwicherie since we'll most likely be by the beach one of the days and it's a quick bit and convenient ...

      1. re: popchow

        the other places I mentioned are just as convenient for you as le sandwicherie, including talula

      2. re: tpigeon

        Where is the Talula downhill alert? I'm thinking of going there when I visit in March.

        1. re: Tom Hall

          It was in the ny foodie not fooling around thread but I did not realize that frod answered the post and said the food was fine and supported his comment with another recent positive report I just have not been in a while so I could not comment.

          BTW Solea is a bit expensive but it is great. It just opened. I liked the tapas best.

          1. re: tpigeon

            I was just at Talula earlier this weekend and had another fine meal. Chicken hearts crostini, sweetbreads w blood orange gastrique and pickled radishes, and especially a risotto with house-made pastrami, cabbage and apples were all delicious. Didn't love as much a grilled shrimp tapa with okra (slimy okra). The list of main courses has been pared back some but the list of tapas is expanded, which I think is more consistent with how people like to eat these days. Close to a full house Friday night too.

            Heard they are going to be doing an offal-intensive meal next week in conjunction with So Be Wine & Food Fest (they will be at Best of the Best) which ought to be interesting. Their tripe dishes are fantastic if, like me, that's your bag.

      3. I'd skip those Cuban places for Argentinian. Graziano's in Brickell would fit the bill nicely and is probably the best Argentine restaurant in Miami right now. Try the Kurobuta pork tenderloin and the bife gaucho (grilled angus bone-in rib eye steak). It's a fantastic find! Go for dinner.

        For Cuban, lately I've been hearing about Mambo's on Coral Way. The places you named won't impress in any way. I am not sure how Mambo's will fare by comparison. But it may be safe to say that if you want to be "impressed" with Cuban, the best place would be D. Rodriguez Cuba. I've never tried D. Rodriguez Cuba or Mambo's and I can tell you I have been to at least 20 Cuban places and I haven't been much impressed with one. For the experience though, El Palacio de los Jugos is fun since it functions also like a Latin mini-market and good tropical shakes can be had there.

        And skip La Sandwicherie - it's good & cheap but I'm not sure if it's justifiable for it to be a foodie destination. Adding cornichons into a sandwich is pretty easy to do. :)

        Also, another thing to try that may be harder to find in San Francisco: Peruvian (Francesco's or La Cofriada in Coral Gables) and Floribbean (Ortanique in the Miracle Mile).

        I would also say to try Haitian but there isn't that many good options around. I heard about MOCA Cafe in North Miami but that might be a bit out of the way and I can't recommend it yet since I haven't tried it myself either.

        Hopes that helps.

        18 Replies
        1. re: mialebven

          Wow, that's surprising! Didn't realize that Southern American cuisine was so vibrant in Miami. Thanks! I recently came back from Brazil/Argentina so I've had my fill of steaks and feijoadas. As SF lately has had a huge boom in the number of Peruvian restaurants. Floribbean, on the other hand, is completely new. I'll check out Ortanique.

          Someone had mentioned Little Haiti and so curious about Haitian food. But haven't found much discussion on that particular cuisine to spark interest.

          1. re: popchow

            For Haitian food without leaving South Beach you can go to Tap Tap.
            You can see a menu here ->
            http://southflorida.menupages.com/res...

            "Floribbean" is not terribly new to South Florida, at this point it's more a relic of the late 1980's early 1990's "Mango Gang" that applied (then-)contemporary cooking techniques to regional cooking styles - Cuban, Caribbean, etc. - and served it in upscale surroundings. Cindy Hutson at Ortanique, as well as Doug Rodriguez (now at Ola and the newer De Rodriguez) both, among others, were on the forefront of that wave.

            I don't know the restaurants in Little Haiti that well but have been intending to do some sampling (unfortunately a pretty dodgy neighborhood and not necessarily somewhere I'd send tourists).

            1. re: Frodnesor

              Wow, Tap Tap sounds great ... plus it's in South Beach so that's convenient! Now, of course, I'm overloaded for a three day trip:

              Definites:
              Tap Tap (Haitian)
              Joe's (Stone Crab)
              TBD Cuban rest (Cuban)

              Also I now have resos at Michael's, Michy's and Ortanique. If I don't have time, which should I cross off? Although Michy's sounds great, would it be too similar to what I can find back in SF?

              1. re: popchow

                I actually think Michael's Genuine is closer to a SF style restaurant than Michy's. Chef Schwartz calls himself a disciple of Alice Waters (though I actually see more of Zuni Cafe than Chez Panisse in his style).

                But if I had to drop one of those three it would probably be Ortanique just on the food, though in addition, both MGF&D and Michy's would be more geographically accessible than Ortanique in Coral Gables from the Beach.

                1. re: popchow

                  tap tap is inconsistent - I would get the fish there if you go.

                  1. re: tpigeon

                    Honestly I've never had great food there (though it's been a while) but the food's decent, the drinks are good and the atmosphere is great

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      Agreed. Mirago (Dominican) is better -- but different. Mirago is a hole in the wall though. Tap Tap has a far superior ambiance.

                      Frankly I was thinking of Mirago El Chalan and The Spot for lunch but you could have dinner there too.

                      edited out baires because op doesn't want steak.

                      1. re: tpigeon

                        Not sure how someone can recommend Mambos and D. Rodriguez Cuba when they've never been... I've been to Mambo's a few times and thought it was ok but I'll admit its been about 2 years and I really am not a fan of Cuban cuisine. You can get some great Peruvian at Francesco in Coral Gables which is more traditional than what you might find at Limon in SF though I like both. Atmosphere is pretty dry though. I'd do Tap Tap over any Cuban any day. It's not food to rant and rave about but it is different, interesting, and unique and the restaurant is good times and fits a celebratory bday weekend. Out of your 3 where you need to dump 1, I'd dump Ortanique. Another unique experience would be NAOE in Sunny Isles which is about a 20 minute drive but an incredible meal (MUST make rez via opentable.com) and totally worth it.

                        Enjoy Miami and happy bday.

                        1. re: Blind Mind

                          You must be thinking of another Mambo's. The one I was referring to just recently opened on Coral Way.

                          Also, I'm not sure if I would recommend NAOE. First off, if Coral Gables is too far to start with, then NAOE is like going to Neverland. :) Second off, I'm sure there's plenty of similar establishments like NAOE in San Francisco.

                          1. re: mialebven

                            Thanks BM and mialebven. It's funny you mention NAOE because that was the first place that caught my attention when I started checking out restaurants. But I did think it was probably similar to what I can get in SF. And more importantly, I couldn't get reservations.

                            1. re: mialebven

                              interestingly, since i've eaten a lot in both cities, i think NAOE is very unique without similar establishments in SF. i don't know of a place where you can spend up to 7 hours (a record for me), just eating, chatting, learning about cooking, talking to other diners...etc.
                              Kevin recently did pork belly -- he can still surprise you even after multiple visits...

                              -----
                              NAOE
                              175 Sunny Isles Boulevard, Sunny Isles Beach, FL 33160

              2. re: mialebven

                Grazianos on bird rd is the best but it is a drive, not in the gables. Baires is nearly as good as grazianos in the gables and is in sobe.

                1. re: tpigeon

                  As long as I've lived in Miami, 16+ years, I have yet to go to Tap Tap. Is it a must or just a novelty?

                  As for The Spot--is that the dumpy sandwich place on Alton Road? I hear the po boys are great but would you send a San Fran foodie there to check out food representative of Miami? Doesn't sound like somewhere I'd want to go if I was an out of towner. But then again, to each his own!

                  Has the food at Ortanique gone downhill? Haven't been in years!

                  Hate to say it but the most Miami on Popchow's original list is Joe's! You can't get stone crab anywhere else (unless via Joe's or some other SoFlo delivery service!)

                  And though Michael's' Genuine may not be so innovative to a SF foodie, it is Miami's best restaurant, hands down and therefore a must.

                  1. re: HabaneroJane

                    I do not think the food is spectacular at Tap Tap but it's a fun place and not something you're likely to find in many other cities.

                    I wouldn't call the Spot dumpy. It's a sandwich place and it's simple and clean, and the shrimp po'boy is right on the money. It is not exactly what I'd call destination eating, but for a lunch or late night you could do much worse.

                    I still like Ortanique but I find the food a little tamer than it used to be, i.e., the jerk chicken (actually a cornish hen) is more sweet than spicy. Also not as much new on the menu as I'd like to see, it's largely same as it ever was. But there are still plenty of things that are very good: they do great ceviches, love the Red Stripe steamed mussels, for lunch they do a great burger, I also like the club sandiwch espaƱa (with fried egg and serrano ham), and I still like the penne with jerk chicken. They've also got a great wine list and mix a mean mojito.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      i used to love Ortanique because cindy hutson used some scorching scotch bonnet peppers she grew in her garden...the sweet instead of spicy thing dismays me. sigh.

                      1. re: HabaneroJane

                        I dont think good Po Boys are easy to find in SF and they are executed well at the spot. That is why I chose it. Also the OP wanted to go to Le Sandwicherie which is not exactly a swanky spot and frankly the spot is better.

                        1. re: tpigeon

                          gotchya. until the spot, were good po boys easy to find in Miami? Who else has them here> Does Red Light?

                          1. re: HabaneroJane

                            Alibi inside the bar Lost Weekend has some N'awlin grubs including po-boys.

              3. The original comment has been removed
                1. I ate dinner at Talula this past Thursday and was happy to see a lively crowd- its been a few months as my partner and i both lost our jobs last summer. Andrea is still cranking out some really intereting flavors. The prices are incredibly fair - tapas for like 7 bucks and the wine list was aplenty with $40 selections- perfect for a one income household. Still, the grouper entree is the best in town. My recent experiences at Michaels was very good too- so if your on the beach- Talula is my call- Michaels off the beach. Still not a fan of Sra Martinez- I dont care how much press it gets, Tap Tap is good for what it is in my book- but seriously more of a dive than a memorable experience - I have not been back to Ortanique since we moved here about 2 years ago- but have friends coming and trying to figure out what to do with them. Talula is on our list but am looking for other suggestions- something solid- maybe not as much flash since we have a lot of catching up to do- someone mentioned Red Light?? any ideas. Thanks

                  1. re: Joe Foodie

                    We were also at Talula this weekend and there was a near full house Friday night - good to see. Chicken heart crostini, sweetbreads w blood orange gastrique were great, but my favorite of the night was a risotto with house-made pastrami, cabbage and apples.

                    Have you been back to Sra. Martinez recently? I've always liked it, but my reason for asking is that I've found the food has improved from when they opened.

                    I like Red Light a lot, very good food at reasonable prices; but you just have to bear in mind that the service is unpredictable, and especially when they're busy it can take a long time to get the food out of that tiny kitchen.