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Apr 1, 2011 08:25 AM

Old-School and Deliciously Divey Miami Recs (and some Key-area fish shacks?)

I'm coming to Florida next month, doing 4 days in Key West and 4 days in South Beach (at the Crowne Plaza near Collins and 15th). We are in our 30s, adventurous and from NYC. We're not looking for sceney, but would love to experience old-time Miami places -- luncheonettes or old Jewish delis that may be left, vintage Cuban places and any ethnic cuisines that should not be missed.

We have a car and are willing to drive (although not ridiculously far please). If anyone has ideas for places to stop along the drive to Key West, that would be appreciated too.

Hope this is enough info to get some good recommendations, thank you!!

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  1. In south beach
    La Sandwicherie
    Puerto Sagua
    El Chalan
    Joes Take Out (doesnt get any older than this in miami but not divey)
    Alibi (sort of old and divey)
    Keeses (not old but divey)

    Miami proper
    Tobacco Road
    (there are a million others but there are more qualified people than myself to list these so I will defer to them)

    La Sandwicherie
    229 14th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

    Tobacco Road
    626 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130

    El Chalan Restaurant
    7971 Bird Rd Ste 17, Miami, FL 33155

    Puerto Sagua Restaurant
    700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

    1. I second La Sandwicherie, Puerto Sagua, Alibi/Lost Weekend (for cheesesteaks) Tobacco Road, and Joe's (just went a few weeks ago, got fried chicken and claws to go, and ate them in South Pointe Park).

      If you're coming from NYC, then the deli down here probably won't blow your mind. Still, The Sage up in Hallandale is my favorite. That's probably about a half-hour drive from where you're staying, though. If, however, a half-hour drive north isn't a big deal to you, Tark's in Dania and Le Tub in Hollywood are both good "old Florida" places. Tark's is a horseshoe-shaped counter raw bar and Le Tub is like someone's overgrown backyard on the intercoastal, serving what some have called the best burger in the U.S. (I don't totally agree, but it's pretty good, the place has character.)

      You might also like La Camaronera, a fish market/lunch spot in Little Havana. The fried fish or shrimp sandwiches are the main draw, but the fried fish roe and fried grouper cheeks are also great. Again, just a counter (no seats at all, I don't think).

      As for the drive to KW:

      I always try to stop at Taqueria Morelia, which is in the Florida City/Redlands area. It's a small restaurant attached to a gas station, and it serves, in my opinion, the best tacos, tortas, and ceviche tostadas in the area. The short rib tacos (suadero) are great.

      Nearby is also Robert Is Here, which is a fruit stand that also sells tropical fruit milkshakes. If you're looking to check out local florida produce, tropical fruit, honey, etc. this is a good choice. The milkshakes are also killer, especially the blackberry or papaya-key lime.

      I'm not much help for stops in the middle keys, but Denny's (not the grand slam one) in Key Largo makes good Cuban food and coffee. Their vaca frita is especially good, I think.

      The Hogfish in Stock Island (just over the bridge from Key West) is a good bet for an out of the way, on the water, fish-shack.

      In KW, I'd suggest 5 Brothers Grocery for Cuban sandwiches and lunch specials. Friday is ox tail day, and if you get there around 11 or noon, you might be able to snag an order. It sells out quickly though.

      There are lots of other KW threads on here, so those might also be of help. Let us know how it goes.

      La Sandwicherie
      229 14th St, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Tobacco Road
      626 S Miami Ave, Miami, FL 33130

      Puerto Sagua Restaurant
      700 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

      Le Tub
      1100 N Ocean Dr, Hollywood, FL 33019

      Little Havana Restaurant
      12727 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 33181

      Taqueria Morelia
      961 W Palm Dr, Homestead, FL 33034

      1. If you are willing to spend a buck on the toll fee and add eight miles to your trip down to (or up from) Key West, take Card Sound Road instead of US1 from Florida City to Key Largo, which goes through the old fishing village of Card Sound. In the middle of the mangroves you come across Alabama Jack's, founded in 1947 (according to their website). It's true old school Florida Keys, serving peel 'n eat shrimp, conch (pronounced "conk") fritters, fish sandwiches, etc.

        I wouldn't plan a main meal there, but it's a nice little stop with great atmosphere - more of an off the beaten path type place to take a break and have a snack and a cold beer on your way to or from the Keys.

        1. Having lived in the Keys for seven years I can heartily second the Alabama Jack's rec. And there's square dancing on weekends. (You haven't lived until you see motorcycle guys who look like Hell's Angels square dancing.)

          In Key Largo, Pilot House is little more upscale than some but it's right on the water and a good place for a cold beer, burger or fish taco. Also, stop by the Caribbean Club ("The Crib" to locals) for a beer and some music. (My buddy John who's a monster guitarist plays there.)

          In Islamorada, right under the Snake Creek Bridge, check out Island Grill. Order the tuna nachos or shrimp 'n' grits and if you're lucky you'll see manatees swimming right up to the outdoor patio. Please, please, please skip Islamorada Fish Company. The food there is vile.

          In Marathon, Keys Fisheries is an absolute must. Funky old concrete block building on the bayside. You order at the counter and eat at picnic tables right on the bay. The lobster reuben is good sloppy eatin'.

          In Key West, BO's Fishwagon is pretty well known but worth a visit for huge fish sammies. Blue Heaven is the perfect brunch spot. Eat outdoors with chickens pecking at your feet. Lobster eggs benedict and shrimp 'n' grits are killer. Great Bloody Marys too. Schooner Wharf is a total dive but decent food and a good place to suck down a couple (or couple dozen) beers. For something rather more upscale, 915 on Duval is one of the best restaurants in town. Try the "tuna dome" and supercrisp fries.

          Enjoy the Keys. It's one of the best places on the planet. I can't wait to move back...

          Island Grill
          5096 Forest Hill Blvd, West Palm Beach, FL 33415

          1. A local recently came up with a list of the longest-operating restaurants in South Beach, might be a good start ->


            You'll see there's not much left of "old-time" Miami on South Beach.

            Also to add to your list, perhaps more for historical interest than the food ->

            - Jimmy's East Side Diner - Biscayne & 72nd St. - old school style diner, nothing great but it's got that old-timey feel. Recently started serving dinner til 9pm.
            - S&S Diner - 17th St. & NE 2nd Ave. - been around since 1938, I think, classic old diner.
            - Enriquetas - NE 2nd Ave. & NE 29th St. - simple old-school Cuban restaurant, great pan con lechon.
            - Versailles - SW 8th St. & SW 36th Ave. - not sure if it's the oldest continuously operating Cuban restaurant in Miami, but it must be in contention.
            - Jumbo - NW 7th Ave. & NW 75th St. - won a James Beard 'America's Classics" award - been around since 1955. One of the first restaurants in Miami to integrate in the 1960s. Love the list of specials named after local schools.

            Ethnic ->
            The area around North Beach (beachside 60s - 80s blocks) has lots of options:
            - Las Vacas Gordas - (71st St. on Normandy Circle) Argentine parrillada.
            - El Rey del Chivito - (Collins & 69th) Uruguayan - get the chivito sandwich.
            - La Perrada de Edgar - (right across the street) - Colombian hot dogs with crazy toppings.
            - Rincon de Chabuca - (Collins & 71st) - good Peruvian ceviches (the rest of their stuff I'm not as enamored of).
            - Moises Bakery - (Collins & 73rd) - great Venezuelan empanadas, tequenos, and other good stuff.
            There are 1-2 more Peruvian places up Collins near Moises that I've not yet tried.

            Las Vacas Gordas
            933 Normandy Dr, Miami Beach, FL 33141