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Dec 17, 2011 07:24 PM

Have researched a week of good eating; looking for input and info about particular dishes to order

Hi Miami chowhounds,

I’m turning to you for help after spending a lot of time researching. We are 5 people converging from LA, Chicago, and Boston for a week next Thursday. Mostly adventurous, like spicy, interesting, casual food. Although I am willing to organize my trip around food, not all of my family will. So I’m wondering if in addition to commenting on my choices, you can help think about location. We are staying in a condo the design distict/wynwood area. Many thanks in advance for your help.

Thursday –Arrive mid-day, thought we could go to Sakaya Kitchen for a close by, quick lunch or maybe Gigi; not sure about dinner. I have to do an airport pick up at 6:30. Is there anything interesting around the airport or in route? I heard about las Canarias Restaurant? Is it worth going to? Also do you know if there’s market with good produce around DD/W to stock the condo?

Friday–We may go to Bill Baggs State Park/cape Florida lighthouse for beaching and kayaking. I heard there’s a casual, good fish restaurant Boater’s Grill/no name Bay? Is it worth going to? Is there something better around here? If we are using a day for beaching, (beside some time at Lummus park—son’s a volleyball player and hoping to see some), would it be better to go to Biscayne National Park and Vizcaya Gardens. What are good places to eat around there?

Saturday— I’m thinking brunch at Sustain or Crumb or Buena Vista Bistro/Bakery. Which is the best choice? I made a reservation for xmas eve at Catina 27. They were very nice on the phone; they seem to get good recs on this board. Is this a good choice or are there better ones? Not looking to spend a fortune.

Sunday xmas—dinner reservation at Hakkassan. I know it’s expensive. What are standout dishes?

Monday— we’re thinking about an Everglades/Key West day trip. Is this feasible in a long day? If so, what are the best food options for lunch on the way from the everglades to Key West and dinner in Key West?

Tuesday—We have early lunch reservations at Michael’s Genuine; dinner is up in the air. I thought maybe we’d take a river boat ride and have dinner at Garcias? Or maybe we should go to the TapTap. Is this more of a lunch place? Can we see little Haiti in the evening, in an hour or does it take longer and is better to do during the day?

Wednesday—daytime in little Havana; thought we’d check out one of these: la rey de las fruitas or casa juanchoor or la Carreta. What is their relative deliciousness? We’re going to Sra Martinez for dinner and would appreciate knowing any special dishes to order?

Some other places I’m interested in:

Yakko San—sounds great, supposed to have ½ price lunch in December. Which part of town is it in?

Michy’s —seems to be far away from most tourist sites.

1st and 1st southern baking company—is it worth going out of our way to have breakfast here?

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  1. Some thoughts ->

    Sakaya Kitchen is a good quick lunch. Going to and from the airport will take you by 8th Street / Little Havana, but if you're around that area the first choice for where I'd eat would be The Local. It's a gastropub style of place but if you pay close attention you'll actually see some Cuban influences here and there - they sometimes have an appetizer with ham spread and Cuban crackers, and they do a really indulgent version of a sandwich Cubano. Don't get me wrong, it's not remotely a "Cuban restaurant," but the food is good and there actually is some local flavor there.

    There are no great grocery stores near Design District / Wynwood. For basic staples there's a Publix on Biscayne Blvd. and 48th St.

    Sustain is going to be closed next Saturday. Crumb & Parchment has been talking about weekend service but I don't believe they've started it yet. Buena Vista Deli is one of the few truly good bakeries in town, but if you're doing one brunch, it ought to be the Sunday brunch at Michael's Genuine. A la carte, "small plates" style just like the restaurant's regular menu, with both great savory items and a lot of sweet baked goods from his great pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith.

    I'm not sure where you got Cantina 27 from. I don't see that it's ever even been mentioned on this board. It might be great - I've never been - but I've never heard anyone say so. If you want Italian, my first choice is Sardinia on South Beach which is interesting for its regional focus. For more of a red sauce type place, Macaluso's might be more the thing.

    It would make a lot more sense to go to Garcia's for lunch and Michael's Genuine for dinner (or several other good places near Midtown / Design District). I don't believe Tap Tap is open for lunch. I know it's not in Little Haiti - it's in South Beach. If you want to see Little Haiti - which, really, is not very scenic - I'd definitely go during the day.

    I think you're asking about El Rey de las Fritas. That'd be the place I'd go among your choices. If you're looking for Cuban food, you should know that Casa Juancho, though I like it, is Spanish not Cuban. If you want decent Cuban food, Enriquetas is much closer to your home base and is a good breakfast / lunch spot.

    Some of my favorites at Sra. Martinez: the croquetas; the crispy artichokes; the eggplant drizzled with honey; the cauliflower w marcona almonds & raisins; the butifarra and white beans; the egg yolk "carpaccio" with shrimp;

    Yakko-San is one of my favorites - it's in North Miami Beach, which is about 15-20 minutes north of Wynwood / Design District area. Michy's is much closer, only about a mile north on Biscayne Boulevard.

    I've not been in some time, but I wish 1st & 1st was better than what I've had there. For baked stuff you're better off going to Buena Vista Deli.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Frodnesor

      I have found the garbanzo beans to be the best thing on sra martinez's menu.

      Hakkasan's dinner menu is vast and it has been a long time since I went. I will tell you that the wyagu beef dish did not amaze me when I had it a long time ago. Other than that, I did really like the peking duck (also had this a long time ago) but it is really expensive (the most expensive item on hakkasan's menu). The other items I had were all good to great with nothing in particular standing out.

      1. re: Frodnesor

        Regarding supermarkets in Wynwood / Design District, Frod is right. There isn't really a supermarket that would warrant the attention of locals in other parts of the county and make them drive to one in W/DD area. I normally steer clear of the Publix on 48th St because it's just chaotic compared to any other Publix I've been to. The one in Miami Shores is much better, but is much more of a drive (and if you do go up there, Little Havana Cuban restaurant is a good spot for your Cuban fix).

        As for the supermarkets closer to you, I would probably do Price Choice which has been trying to upgrade itself to make itself more attractive to nearby condo dwellers (they're still nowhere near Publix, but I find their selection in stock to be somewhat interesting, with an expanded number of products from the southern cone of Latin America and Peru as well as DR/PR.

        For something more gamey, exotic, or downright ridiculous (since I would have never imagined going into this one until I did so recently by "accident") - you could go to the supermarket in Little Haiti on NW 2nd Ave and 57th Street called Zubi. That market has an interesting meat display case, with pig feet (ankles, lower leg or whatever else) right there for you to see as well as other interesting parts of the cow, pig, oxtail, turkey as these meats are popular among Haitians. In this market, you'll also find a good variety of Haitian products and I thought the market felt very "neon-70s" and old-school considering that there doesn't seem to be an actual door and onions hang above the produce in the produce section as if they were also decorations.

        But I'd agree with Frod, do make a visit in the daytime. And for Haitian, I think the most authentic spot recommended by local Haitians would have to be Chef Nicole, but I fear it may have closed down since I haven't been able to figure out when they're actually open (I still have not tried the place but it has been frequently recommended to me even by Haitian taxi drivers that care to speak to locals wanting to try something in Little Haiti and not in South Beach). My personal favorite in Little Haiti so far is Chez Rosie, but beware, it looks like a dive and may be more popular as a take-out spot and I think they're only open for lunch and not dinner. The two chefs that run the station graduated from Johnson & Wales university so I trust the cooking there.

        Frod, just curious but have you been able to try the Bahamian Pot in Little Haiti? I noticed it being mentioned on TV and other places simply for their boiled fish (grouper) breakfast?

        1. re: mialebven

          I saw Bahamian Pot on the Layover as well - have never been. Will probably give it a try but I was underwhelmed by the quality of Bourdain's "picks" for Miami. Not all bad, but not all good either.

        2. re: Frodnesor

          Thanks Frodnesor, for the great info. I read about The Local, it sounds wonderful and I'm not that huge of a cuban fan that I care. Just seems like you shouldn't leave Miami without eating some of it. We'll make sure to hit the Buena Vista Deli. I think I may have gotten Catina 27 from Trip Advisor--I said I looked broadly. I'll try to get a reservation at Sardinia. BTW, I called Red Light and they told me they close today through the 30th. Too bad.

          Is Laurenzo's Italian Market worth a trip?

        3. Oh and as far as finding food when making excursions into the Everglades or the Keys, the Keys will have better restaurants especially in Key West.

          But in the Everglades, it's kind of hard to find a good restaurant. I wouldn't eat anything that's on Tamiami, but venture out to Everglades City and eat something there. For fresh & healthy eats that's good but not great but providing local flavor (alligator, etc), I recommend Camellia Street Grill. They have a kitschy coffeehouse feel even though it's a cafe/restaurant and not a coffee house. And they also have a nice water view and outdoor patio. For more typical alligator done Florida style (fried Southern way), you may have to venture out - I tried it at City Seafood and it was good, but I personally preferred Camellia's ambience, service, and health-focused menu.

          And I do wholeheartedly recommend on going to the Everglades - I enjoy very much the airboat rides. :) Just don't do the ones that are closest to Miami but the ones that are farther out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mialebven

            Thanks for the info aobut the Everglades; we'll go to Camella Street Grill. Also, I heard that Colombian Grace in Key West might be good. I also read about a new pizza place--zaza pizza napoletane at mm17 Sugarloaf key. Do you know any of these?

            Also, a general question: Where is the best breakfast in Miami?

            All the best,

          2. Please be aware that either a trip to The Everglades (the 3rd largest national park in the lower 48) or a driving trip to Key West is an all day affair. See for info on the Everglades to determine what you might want to do there. Their website also notes big construction going on by US 41 to Shark Valley (15 mile bicycle loop) suggesting you allow additional 30 min. If you go south down past Homestead you can go to Flamingo and take a ranger led boat ride up into Whitewater Bay. If down that way stop at Robert is Here, a farm stand with every imaginable tropical fruit and veg which they will let you taste as well as the famous strawberry milkshakes. There is a whole self-guided driving tour of the area there with stops at Schnebly's tropical winery, Burr's Berry Farm, and more It is a four hour drive each way to Key West, mostly 45 mph many times two lanes. Maybe only drive to Islamorada (MM 80- still 80 miles from Key West) but you will still get a taste of the keys....or further south to the 7 mile bridge and take tram/walking tour of small but historic Pigeon Key. Lots of places to stop and eat on both bay and ocean Key Largo to Islamorada.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ruthless2

              Thanks for this info. Yes, we've determined that we would be insane to try to do it all in one day. Probably go to the Everglades; it is vacation after all. Milkshakes at Robert is Here sound great, as well as the driving tour.

              Also, decided to get a reservation at NeMises for Christmas Chinese feast rather than Hakkasan. The chef was really nice and is open to suggestions of your favorite Chinese food as she is putting together the menu. Sounds like just the thing for 5 wandering Jews from Chicago, LA, and Boston! Curious if people have eaten there; the menu sounds very interesting.

              The Frieze Ice Cream Factory 1626 Michigan Ave. was recommended for their great tropical flavors, any favorites? Thanks to all for your suggestions.


              1. re: rmanna

                I've been to NeMesis a couple times now and it is a unique, offbeat place with good, interesting food. I'm intrigued by the Chinese Christmas idea and am looking forward to seeing how Chef Edelstein pulls it off.