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What we have V What we need in Miami

I occurs to be that Miami suffers for an overpopulation of certain kinds of restaurants and we are missing a whole lot of others. This is not say I that we don't have decent restaurants, we do, but we should have so much more. This is what I think; Please chime in with your situations/agreements/disagreements:


1) Burger Joints. I love a burger, but enough already, especially the McDonald wannabe's like Shake Shack and 5 Guys...
2) Ceviche/sushi/crudo....Great Sushi is a wonder of the world, but Miami is full of mediocre places that serve raw fish that is NOT anyone of these great dishes.
3) Overpriced Med places like Juvio and Villa Azur etc etc.....basically any place that adds "and Lounge" to it's name..The French Laundry or The Fat Duck or any other great restaurant is just that, it's not the "The French Laundry and Lounge"
4) Latin American Cuisine. OK, this is a bit harsh given the population, and we have enough.
5) Anywhere with a menu that advertises "Fusion street food from SE Asia, by way of Lima and Madrid with an inspiration from the Caribbean..." Total bollocks, great street food is local to the city, anywhere in the world. I lived for 7 years in SE Asia (Bangkok, Singapore, Jakata and Manila) and thai food was thai food, indonesian was indonesian. Pick one and do it right...
6) New York Imports....never as good as the original and shows lack of imagination on behalf of the locals, We have plenty great locals Michaels, Michy's etc, enough with the imports. Next like you are in Vegas, look for a home grown place, all you will find are imports, Vegas is an up scale chain food court, we don't need it here.
7) Any place with "small plates" God, I hate this, small plates are appetizers, large plates are entrees, less marketing BS...

1) Proper SE Asian street food. Small places going 1 or 2 things and doing them well. We don't need 25 choices to eat well. Bangkok and Singapore have great, great places that do only one thing, but for 25 years of so, they have it perfected. Also street food is cheap, $5 not $25 a plate.
2) More ethnic diversity. Where are the Moroccan, Ethiopian, Eastern European places. I would love to see a proper Italian place, think Babo, you know, a place that doesn't think pasta is a fitting accompaniment to chicken parm ! Real regional Spanish would be good too, Galician seafood, ummmmm On the same note decent Indian food would be welcome, and I not talking Tikka Masala high, something like southern veggie, dhosa and sambar etc..
3) Real neighborhood bistro's. Small places, with simple but excellent food that you you can enjoy on a friday evening after work. The sort of place that you see the same people in week after week and the owner (and their wife/husband) knows you by name. There was a small place in London we used to visit, owned by a local doctor, who would come by your table, with a bottle of wine, pour you glass on the house, sit down, tell you about the menu for that night, chat.......and the food was speculator, he was really proud of the place and it showed.
4) Tea Room/Bakery that does the full on high tea and also serves fabulous coffee, cakes and pastries. White linen, china cups sort of place. No paper cups, no food in a bag eaten on your lap, NO mooching students/unemployed there for the free wi-fi (for sure...NO WI-FI, and NO TV..)

That's my thoughts......have at it...

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    1. I just want more good places of any type and think miami is headed in the right direction.

      I don't find how a restaurant markets themselves or is an import or not is relevant as long as it is good. I would put forth that the Dutch in particular is among the top restaurants in miami and my last meal at scarpetta (a while ago) also placed it among the top. I would gladly take more places that are just as good whether they were imported or not.

      Also shake shack may be a mcdonalds wannabe insofar as number of locations and amount of food served but the quality of the burger itself is vastly superior.

      Edit - Bazaar is also an import and may be the best restaurant in miami.

      1. #7 - Agreed. Small plates are not meant for sharing. A small plate of three bacon wrapped dates I can eat by myself. Four paper thin slices of fish drizzled with oil is not meant to be shared by a table of 6. A large plate is meant to share. Think family style Italian. The 1/2 pan of lasagna is meant to share. I hate spending $7-13 each for 4 'snacks' or 'little' plates and leaving a restaurant still hungry. And I don't want to order a regular sized entree and have to split it. If I wanted 1/2 a steak, I'd go to a nice steakhouse and get a 6 oz filet.

        1. miami_african, I disagree with a great deal of what you say here.

          1. Burgers are America's most loved food (or at least no. 2). There should be a lot of burger places because Americans love them (myself included). Saying there are too many burger places is not unlike saying Italy has too many pasta places or Japan has too many sushi places, etc. And if you are going to complain about the number of burger places, don't single out the good ones like Shake Shack and Five Guys, which are probably the best of the thin patty fast food style (which to me is a different genre than the thick, steakhouse style burger).

          2. Ceviche/sushi/crudo are not a single genre. They come from different places and use different ingredients. Yes, they have raw fish in common. But chicken fingers and coq au vin are both cooked chicken but otherwise have little in common. A grilled porterhouse and vaca frita are both cooked beef but have little in common. Sure, there are places that don't do raw fish especially well, just like there are places that don't do all kinds of different cooked foods particularly well. Sure, it would be great to have fewer bad places and more good ones. that I agree with, but . . .

          3. I agree that overpriced places in general are undersirable. But I don't see a proliferation of overpriced Med places. Nor do I see a lot in common between Villa Azur and Juvia (which isn't even Med). It certainly isn't necessary for every restaurant to be a lounge or include lounge in its name. But not all restaurants need to be the same either. I see nothing wrong with a restaurant including a lounge (whether in its name or not). If they do it well and have good food, e.g., Haven, Catharsis, etc., I see no problem with it.

          4. Re: latin american cuisine, see above comments re: burger places. As you seem to recognize, Miami has a large latin american population. It should, therefore, have a lot of latin american food. It would be huge shame if it didn't.

          5. I happen to like fusion food and street food. I see no reason why chefs should be placed into little boxes and only permitted to make food that is traditional to a particular country or region. In fact, I think it would suck, especially in a diverse melting pot area like South Florida. Not sure what you are really looking for in terms of "proper SE Asian Street food." Do you want actual stands on the street serving pad thai, pho, etc.? 'Cause land use and zoning laws generally won't allow that -- just ask the food truck owners. If not that, what SE Asian street food dishes are you looking for? Every Thai restaurant (and there are plenty of them) has most of the typical Thai street food dishes. The Indonesian restaurants have many of the typical Indonesian street food dishes, etc. Yes, it is true that many of these places also serve sushi because it helps them stay alive and offers something for the less adventurous. So don't order the sushi at those places and stop worrying that someone at the table next to you is eating sushi at a Thai restaurant.

          6. Most of the NY imports are pretty good. Have you had multiple meals in both the SoFla location and the NY locations to really be able to say that the SoFla location is not as good? And even if they are not, who cares? Many of them are still very good. When I am having an excellent meal at Scarpetta, DB Bistro, Gotham, The Dutch, Il Mulino, I am not bothered in the least by the possibility that the meal might have been incrementally better if I had it in the NYC location.

          7. I love the small plate format. I like to try as many different things as I can. Whether I have 1 bacon-wrapped date in a small plate format or a similar size bite in a 12 course tasting menu makes no difference to me (except that it is usually cheaper at the small plate place). You want 4 bacon-wrapped dates all for yourself? Order it and don't share it. If all 4 of you at the table want 2, get 2 orders.

          8. Yes, it would be great to have great Moroccan, Ethiopian and Eastern European places. Unfortunately, there isn't much market for it, as the ones that have been here haven't been successful. I'm not sure what you mean by "proper Italian place." I like Babbo, but there is no shortage of very good Italian places here -- Scarpetta, Il Gabbiano, Toscana Divino, Fratelli Milano, Salumeria 104, Romeo's Cafe, etc. For what it's worth, I like having some pasta to accompany my chicken parmesan (if that kind of American Italian is done well and is what I am in the mood for).

          9. There are real neighborhood "bistros". There are small places that serve excellent food that if you go there week after week they'll get to know you by name and you'll see some of the same regulars there. Blue Collar comes to mind as a small place with excellent unpretentious food where the chef/owner is friendly and comes to your table, etc. Not sure where you live and which places you have frequented often enough for them to become the kind of place you are talking about . . . Sure it would be great to have more of those, but I suspect people in every city would say that.

          10. I'm not terribly interested in a full on high tea, so I have no real comment on that. There is a growing number of excellent coffee places, such as Panther, Eternity, Roho, etc.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Fineas

            Actually I agree with just about everything you say. I guess my original post should have been a bit clearer. I like most of the places you mention (including I must say Shake Shack and 5 Guys...) but I want to highlight is that we need new ideas, what ever they are. The best restaurants at the moment are indeed the imports (Bazaar, The Dutch etc..) I rate them highly and I'm not saying we need less of these, but I think we have enough, let's get more of the others...that's all

            What I could really like is a Singapore style hawker centre. When I lived there the city didn't get on with the street vendor as in Bangkok, but they organized them, licensed and inspected the places and you had the street stall experience without the tears......

            Neighborhood bistro's, again I didn't say we didn't have any, but some more would be nice...Blue Collar, I think is OK, but not fabulous, The Dinner Room was the best of this genre. I hope they keep it up when the move into an hotel

            1. re: miami_african

              I think the food truck roundups are the local version of the Singapore style hawker centre you refer to. Unfortunately, the cities have made those harder to do than I think they should be.

              Not sure I agree that the best restaurants are the imports. I think there is a nice and growing selection of locally-grown places:

              The Pubbellies (incl. Macchialina and Barceloneta)
              The Federal
              Eating House
              Blue Collar (which I think is very good at what they do, which is not haute cuisine)
              Red Light

              The nature of the neighborhood bistro is that it is a place that generally serves the neighborhood and not necessarily people that come from far away. But there are 2-3 good places near my home and work that meet that description.

          2. It's a bit silly to complain about a lack of "proper SE Asian street food" while simultaneously complaining that there's too much Latin American cuisine. The reason there's a lot of Latin American cuisine, and not much southeast Asian street food, is that in Miami, you're basically in Latin America. Latin American and Caribbean food is the food that is "local to the city." Complaining that there's too much of it, and not enough Asian street food, is like going to Singapore and complaining that you can't get a good Cuban sandwich.

            It also doesn't make sense to me to say you want "new ideas" but simultaneously be entirely dismissive of any restaurant that advertises "fusion ..." - most new ideas (in food or otherwise) don't come completely out of the ether, but as a result of what's come before, and often (in food anyway) that's a result of some form of cross-fertilization.

            Plenty else I think is off the mark here, but that's a start.

            1. Fineas pretty much said it all. I disagreed with just about everything in the original post too.

              "Bazaar could be the best in Miami" is a statement I agree with. The Dutch is also phenomenal. There have been a few imports that didn't impress. Guess what? They arent around anymore.

              A great neighborhood spot that also is Italian is NiDo Caffe.

              I love small plates.

              Vegas is full of phenomenal restaurants. Have you ever been? I'm there 2-4 times a year. Far cry from "an upscale chain food court".

              There's plenty of great food to be had in Miami. You just have to go out and find it.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Blind Mind

                My point about Vegas, where I go on business, many times a year, is not that it is bad, it's just that the restaurants there can be found elsewhere. At what point does a restaurant become a chain? Is Bazaar a chain concept now, albeit a very good one? The same is true for more than food, I'm saddened to see Lincoln Road turning into Aventura Mall South....not to say Topshop, Zara, Forever 21 etc are bad stores, they aren't but they are the same stores in very mall.....at what point do independents get forced out of the market by rising rents and corporate muscle?

                Also to address the asian food issue, I picked on this because so many asian concepts exist in miami e.g. Thai/Sushi places, that aren't very good. If you are going to be an asian restaurant, do it right. Noae for example does it right, because they understand the philosophy and the ethos behind the food. A 3 week holiday in Thailand doesn't mean you understand Thai food. The best place for asian street style food is Sayaka, cheap, easy and good, I love the place, this is what we need more of.

                Lastly, I have no idea how this became a good v bad thread, it was just a enough/more required thread, I never said Miami didn't have good or even great restaurants, it does and I have enjoyed many of them, and I think we are getting better all the time, but we aren't San Francisco, New York or Chicago when it comes to food and we should be, let's encourage what is good and move on...

                1. re: miami_african

                  I guess I don't care that much what constitutes a chain as long as the food is good. It sounds like we'll be getting a Bouchon at the Mandarin. I think that will be it's fourth location. Is that a chain? Maybe, but I'm not lamenting the appearance of another chain -- I am excited about what should be another great restaurant (albeit not the best of Keller's) serving a type of food that Miami has room for more of.

                  I like to support the independants and take a certain measure of "civic pride" in the locally grown chefs and restaurants. But there is plenty of room for good local chefs and restaurants regardless of how many of these upscale import "chains" come in. In truth, the imports haven't always fared that well in the competition with the locals -- many of the imports have failed despite good food.

                  The /sushi places aren't sushi places that are taking a stab at Thai, Indonesian, etc. food. They are Thai, Indonesian, etc. places that have added sushi to their menus to give them a wider appeal. Sushi is very popular and has become pretty standard fare in Miami (and elsewhere). A family may have some people that are adventurous and want Indonesian and others who are not and will not go unless there is something more familiar for them, like sushi. The presence of sushi on the menu doesn't dilute the Indonesian food it just provides diners with additional options. And the vast majority of those Asian restaurants are owned and staffed by Asians who do understand the food and the ethos. They may not all have good food, but I don't think it can be said that they don't understand it. I love Sakaya and go there often, but isn't it essentially a small plate fusion place? It certainly isn't a "pure" version of any particular type of Asian food. And not all the plates are small, but when I go I treat it as such and generally try to share several dishes among the group.

                  Maybe its the aforementioned "civic pride" but I bristle at these comparisons to NY, Chicago and SF. It's true that we lack that uber-high end place like Per Se, Alinea, French Laundry, etc., but there are a lot of very good restaurants in Miami. I eat out way more than anyone should and it is still very hard to get to all the good restaurants in a year (or even two), without even going back to the ones I like most. So maybe Miami has 70-80 really good restaurants and NY or Chicago have 300-400. But their populations are many times bigger and nobody can eat at all 300-400 (or even 70-80) on any kind of regular basis anyhow. I think it is an exciting time for food and restaurants in Miami and tend to focus on all the very good choices we have, as opposed to what we don't have.

              2. Divisive Post miami_african! You actually got lots of people chiming in.

                I think "great and inexpensive" is still underrepresented. Downtown's improved greatly, Biscayne corridor continues to foster independent and creative spots, and the beach is the beach. I feel that there is a lot of room to grow OUTSIDE of these areas. and substantial demand. It sounds like you have an underlying complaint of trendy, pricey, chainey.

                I do my best to enjoy those restaurants that provide conscientious cooking at more affordable prices. While I agree on the Dutch being great, I feel that their corkage of $45 makes a statement of being unfriendly to locals.

                1. I don't mind the post despite aspects which I disagree with. On the topic of what is missing, I hate the absence of tasteful, unpretentious, affordable places. Sakaya Kitchen addresses this; tasty, cheap and with some style. But at the risk of being offensive and making a comparison to other places, compared to, for example Berlin where I spend a lot of time, Miami falls so short it is laughable. Don't get me wrong -- I love it here AND we have lots of good places, but stylish, cheap, and unpretentious? Low marks!

                  1. Having lived all over the place, here is my wishlist --

                    1. Ramen and gyoza place
                    2. Decent Chicago style pizza
                    3. A XLB place like Ding Tai Fung, and a cheap pulled noodle place
                    4. Decent BBQ - not partial to any style, just some good bbq would be nice though.....
                    5. Better Middle Eastern choices here

                    Great....now I'm hungry....but I do like the choices we have, as opposed to many other "urban" cities; our Latin American choices are phenomenal, and I think we have alot of innovative chefs. Plus, we have some very interesting food coming out of some of the food trucks.

                    Just my 2 cents.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: kevdog

                      I can get on board with all of those. On the BBQ, Brother Jimmy's was a major disappointment (and I didn't have such high hopes to begin with). I am holding out hope for Pride and Joy (I think that's the name) in Wynwood near Clive's and Jimmy'z Kitchen.

                    2. how about some gourmet popcorn. looks like we are going to need lots of it.

                      1. My "most wanted" would be a top-notch cheese shop. This would be some place with well selected, properly aged and stored cheeses that could be bought by the piece or pound, cut to order. It would have a wide selection, intelligently sourced cheeses and with knowledgeable staff to help.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: kate7047

                          Like the Cheese Course, or is that not top notch enough?

                          1. re: Fineas

                            It's not. Their cheese is pre-wrapped, in plastic no less (just like the sorry pre-wrapped produce at Publix). As for selection, it's the same stuff you could get at Whole Foods.

                            If the Cheese Course were a true cheese shop they would cut to order instead of having plastic-wrapped chunks waiting for purchase, they would wrap the cheese in breathable wrapping (not plastic) and they would explain how to store the cheese and how best to serve it. The staff is barely literate on the different cheeses they carry, much less how to serve them. I think they Cheese Course has turned into a salad and sandwich shop, and a decent one at that, and cheese selling is secondary.

                            1. re: lax2mia

                              Exactly. Pre-wrapped, and selection same as Whole Foods. I want a place where they will cut to order, with knowledgeable staff. I want to be able to point and say "Give me this much of that one." I would like it to be properly aged and stored and cut and wrapped correctly. Cheese Course is nice as a sandwich place, otherwise, not what I had in mind. DD goes to Tulane and I'm in Nola frequently. I'm also a former New Yorker. What I had in mind is like St James Cheese shop in New Orleans (http://www.stjamescheese.com/) OR many of the cheese places in NYC (eg Murray's). But St James proves that a great cheese shop does not have to be in a huge city.

                              1. re: kate7047

                                I would even take something like this, but I know Publix is still somewhere in the 1950's with its cheese selection. It's so sad.