Miami - one night
My girlfriend and I will be passing through Miami to Central America, and decided to come a bit early to have a great meal or two before heading out. We both love food -- everything from Michelin-starred restaurants to ethnic dives. We are value-conscious, but are willing to spend on great food; we prefer not to spend money on ambience or popularity alone. We arrive Saturday afternoon and head out Sunday morning. 2 questions:
1. Suggestions for dinner on Saturday night? We made reservations for Michy's but are also open to other options, especially something that we can't get in DC, Philly, or New York. Possibly Cuban/Latin-American, seafood?
2. Anything great we can grab on Sunday morning prior to getting to the airport for a 10 AM flight?
3. (sorry, one additional question) - good neighborhood to stay in that is convenient to (1) and (2)? I would prefer not to rent a car unnecessarily...
I've found that unless you stay in the neighborhood of South Beach, you really do need to rent a car unless you stay at an airport hotel (where they probably run shuttles to the airport). South Beach has numerous taxis to the airport. There's also a public bus that runs from the airport to South Beach (you'll save money but not time).
To keep this post food related, good stone crab claws are probably difficult to find your area (well, they are in NYC). Joe's in South Beach is famous for them but you can find them at other places as well. They are pricey and Joe's has a ridiculous waiting policy for dinner though you can go to the takeout next door with no wait. Not sure when you're arriving but stone crab season ends around May.
Last time I was here I really enjoyed El Chalan on the Beach, a Peruvian restaurant (mostly seafood) in South Beach. Very economical -- nothing really over $16 or so. You're definitely not paying for ambiance.
I haven't been there yet but Florida Cookery in South Beach is a more upscale restaurant supposed to be concentrating on foods from the region. So that may also be of interest to you.
Off the beach, I've really liked El Mago de Las Fritas for a cuban hamburger -- highly seasoned ground meat topped with shredded fried potato sticks. Never found anything like it in NYC.
Michy's is great but will not fulfill your #3 as there is nowhere close by to stay unless you're considering the type of place that until recently charged by the hour. (Though I'd consider it worth a short cab ride)
If you want to stay somewhere walking distance (or very short taxi distance) to your dining destination, your best bets will be South Beach, Downtown/Brickell, or Coral Gables.
My favorite spot on the Beach right now is Bazaar, but Jose Andres is already king of DC so maybe not ideal for you. Altamare does nice things with local seafood but if I had one meal in Miami I'm not sure that's where it would be. If your focus is on local flavor, you may want to check out Florida Cookery in the James Hotel.
Setai is not the place for a value-conscious diner.
Downtown/Brickell you can go to Nemesis Urban Bistro (though I wouldn't walk there, somewhat dodgy neighborhood), Tuyo, River Oyster Bar, maybe Edge Steak in the Four Seasons.
Coral Gables, I'd consider Eating House, the recently opened Bread & Butter, Graziano's for Argentine parrillada, Francesco for Peruvian, Bulla for Spanish (should be opening this week).
>>>Setai is not the place for a value-conscious diner.<<<
Your experience at Setai must have differed from ours. We found the overall value of the food and service exceeded what we were charged. I think some confuse price with value. A $4 hamburger that is horrible tasting is a terrible value in my mind while a rather expensive dinner where the food, wine and service is excellent and priced appropriately seems like a good value to me.
I have no difficulty discerning between price and value. I have not been to Setai since the latest chef change, but my last experience with their $120 tasting menu was heavy on luxury ingredients and light on flavor. The tasting menu is now $155. For that price, or going a la carte with appetizers ranging from $14-38 and entrees $29-58, they better knock it out of the park.
Part of my problem with Setai is that the menu's Asian bent sets itself up for very difficult comparisons. That least expensive appetizer is a $14 Tom Kha Gai soup. That is probably nearly 3x what it will cost anywhere else. Is it 3x better than the soup at Panya? I really doubt it. They sell dim sum for $12-22 an order. You can probably get dumplings just as good at Philip Ho for 1/3 the price (the chef at Philip Ho made the dim sum at the Setai for 5 yearsi).
The service was excellent when I was there and the space is beautiful.
Trust me, I have no hesitation spending money on a great meal. But particularly for someone who describes themselves as "value-conscious," Setai would not be my recommendation.
Frodnesor, thank you for the reply. Now that I have read your perspective I tend to agree with much of what you said.. While we did not have the soup, I doubt it is 3 times better than the soup of say a little, under the radar Asian restaurant that focuses solely on food and not on ambiance or service. Same with the dim sum, but we did not go to Setai for their dim sum. :-)
You are right and there are other options with great Asian food that have significantly lower prices. I guess when I think of "value" though, I tend to think of many variables that go into the equation and when I leave I say to myself...Ok, was that entire experience from the wine to the service to the food a good value for what it cost?
Regardless, I completely understand your point of view and your points are excellent.
What many of these South Beach recommendations are failing to mention is that it'll cost you likely $40 each way to take a cab. Unless you can find a cheap rental option (zipcar is a possibility), I'd stick to Coral Gables, Design District, Midtown, and Downtown/Brickell. Even those areas will be $20-30 cab fare though.
That said, here are some recs, google for more info:
Coral Gables - Su Shin Izakaya (Japanese), El Rey de las Fritas (Cuban)
Design District - Michael's Genuine Food & Drink (local, "American", *my top spot in Miami*)
Midtown - Sakaya Kitchen (fast-casual Korean)
Downtown/Brickell - NAOE (Japanese omakase, intimate experience and awesome), Momi Ramen (ramen joint...duh), neMesis Urban Bistro (eclectic is the best word I can think to describe), River Oyster Bar (seafood), Edge Steak & Bar (plenty of great options besides steaks)
As for your breakfast request... If your flight is departing at 10am out of MIA, I strongly suggest being in line to check in at 8am. The check-in and security screening process at MIA can be a total zoo, especially if flying internationally. Not many places I can think of that will be open at 7am in that area so best bet is breakfast at the airport. Boudevin (sp?) has a pretty good bagel & lox in Terminal D. Also in D is La Carreta where you can get your Cuban fix if you haven't already.
"We arrive Saturday afternoon and head out Sunday morning."
"3. (sorry, one additional question) - good neighborhood to stay in that is convenient to (1) and (2)? I would prefer not to rent a car unnecessarily..."
Why would anyone spend money on a cab ride to stay on South Beach given they wont even be there 1/2 day? To me the poster wanted recs in the airport vicinity or short ride.
re: Blind Mind
OP was looking for a neighborhood to stay that was convenient to (1) dinner on Saturday night; and (2) breakfast Sunday morning, so they could avoid renting a car. That would suggest they want a neighborhood where they can walk to dinner and breakfast - not necessarily one that's convenient to the airport.
If I had one night in Miami and wanted to avoid renting a car, I'd likely stay at the SLS or somewhere nearby, go to Bazaar for dinner, have drinks at Bar Centro, or Gale (isn't that one of your recs?), or the W, or one of the other nice hotel bars nearby (Raleigh, Rose Bar in the Delano ...), and in the morning see if I had time to duck into Paul Bakery or maybe the Dutch bakery counter before leaving. If not, you're right that the eating at MIA is not as terrible as it used to be, I had a perfectly decent breakfast at Beaudevin recently too.
There's about a $10 difference on taxi rates to Downtown v. South Beach ($21.70 vs. $32) ($5 difference if you take a SuperShuttle):