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Miami/SoBe: any don't-miss NOT fine dining but great food?

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Haven't been to Miami as an adult! I'll be in Hollywood (Westin) for 3 nights with my 20-year old daughter. Want her to see the SoBe scene a little, the deco buildings, have a great meal or two. I prefer to park the car once if possible though am willing to move if necessary. We are happy to walk anywhere. She isn't tremendously adventurous but will go along with anything. Definitely would like one really good Cuban meal.

Not looking for fine dining, will go off the beaten path for something truly delish. There's SOOOO many recs and threads, I've done some searching but it's super hard to sift through the high end places, especially because I don't know the geography at all. So if you will pardon my laziness, I promise I'll report back on wherever we end up.

Oh, and will take suggestions for Hollywood-ish as well. Thanks.

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  1. See the SoBe scene a little? Sidewalk lunch table at The News Café, cobb salad and bloody mary, offers the best people watching in town.

    1. You should eat at books and books or 1957 on Lincoln Road. Beyond that you will need to be more specific. Do not eat at news café.

      4 Replies
      1. re: tpigeon

        why not? and why Lincoln road near a parking garage, rather than Ocean dr, on the ocean?

        1. re: Veggo

          Superior food and superior people watching.

          1. re: tpigeon

            I prefer water views and women. TETO.

            1. re: Veggo

              So you pick a place with mediocre food in the middle of ocean drive with nothing but tourists?

              To the OP. If you want to be in the art deco area, eat at Puerto Sagua or Otentic and walk around the area afterwards. You can even stroll on the beach.

      2. BTW, very little in Hollywood-- the places to go up that way are Las Olas and Himmarshee in FtL. Hollywood is trying to gentrify, they are doing some nice things near Young Circle, but they are not on a par with Las Olas at all.

        6 Replies
        1. re: lemarais

          Fodors does review for dining establishments......Kind of like Zagats......

          She didn't insult you....lol.....But tpigeon knows the right places to go....And those aren't places based "sightseeing"....

          Not the two legged kind anyway....

          EMac
          Ft. Pierce, FL

          1. re: LargeLife

            Clearly, Veggo got under TPigeon's skin. EMac is right -- TPigeon (along with Frodnesor) knows about Miami's foods as well as anyone. That said, perhaps Veggo is on to something which we natives who long ago abandoned News Cafe might want to at least revisit. I wouldn't eat atthe News Cafe -- it's been years for me. So how would I know if it is any good. Furthermore, Veggo's assessment of what one may see at News Cafe is also accurate. Final opinion -- it qualified as insult. All that said, I would listen to TPigeon -- she is expert here.

            1. re: taiga

              Thanks, taiga, and a good assessment. I concede that MB is for the youthful, and at age 61, I had my fun in the sun, now it's your turn. But I still like the Basel Art show and the boat show!

              1. re: taiga

                tpigeon as "she" is like Jim Leff being called Jeff. Not sure why but it happens more then it should. Last month I stayed on the beach and I sent my 16 year old and her friend to sit at the News Café and have a non adult beverage, but explained what she would see. I also told her and a friend to walk all around. Espanola, Lincoln, south of Fifth and we met for lunch poolside at the Raleigh. I will say this, yes tpigeon is irreplaceable on this board, as Veggo is on the Mexico board. Hats off to tpigeon and Veggo for a ton of great advise I have received from you both.

                1. re: taiga

                  News Café was never good in the first place, pretty much the same as all their restaurants. There is no reason to revisit it. Doing so is masochistic.

                  1. re: tpigeon

                    You must have had an unpleasant experience there. It's one of the nicest spots in SoBe.

            2. You've posted on CH so you are clearly not looking to do the touristy News Cafe thing... Hey Emac for the 100th time, TP is a HE. Anyway, Puerta Sagua for very good Cuban food in a very casual environment. Perfect after walking around Ocean Drive and Art Deco area.

              If you want to stay on the casual side and get a flavor for Miami Beach I would recommend Joe's Stone Crab casual take out restaurant which is adjacent to Joe's.

              For some local South Beach flavor I'd recommend going to Pubbelly. Good food, great vibe and on the casual side.

              If the weather is nice, I would recommend sitting outside at the Raleigh and doing Restaurant Michael Schwartz.

              Let us know if you have more specific questions.

              6 Replies
              1. re: The Chowfather

                Puerto Saguo is universally recommended so it is a for-sure. I genuinely appreciate the tips and will probably do the drive then stop, she is less interested in architecture than I am! Will report back. Thanks.

                1. re: SueFH

                  Just don't go there with overly high expectations. Puerto Sagua is good but probably won't knock your socks off.

                  1. re: SueFH

                    Universally recommended is probably overstating it as to Puerto Sagua. It's the Cuban equivalent of a greasy spoon diner.

                    The food at News Cafe was never particularly great in the first place and went downhill many years ago. Though I stopped going with any regularity a long time ago, I was there once within the past couple years and it was as mediocre as ever. The people-watching as between Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive is roughly equivalent - and the "beach view" from News Cafe may be somewhat overstated. With Ocean Drive plus a wide paved boardwalk between the hotels and the beach, you don't actually see that much, if any, of the beach from the Cafe.

                    1. re: Frodnesor

                      I am going to have to disagree on the people watching. There is no equivalent of a segafredo or doraku during happy hour on ocean drive as far as people watching goes. While Lincoln road has declined, there are some pretty good spots left.

                  2. re: The Chowfather

                    We enjoyed Puerto Sagua, liked the medianoche better than the rope vieja. Loved the rice and plantains. I'd go back and try other stuff but just confess some of the sanitation issues bother me a bit. I know, I know, it's not touristy and gonna have a few quirks in exchange for authenticity. But a gallon of milk was sitting on the counter when we walked in and didn't move the entire time we were there. Nor when we left.

                    Anyway, we are in coral gables right now, my girl visiting a HS friend at U of M, then we will brave the traffic and head back. Thinking Maybe we will do Joes, she's a little less psyched about the dicey places than I am!

                    Thanks to all for your input.

                  3. If you only have one day or so with your twenty year old daughter to visit South Beach, I think she will like South Beach much more than going over to the Design District no matter how good the food is! Lincoln Road is really fun to walk along and people watch.Yardbird is right off of the main drag and is very good. On Ocean Dr the dining options aren't great but if you go to Joe's Stone Crabs you can then walk up Ocean Dr and sit in a cafe for a cold drink and take in the scene, stop in the shops and do more people watching.I think those two areas are the most fun for a young girl. Another good stop is lunch and window shopping at Bal Harbour outdoor Mall, lots to love there for a 20 year old, with several restaurants, and lots of designer shops to oh and ah over.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: susabella

                      If the OP is set on doing the art deco, Yardbird is a bit far. Joe's takeout is an option but can be expensive (not if you get the fried chicken though, it is an incredible bargain).

                      Puerto Sagua is Cuban, cheap and good and is right in the art deco district by the shopping so if your heart is set on Cuban and art deco, look no further. It is kind of a hole in the wall though.

                      BTW Susabella, I am not sure if you are referring to CF's Michael Schwartz rec when talking about the design district, but in case you are, he is referring to the newer Restaurant Michael Schwartz on the beach, not his DD restaurant.

                      1. re: tpigeon

                        I'm just thinking, that if it was my 20 something year old daughter...a drive through an art deco neighborhood is just about all she would want to do! If her mom wants to please her young daughter, then I still say LIncoln Road and Ocean Dr, for people watching and Yardbird and Joes for lunch,not dinner (BTW, the fried chicken is not that good at Joes, I ordered it once because of the raves I heard on this board and found it to be tasteless and boring). I think her daughter would love Michaels Genuine, it has great vibes and food.

                        1. re: susabella

                          The eye candy happens. It's part of the meal. Both ways.

                          1. re: susabella

                            Funny, I thought the same of Yardbird's chicken...

                            1. re: tpigeon

                              I don't recall recommending the chicken at Yardbird.

                              1. re: susabella

                                Sorry, just assumed it as it is what most people rave about there. A bad assumption on my part.

                        2. re: susabella

                          My apologies to tpigeon.....I don't think I've been told 100 times about it....but my apologies nonetheless.....Tpigeon knows where to go....

                          And ChowPapi....what would I do without you? My father isn't here to correct me....and you are! Life is grand.....

                          EMac
                          Ft. Pierce, FL

                        3. So I wanted to thank you all again for taking the time to offer your suggestions and comments. Turns out my daughter isn't quite the foodie companion I'd hoped she would be but we still had a great time.

                          I wanted to share a bit of our experience at Joe's on Friday night:
                          In the spirit of not hitting a dive (my kid's request) we went to Joe's Stone Crab for dinner and had a fine meal. I was surprised to find it almost exactly like the Joe's here at home in Chicago, not sure why I was surprised but it almost felt chain-y, which I did not expect. Service felt a little (lot) rushed--I know they want to move people through but it was really fast! I do wish they would display the different sizes of claws so you know what to expect. We ordered large ($59.95) and they didn't seem all the large, though my frame of reference is limited. The waiter suggested that one order might not be enough so we should add an extra half order. We did, and I was surprised to find the charge on the bill for that half order was $36.95, not the $30 I expected. I have no problem with them charging a premium for a half order if that's all you order, but seeing as we were supplementing a larger order I thought it was a tacky up-charge. Waiter never mentioned that.

                          Had a weird experience with a nearby diner (75-ish, nicely dressed so not automatically assuming a tacky tourist) having a sneezing attack and not leaving the table to spare the people behind him (that would be us). Seriously 25-30 LOUD energetic sneezes--putting his hand up to notify his dining partners he wasn't done yet-- and he didn't make any effort to stand up or leave the table. It was gross to be honest. The waiter and staff observed and commented on our discomfort with the grossness factor and when I mentioned I'd probably be talking about it online, the somewhat ruined $200 dinner. And then the waiter said it wasn't their fault--and hey it wasn't even $200! (It was $160, my kid is too young to drink.) True the sneezer wasn't Joe's fault but sometimes you make a gesture. A comped piece of pie might've gone a ways to assuage the icky factor. Key lime pie felt frozen. Overall, just sort of unpleasant, the sneezing guy put a damper on the meal for us. And for that kind of money I was disappointed.

                          We elected to have dinner Saturday in Hollywood near our hotel, at Perrone's downtown. We found it unremarkable but tasty. The lasagna was actually really good, small portion but worked out fine. The service, however, was atrocious. We waited quite some time for a table, the they set us up in a back room next to along table set for 22 people. Never a good sign. Our waiter was nice but way over his head with the large group that began to arrive, need drinks and wine and appetizers...plus he had other tables besides ours! Manager never stopped by, we bolted ASAP and sadly wouldn't recommend based on service.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: SueFH

                            Thanks for the follow-up, always good to hear back from visitors. But ...

                            1. Joe's Stone Crab went through one substantial remodel / expansion several years ago, but looks pretty much exactly the same as it has for as long as I've been going (and from everything I've seen, looked much the same for several decades prior). It probably looks like the one in Chicago because the one in Chicago was designed to look like the original here. If it looks "chain-y", it's because chain restaurants (steakhouses like Morton's come to mind) have tried to duplicate that look. But Joe's (Miami anyway) is the real deal.

                            2. Were you splitting one order of crabs between two people? If so, I'm not sure I'd call that "supplementing a larger order" to get another 1/2 order.

                            3. If someone sneezed ON your food, sure; but otherwise, I can't understand why a restaurant owes you anything - whether a "gesture" or a free dessert - because a diner at another table has a sneezing fit. Are they supposed to bring a dessert to everyone at the 10 tables around this guy too?

                            4. "when I mentioned I'd probably be talking about it online" - ugh. Talk about icky factor.

                            5. The key lime pie IS frozen before serving. Though I agree sometimes it's a little too frozen.

                            1. re: Frodnesor

                              That's what I was thinking to....What was supposed to happen to "The Sneezer"? Was the maitre'd supposed to put a headlock on the guy and drag him out? Or maybe the team of waiters pile on? Unpleasant? Certainly so. But a free dessert? And an on-line threat? That's tacky too.....

                              EMac
                              Ft. Pierce, FL

                              1. re: Frodnesor

                                Joe's must have been laughing at the online threat. Talk about a place completely immune to yelp reviews...

                                1. re: tpigeon

                                  I fully expected them to laugh at my comment about discussing it online, I realize Joe's IS Miami and I'm a peon. I don't care.

                                  Insofar as the implication I was somehow conducting a shakedown or expected something over and above what I was due...that's just wrong and I will blame my imperfect writing skills and inability to better explain the circumstances. But I assure you, I was in no way improper or rude...or entitled.

                                  I'll stick to other sites in the future.