Wednesday, July 27, 2016

first thoughts: All Day (Downtown Miami)

Most of the time, I skip breakfast. I know, they say you're not supposed to, most important meal of the day, blah blah blah – but a cup or two of my inartfully home-brewed coffee first thing in the morning and I'm usually good to go. And yet, I actually love breakfast foods, especially those on the savory side of the aisle: eggs, toast, bacon, sausage – these are all wonderful delicious things. And I'll gladly eat them any time of day.

So I was pretty excited when I heard about All Day, a spot that recently opened in the "Arts & Entertainment District" on the northern edge of downtown Miami. The concept is pretty straightforward: good coffee and egg dishes, served all day. I was even more excited when I learned it was run by Camila Ramos, the talented barista and former head of Panther Coffee's retail operations.

The coffee menu at All Day – posted on the wall in green neon behind a massive Marzocco espresso machine – is a bit enigmatic and designed to foster a conversation. "01 - Double Shot" is straightforward enough, a double shot of straight espresso (pulled with Ruby Coffee Roasters' Creamery Blend; the Panther alumnae is now a free agent and uses beans from several different roasters). But "02 - & Milk" requires some more user input: what's your preferred ratio of milk to coffee, do you like your milk foam wet or dry?

(You can see all my pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).

The ten choices also feature drip, pour-over, and cold brew coffees, including a nitrogen gas infused version with the thick, frothy texture of a well-pulled Guinness; esoterica like "Royal Tea" (an infusion of coffee cherry husks and evaporated milk, also given the nitro treatment); and a rotating daily special (currently a concoction of cold brew and rosemary limeade).

I am not really a coffee geek, and won't pretend to be. So I can't tell you much other than that the espresso I had on my first visit was bright and rich and creamy; the "& Milk" I had on my next visit, with a 2:1 espresso:milk ratio (in Miami we'd call this a cortadito; in San Francisco you might call it a  "Gibraltar"), was even better. I usually drink my coffee black, but the short pour of milk nicely tempered the acidity of the coffee.

Can we talk about something I actually know something about?

The food menu at All Day, created by chef Charles Lutka, who ran Gigi for the past five years, is very egg-intensive. There are three variations on the theme of breakfast sandwich. The first of these, the "Runny & Everything," combines a sunny-side-up fried egg with a couple slices of bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, and a thick slab of tomato, all served on a puffy, everything-spice dusted brioche bun. Though nominally a sandwich, this is – as the name warns – a gooey, fork and knife affair. It was a good combination; I think a sturdier bread might give it a little more architectural integrity, something more up to the task of sopping up that runny yolk.

The Pan Con Croqueta was another tasty combination that I wound up giving the Costanza treatment. A variation on a Cuban breakfast staple, this sandwich was anchored by a couple plump, crisp-edged pork croquetas, resting atop a runny, green-hued, herb-flecked egg spread, with some gouda cheese for a little extra creaminess and thin-sliced pickles for some tart contrast. Even the sturdier Cuban bread couldn't quite hold together the runny egg salad, though this was another delightfully happy mess. I suppose if I want to keep my hands clean, I should try the "One Handed" next.

(continued ...)

The rest of the menu includes four other egg dishes (fried in a cast iron pan with bacon and toast; soft scrambled; poached in a congee; and baked with leeks, spinach and pecorino cheese), a few tartines including, of course, an avocado toast; a couple salads including, of course, a kale salad; and for those with more of a sweet tooth, granola or tres leches french toast.

One sleeper favorite, hidden away among the side dishes: a bowl of blue corn grits. It's super simple, just enriched with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper, and garnished with a handful of slivered green onions. But it's sneaky good: hearty but not leaden, creamy but still maintaining the feel of the grain, and vividly corn-y.

All Day opens at 7am on weekdays (9am weekends) and serves coffee and eggs (and other stuff) until 7pm. A week ago I was there on a Saturday early afternoon and had the place mostly to myself, along with a few guys coming off shift at neighboring E11even, the nightclub around the corner. But the following Sunday, it was standing room only. I'm glad to see it so busy. If, like me, you're a breakfast any time kind of person, but McDonald's is not your speed, you'll understand why.

All Day
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida

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