Friday, August 12, 2016

Thirty Great Cheap Things to Eat in Miami

A disproportionate amount of my time and energy writing here is devoted to higher end dining (leading some people to think I actually eat that way all the time!). Yes, there's a lot more glamour in a fancy tasting menu than in the average daily meal. But not necessarily more satisfaction.

And as Miami rapidly becomes an increasingly expensive place to live, there's a particular joy when that satisfaction comes cheap. As we enter the season of Miami Spice, when everyone goes scrambling to sample all the $39, 3-course dinners, this year I decided to do something different.

So forgive me for the click-bait title, but here are thirty great things to eat in Miami[1] all of them under $11.[2] A few of these come from Miami's most celebrated chefs and restaurants. Others come from places with no websites or social media managers, made by cooks whose names I will never know. Many are not terribly Instagram-friendly. What they all have in common is that they make me very happy when I eat them.

Though it was not my original purpose, and though it's obviously skewed somewhat by my own personal predilections,[3] I suspect this list might just give a more complete picture of our city than the latest restaurant "hot list" – not just the million dollar dining rooms in the South Beach and Brickell towers, but the many Latin American and Caribbean and other flavors that give Miami its – well, flavor. I'm always gratified to see exciting things happening in the Miami dining stratosphere; but there are good things closer to the ground too. Here are some of them.


1. Pan con Croqueta ($10)

I wrote recently about All Day, and won't repeat myself here. Instead, I'll mention something that only occurred to me in retrospect: how comfortably it traverses the territory between new school coffee house and old school Cuban cafecito shop. Sure, the coffee beans are a lot better than the regulation-issue Bustelo or Pilon, and they don't need to put an avalanche of sugar into an espresso to make it taste good, but there's not as much space as you might think between a fancy Gibraltar and a humble cortadito. All Day even has a ventanita where you can order from the sidewalk. And, they've got an excellent version of a pan con croqueta, with warm, creamy ham croquetas and a runny, herb-flecked egg spread, squeezed into classic crusty pan cubano.

(More pictures in this All Day - Miami flickr set).

All Day
1035 N. Miami Avenue, Miami, Florida
305-599-EGGS


2. Croqueta Sandwich ($5.90)

If All Day offers a new-school version of a pan con croqueta, the prototype can be found at Al's Coffee Shop, hidden away inside a Coral Gables office building. Despite the obscure location, it's usually full of police officers and municipal workers, who know where to find a good deal. The croqueta sandwich here starts at $4.65; you can add eggs for an extra $1.25. Bonus points: on Tuesdays, those excellent croquetas are only 25¢ apiece all day.

Al's Coffee Shop
2121 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, Florida
305.461.5919


3. Curry Goat ($10; $7 on Thursday)

For as long as I've been in Miami – which is a long time – B&M Market has been open along a dodgy stretch of NE 79th Street. Run by a sweet, friendly Guyanese couple, this Caribbean market with a kitchen and small seating area in back turns out fresh rotis, staples like braised oxtails, jerk chicken, cow foot stew, and my favorite – the tender, deeply-flavored curry goat. A small portion, with rice and peas and a fresh salad, is plenty, and will set you back $10 – or go on Thursday when it's the daily lunch special, and it's only $7.

(More pictures in this B&M Market - Miami flickr set).

B&M Market
219 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida
305.757.2889

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Monday, August 8, 2016

best thing i ate last week: orange chocolate souffle at Pinch Kitchen


I'm not much of a dessert person, but there are certain things that hit certain spots for me. The combination of orange and chocolate is one of them, going back to a childhood fondness for the mandarin chocolate sherbet at Baskin Robbins (the flavor was discontinued many years ago, but memories persist). So when I see a dessert with orange and chocolate, I have trouble not ordering it.

Somehow I missed it on my first visit to Pinch Kitchen, a new-ish restaurant opened up on the northern periphery of the "MiMo District" along Biscayne Boulevard by a couple Pubbelly alumni, John Gallo and Rene Reyes. But their short list of desserts includes an orange and chocolate soufflé, baked right inside hollowed out oranges, and served with a classic creme anglaise. I went back for brunch this weekend to try it (and a couple other things).

The soufflé is airy and light but intense with chocolate flavor, drawing some extra citrus perfume as you scrape your spoon across the inside of the orange skin. I don't know if Baskin Robbins is ever bringing back mandarin chocolate sherbet, but this is a good substitute.

Also very good: a wahoo tartare from the daily specials at Pinch, given some tangy brightness from a fine brunoise of fresh peach, and some zing from fresh red chiles.

(There are a few more pictures in this Pinch Kitchen - Miami flickr set).

Pinch Kitchen
8601 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, Florida
305.631.2018

Monday, August 1, 2016

best thing i ate last week: etouffee brute at Dusk


The last time I was at Cena by Michy (which would, alas, turn out to be the last time I would ever be at Cena, which closed a couple months later), Michelle Bernstein introduced me to her latest chef de cuisine, Mike Mayta. He – and his wife Keily Vazquez, who together also ran Illegal Bakery – were joining a distinguished group of alumni who have passed through Michy's kitchens and dining rooms: Timon Balloo, Lindsay Autry, Jason Schaan, Berenice de Araujo, coctkail master Julio Cabrera, wine savant Allegra Angelo.

Cena is gone, but chefs Mayta and Vazquez have found another place to ply their trade, with a pop-up called Dusk, operating in the Crumb on Parchment space in the Design District (probably not coincidentally, also run by Chef Bernstein). They've put together a menu of a baker's dozen of dishes, some with Latin leanings (ajiaco pot pie, brisket saltado), others a bit more gastropub-y (chicken 'n' biscuit with chicken liver mousse, chorizo scotch egg), and some with a little bit of both (yuca fry poutine).

We made our way through a good bit of that menu Saturday night, and enjoyed everything we tried. My favorite – very possibly influenced by its having been inspired by the Burger of the Day from Bob's Burgers – was the "Etouffee Brute." This Cajun-Italian hybrid combined risotto style carnaroli rice, bound and enriched by a ruddy seafood stew studded with strips of nubby octopus, bolstered and warmed with 'nduja sausage, flecked with slivers of dried okra, and crowned with a plump, juicy head-on royal red shrimp.


A strong runner-up was a summery dessert from Keily Vazquez which combined dainty little blueberry pies with a delicious sweet corn ice cream.

You can see all the pictures from our dinner in this Dusk - Miami Design District flickr set.

Dusk is operating Thursday-Saturday evenings in the Crumb space, from 6pm to 10:30pm, with plans to be there through September.

Dusk
3930 N.E. 2nd Avenue, Miami, Florida
786.292.6799