Friday, December 2, 2011

Art Basel Dining Guide: Off the Beaten Path Part 2

Yesterday, we explored a couple of Miami's less-heralded destinations for those Art Baselites who lack the foresight to have made reservations in South Beach or the Design District / Midtown / Wynwood, and lack the patience to wait for a table at the no-reservations spots. We journeyed through Downtown, then made our way to North Beach and crawled up Collins Avenue. Today, we can pick up where we left off in North Beach and start trekking back toward the mainland, winding up on Miami's "Upper East Side."

Lou's Beer Garden - slip inside the gates of the New Hotel, an updated MiMo hotel in North Beach, walk to the back, and you'll find Lou's Beer Garden, a funky little hideaway around the hotel pool with an outstanding beer selection, better than decent food, and a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere. The menu is mostly populated with simple stuff like salads, burgers and pizzas, but keep an eye out for Chef Luis Ramirez's more esoteric specials like the crispy sardines, callos a la Sevilla, or the grilled squid stuffed with chorizo sausage.

7337 Harding Avenue, Miami Beach

Las Vacas Gordas - Devout carnivores will want to pay a visit to an Argentine parrillada while they're here, and Las Vacas Gordas (The Fat Cows) is a worthy shrine. There are about a half-dozen different cuts of steak that they'll throw on the grill. My favorite is the entraña, or skirt steak, served rolled in a gigantic coil, but if you're indecisive you can get the "parrillada para 1" (which will easily feed 2 people not named Kobayashi) which will bring the true variety pack: a sampling of a few different steaks, chorizo, morcilla, mollejas (sweetbreads) and chinchulines (pig intestines) too. Slather it with chimichurri and try not to stand too closely to anyone for the rest of the night: the garlic stink will stay with you a while.

933 Normandy Drive, Miami Beach

Katana - It's far from the best sushi in town. But it's cheap, and it's served on floating boats coursing along a canal that winds around the restaurant. If something looks good, grab the plate off the boat as it floats by. The plates are color-coded for price, and the waitress will add up your stack when you're finished. I have an inexplicable fondness for their salmon nigiri, served with a generous squirt of Kewpie mayo and a shower of slivered onions. Here's a pro tip: if you can, sit directly clockwise from the itamae, so you can grab the freshest dishes as he makes them.

920 71st Street, Miami Beach

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Anise Taverna - This simple place on the Little River, just across the 79th Street Causeway back to the mainland, is my go-to place for Greek food. We'll usually start with lots of meze: their good hummus and even better tzatziki, maybe a flaming cheese saganaki for the kids, a fine Greek salad, excellent grilled octopus. Then I can happily spend the rest of the meal picking at a simply grilled fish. You can read all my thoughts on Anise Taverna here.

620 NE 78th St., Miami

Red Light - Last stop: Red Light. A few years ago, Chef Kris Wessel set to work cleaning up this spot hanging over the Little River, tucked into what used to a by-the-hour motel. Now you'll occasionally spy manatees in the River, and people stop in for different reasons. One of the best reasons to do so is Chef Wessel's New Orleans style BBQ shrimp. You'll see other signs of his Louisiana heritage like the seafood gumbo and oyster pie, but plenty of local flavor too: there's almost always a couple local fish on the menu. And if the quail's on the menu, it shouldn't be missed. The ramshackle, bohemian vibe isn't for everyone, but the price is right, with most appetizers under $10 and practically nothing on the menu over $20. You can read my thoughts on Red Light here, or a more recent version here.

7700 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami

Savvy locals will know that I've actually left out my favorite place along this stretch. You'll have to do some searching to find what's missing. We can't give away all our secrets so easily after all.

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