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Visiting South Florida


Marky Marc
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I'll be in Key West, Key Largo, and South Beach in late June early July. I'll be there with my family and a few of us are quite fond of food. Generally speaking, the more unique or more authentic the better. Something truely unique to these areas or some dishes to keep an eye out for. A good Caribbean or Cuban place is definately on our list. We don't get much of that up here in Seattle, to say the least. I also keep hearing about Miracle fruit. Is that available anywhere there?

We are very curious and very hungry!

Thanks for any suggestion you all may have!

-Marc :smile:

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The only place I know of that you can be pretty certain to sample the elusive Miracle Fruit would be at the Fruit and Spice Park

Fruit and Spice Park Info here

It is on your way between Miami and the Keys, and is worth the tour even if you don't get to try Miracle Fruit.

Key Largo always means a stop at The Fish House for us.

The Fish House website

It never dissappoints. The "old" side features fare that includes all the old fried fish staples, but also some interesting Caribbean preparations as well. The Snapper Matacumbe is to die for. The "Encore" side is a favorite of my daughter's - fresh sushi expertly prepared that her Japanese husband loves, and she gets the "Fried Green Tomato Napolean" and makes a meal of it and lobster bisque. Unfortunately, the Key Lime Pie has meringue on it there, and that ruins Key Lime Pie for me - but the fish they smoke on the premesis is truly amazing.

There are so many great places to eat in Key West, it is usually hard to work them all in, but we always make a point to visit "915 Duval". Blue Heaven, and Alice's Key West.

There are several recent trip reports in this topic:

South Florida/Keys Eating

Miami means Michy's to many devotees.

Discussed here:

eGullet Michy's Topic

I am sure others will be along to assist you, as well. It has been over six months since I made that trip (I'm WAY overdue) so report back on what you find, and have a great time!

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I'm actually about to move from Seattle to Miami. Maybe I should have one last Cuban meal before I go.

My favorite Cuban place is Puerto Sagua, on South Beach. I think it's around 5th and Washington. It's a cheap hole-in-the-wall, but I think it's great.

And the only place I've had Miracle Fruit is also at the Fruit & Spice Park, and I was only offered it on one of my five or six trips there. Though they always let me sample numerous other fantastic fruits (if you go, make sure you go on a guided tour).

In Key West, I love Bahama Mama's, especially the coconut shrimp with rum dipping sauce.

"God give us good taste, why bother?" Captain Jim's Sushi Chef
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You may also want to try "Michael's Genuine Food and Drink" in Miami. It is in the Design District, and is getting a lot of great buzz from friends down there. I haven't made it yet.

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  • 2 months later...

Instead of starting up a new thread, I'm going to piggy-back off of Marky Marc's work.

It looks like I'm headed to Miami with the parents and sibs in late October to celebrate my mom's birthday. I will be staying a few days with them in Miami before they continue on down the Keys.

ISO:

1. Nice restaurant to celebrate mother's birthday. She's turning 60, so South Beach "sceney" restaurants and clubs would not be appropriate.

2. Any other must dine restaurants in Miami (more for my own dining adventures). My familiarity with the Miami restaurant scene is sorely lacking. The only ones I know are probably outdated (e.g. Norman's) and Ortanique (?). Michy's has already been on my radar for far too long, so one dinner will be there. I've been reading up on other recent reports on this site, but would love further input.

3. Any suggestions on restaurants for my parents as they make their way down the Keys to Key West? They'll probably spend a good 5 days heading out and back, with overnight stays in the Keys. They love good food, but don't necessarily want fancy - just good and local (though not divey). Particularly, we have all be craving conch salad that we enjoy in the Bahamas (fresh from the dive) when my family vacationed down there in my childhood (before the cruise ships invaded).

4. Nice hotel recommendations in Miami. My mom is considering the Four Seasons, but I'm figuring that there must be some comparably priced hotels that might also be of interest.

5. Nice hotel recommendations in the Keys.

Sorry if this is a load of questions. If eGulleters can point me to the appropriate thread(s), I'd be happy to move portions of this inquiry elsewhere.

Thanks!

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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I'd go for one of the B&B's on Duval Street for accommodations in Key West. Duval Gardens and Avalon are both nice, super clean, comfortable and are sister properties. They are on the quieter end of Duval Street as well. I like the staff there - full of local tips and reccos.

I'm a bit north of where your staying, in the Aventura area, so I'll let the guys down there help you with Miami. I think MiamiDanny lurks around here, and has a good handle on things.

Here's some recent reporting on Keys Dining:

Click Me

Be sure to come back and let us know how your trip went!

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In the mid-keys:

Uncle's in Islamorada, where I have had some of the best seafood dinners of my life. Do not miss the Tuna Tataki appetizer, although either share it with a few folks or order it as a dinner because it is huge. When lobster is in season, the grilled lobster-stuffed lobster is out of this world. This would be a nice choice for a birthday dinner. Not open for lunch and reservations recommended.

The "Zane Grey" lounge (located inside the Worldwide Sportsman) is a really nice place to have an afternoon/sunset cocktail and a snack on the back porch/upper deck. It is bayside, so you can sip a martini and watch the sunset over the marina and bay. I recommend the lobster salad if they have it and the smoked fish dip.

Next door but same owner is the Islamorada Fish Company, which is a great place to eat a fish sandwich or fried seafood basket or peel and eat shrimp, etc. (get a table on the dock if the weather agrees with you). You can watch the lobstermen unload their catch during season, and watch the tarpon under the dock. Conch salad is frequently on the menu.

Bentley's is also very popular although you can expect a very long wait and slow service at peak dining hours. I have had many nice meals at Bentley's, although I much prefer Uncle's if given the choice.

The Lorelei is at MM 82 bayside, and that is also a nice spot for a grouper reuben at lunch. (Some people in our family think that the Lorelei serves the best grouper reuben in the Keys, and we eat a lot of them, for what it's worth).

The Hungry Tarpon at Robbie's is a really fun, folksy place to have a good Florida cracker-style breakfast and feed the tarpon. It's kind of touristy, but then again most of the Keys is that way. I cannot go to the Keys without stopping at Robbie's at least once.

The Island Grill is on the north end of town underneath the Snake Creek Bridge and has good food and a little more creative cuisine than you would expect to find in this location.

On the south end of Islamorada at about MM 80 is Lazy Daze, which always has good seafood dishes and serves the best fried conch, and it's open for lunch, and it has a nice view of the ocean. There is an outside porch on the back which is a great place to eat if it's not too hot.

On the way to Key West, the Key Colony Inn is still popular, although in my experience, the food has gone downhill a bit in recent years.

In Key West, there are plenty of good places to eat. We like to frequent the touristy Half Shell Raw Bar, where the food and atmosphere are dependable, and we enjoy the view of the marina.

I'm not sure what kind of hotels you are seeking, but in Islamorada you will find the very upscale Cheeca Lodge, which is where a certain US president likes to stay. More to my liking is the inexpensive, extremely clean and rather kitschy Flamingo Inn which is further south, around MM 60. Similar is the Blue Marlin Inn in Key West. It is an old but clean hotel in a very convenient location; as far as I know, it is one of the few places that you can stay down there for around $100/night. I'm sure that there are plenty of nice bed and breakfast places in Key West and hopefully someone will respond for recommendations for those. Other than that, there are the chains such as Hilton and Westin in downtown Key West, and those generally have prime locations with good views.

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If you want to get off the beach, try Michael's Genuine in the Design District, the hottest restaurant in town (go for the pork belly in kimchee), and a very pleasant atmosphere. I think Michy's has not kept up, but I would still say it is a very good restaurant, maybe gotten a little boring. North One 10, also on Biscayne Blvd, has the best food of them all, and it's only the stodgy decor that holds people back. The BBQ lamb ribs in pomegranate sauce are the best thing I've eaten this year-might be the best quiet spot for dinner. Enjoy!

Edited by Miami Danny (log)
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Re: Key West Lodging.

With the exception of mega-resorts, there's wide range of lodging available in KW. At the low budget end, all of the usual players are there - Best Western, Fairfield Inn, etc. At the other end of the scale, there are a few mini-resorts, such as one's mentioned by Miami Danny - Hyatt (with several locations), Westen, etc. In this category, my personal favorite is Ocean Key.

In between, there is a ton of boutique hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs. Here, my favorites are The Gardens, Marquesa, and Ambrosia.

For a milestone birthday super treat, a little north of KW is Little Palm Island. It's around MM 29 and would be a great place to stay on the last night before heading back. Hands down, it's easily the best place in the Keys. Expensive, but memorable.

Not to dispute Miami Danny but, in my opinion, The Cheeca Lodge really sucks. It looks good in print but that's about far as it goes. I've stayed there 2 times in the past couple of years and would never go back. The rooms are several years (decades) away from needing to be refurbished. The food in the restaurant is mediocre at best and the service is real crappy. On our last visit, our waiter left for the evening without telling anyone midway through our meal. The only positive thing I can think of is that they serve some pretty potent drinks at the palapa bar which, become a necessity if you're staying there for any period of time.

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Not to dispute Miami Danny but, in my opinion, The Cheeca Lodge really sucks. It looks good in print but that's about far as it goes. I've stayed there 2 times in the past couple of years and would never go back. The rooms are several years (decades) away from needing to be refurbished. The food in the restaurant is mediocre at best and the service is real crappy. On our last visit, our waiter left for the evening without telling anyone midway through our meal. The only positive thing I can think of is that they serve some pretty potent drinks at the palapa bar which, become a necessity if you're staying there for any period of time.

Eh, courses for horses. I stayed there several years ago, and it is certainly Old Florida. I know a couple that make it a stop every time they drive down to Key West, and have a sentimental attachment to the Cheeca Lodge. I think they stay there about twice a year. I have a fondness for Old Florida, and like to take the Card Sound Road route sometimes, just to get that comfy feel and slow down a bit.

Now that I know that a stiff drink can be had there, I think I need to investigate next time! :biggrin:

Service can be very spotty in the Keys, but that often happens in very casual/laid back destinations.

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Thanks for all of the recommendations, I'll pass them on to the parents...

Personally, I'm more interested in the food part in Miami - I know Cuban is big cuisine down there, and I'd like to experience it. Is OLA all it's cracked up to be?

North One 10 and Michael's Genuine... are both on my shortlist now. I've also been recommended Versailles and Joe's Stone Crab (I know, I know...).

Lastly, we will be staying a couple nights in Coral Gables at the Biltmore... is the Palm d'Or any good?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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u.e....I lived in Miami for a couple years and still visit several times a year during the season:

in my opinion, there are no culinary must-tries in south Florida. Versailles is the Cuban restaurant...not necessarily the best...but it's the grand-daddy. Greek-diner style faux marble pillars, waiters in cheap tuxes...etc. the food features superb black beans, addictive complimentary toast, and for everything else...understand that (as is traditional with Cuban food) they're going overcook the heck out of everything. so ropa vieja or roast pork is your best bet.

as for fine dining: not impressed with Ola. Pacific Time is an old standard but is still probably the best cooking on Lincoln Road (usually a decent hand with seafood), Norman's is an old standby but still better than 99% of the trendier restaurants. I haven't been to the Bouley or the new Setai restaurant that were written up in the Times...that might be worth reading. I've heard good things about Casa Tua but haven't been.

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u.e....I lived in Miami for a couple years...

Somehow, I knew that, but forgot. Thanks for jumping in.

Thanks for the suggestions - I had forgotten that Bouley had an outpost there.

If I'm not mistaken, Norman's closed in Miami... ???

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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u.e....I lived in Miami for a couple years and still visit several times a year during the season:

in my opinion, there are no culinary must-tries in south Florida.  Versailles is the Cuban restaurant...not necessarily the best...but it's the grand-daddy.  Greek-diner style faux marble pillars, waiters in cheap tuxes...etc.  the food features superb black beans, addictive complimentary toast, and for everything else...understand that (as is traditional with Cuban food) they're going overcook the heck out of everything.  so ropa vieja or roast pork is your best bet.

as for fine dining: not impressed with Ola.  Pacific Time is an old standard but is still probably the best cooking on Lincoln Road (usually a decent hand with seafood), Norman's is an old standby but still better than 99% of the trendier restaurants.  I haven't been to the Bouley or the new Setai restaurant that were written up in the Times...that might be worth reading.  I've heard good things about Casa Tua but haven't been.

FYI-Norman's and Pacific Time are closed. Or didn't the Times cover that?
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Thanks for all of the recommendations, I'll pass them on to the parents...

Personally, I'm more interested in the food part in Miami - I know Cuban is big cuisine down there, and I'd like to experience it. Is OLA all it's cracked up to be?

North One 10 and Michael's Genuine... are both on my shortlist now.  I've also been recommended Versailles and Joe's Stone Crab (I know, I know...).

Lastly, we will be staying a couple nights in Coral Gables at the Biltmore... is the Palm d'Or any good?

OLA is not at all Cuban but pan-latino (Of Latin America)-great ceviches, which are so often done poorly, here they are fresh and different-also great crispy pork. I believe Doug Rodriguez is still hitting his stride.

I recommend a dive like Puerto Sagua on 7th and Collins, or David's (the original on Washington) for Cuban. Versailles is not worth the trouble, unless you want to say you've been there. Stone crab season doesn't start up again until October 15th, so Joe's is out. In the Gables, people seem to really like Cindy Hutson's Ortanique, although I've never been. I've heard mixed reviews of Palme D'Or.

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What is the name of the El Bulli inspired restaurant, I am guessing it is up on Biscayne? I remember reading about it from posting by the chef. But I guess because it isn't on the beach it does not get all that much press.

edited to add - I remember it was not in a great neighborhood and they spent a ton of money getting it open.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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What is the name of the El Bulli inspired restaurant, I am guessing it is up on Biscayne?  I remember reading about it from posting by the chef.  But I guess because it isn't on the beach it does not get all that much press.

edited to add - I remember it was not in a great neighborhood and they spent a ton of money getting it open.

You might be thinking of La Broche, which was in Brickell, downtown, and closed some time ago. Probably why they're not getting much press anymore :biggrin:

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what do you think about Karu + Y, is that the right name?

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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what do you think about Karu + Y, is that the right name?

Great place to party-great bathrooms-get on the list and go out back-gorgeous.

This place doesn't exactly strike me as a particularly appropriate place for my mom's 60th birthday dinner... more like where I'd head out after the parents are in bed. :laugh:

Forget the scene - how's the food at this place?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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OLA is not at all Cuban but pan-latino (Of Latin America)-great ceviches, which are so often done poorly, here they are fresh and different-also great crispy pork.  I believe Doug Rodriguez is still hitting his stride.
I have been to Alma de Cuba in Philly once, and can't say I was terribly impressed. But, perhaps I should give OLA a try.
I recommend a dive like Puerto Sagua on 7th and Collins, or David's (the original on Washington) for Cuban.  Versailles is not worth the trouble, unless you want to say you've been there.
Thanks for this advice. How's Casa Tua these days?
Stone crab season doesn't start up again until October 15th, so Joe's is out.
No, actually, we'll be there at the end of October. Would Joe's Stone Crab be a good choice, then? I've always felt like I was cheating when I went to the one in Chicago... it'd be nice to actually go to the original. Do they take reservations?
In the Gables, people seem to really like Cindy Hutson's Ortanique, although I've never been.  I've heard mixed reviews of Palme D'Or.
Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

My flickr account

ulteriorepicure@gmail.com

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From a good friend, I trust his tastes.

ISO:

1. Nice restaurant to celebrate mother's birthday. She's turning 60, so South Beach "sceney" restaurants and clubs would not be appropriate. Ritz Carlton in Coconut Grove has an amazing Sunday Brunch. Talula in a quiet area of South Beach also has amazing food, husband & wife team run it & the service has always been top notch when I have been there.

2. Any other must dine restaurants in Miami (more for my own dining adventures). My familiarity with the Miami restaurant scene is sorely lacking. The only ones I know are probably outdated ( e.g. Norman's) and Ortanique (?). Michy's has already been on my radar for far too long, so one dinner will be there. I've been reading up on other recent reports on this site, but would love further input. Michy's for sure. Evolution at the Ritz Carlton South Beach. The Grill at The Setai Hotel. Vic's at Hotel Victor & Table 8.

3. Any suggestions on restaurants for my parents as they make their way down the Keys to Key West? They'll probably spend a good 5 days heading out and back, with overnight stays in the Keys. They love good food, but don't necessarily want fancy - just good and local (though not divey). Particularly, we have all be craving conch salad that we enjoy in the Bahamas (fresh from the dive) when my family vacationed down there in my childhood (before the cruise ships invaded). Little Palm Island

4. Nice hotel recommendations in Miami. My mom is considering the Four Seasons, but I'm figuring that there must be some comparably priced hotels that might also be of interest. The Setai South Beach or Hotel Victor on Ocean Drive both are amazing hotels with really great vibes & have really good on site restaurants. If you must stay downtown an alternative to the Four Seasons is the Mandarin or the Conrad.

5. Nice hotel recommendations in the Keys.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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