Here Comes the Neighborhood

Olives also figured in a chopped cucumber salad appetizer. The pitted kalamatas added ripe pungency to the refreshing blend of cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, bright mint, and crumbled feta cheese. Despite the feta, which can be rich, this was a lovely and light way to begin the meal. It is possible, however, to max out your week's dairy requirement on other, more indulgent starters, such as the tasty (but not quite steamy enough) quesadilla. Stuffed with gorgonzola, provolone, and mozzarella, the flaky flour tortilla was garnished with a zesty tomatillo/red onion salsa. Combinations of cheeses also top personal-size pizzas. Gorgonzola melded smoothly with mozzarella over a crisp, thin crust; sun-dried tomatoes and nutty oven-roasted garlic added punch to the pizza.

We ignored our server's advice about dessert and ordered banana cream pie anyway. A mistake. It was bland, the custard flavorless and too loose. Tollhouse cookies with vanilla ice cream might have been a better choice.

SoBe purists are usually justified in bemoaning the loss of Art Deco buildings (no matter how decrepit) and original character (no matter how seedy) in neighborhoods such as SoFi (south of Fifth Street) and the blocks north and south of Lincoln Road. But I doubt anyone will be lobbying commissioners about changes in the area where Joe Allen has set up shop. Any sort of makeover would have been an improvement. If the neighborhood continues to develop in the vein Joe Allen has hinted at, the sophisticated homebodies who live on the Beach will probably approve -- at least until the tourists arrive.

Joe Allen
1787 Purdy Ave, Miami Beach; 531-7077. Dinner nightly from 4:00 p.m. to midnight. Brunch Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4:00 p.m.

Cucumber salad
$5.50

Roast turkey sandwich
$9.75

Meatloaf
$10.00

Grilled chicken
$13.00

Banana cream pie
$5.00

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