The Year in Dining

2007 might go down as pivotal for Miami gastronomy.

Plus we didn't really lose Norman and company. Mr. Van Aken recently opened Tavern N Town in Key West, Johnny V is still shining at his Las Olas location, Chispa retains a sparking presence in Doral, and Bouley will be trying again in the same location, this time a take on his less formal Upstairs at Bouley Bakery in New York. Eismann has laid low, but he is merely biding his time before an inevitable comeback.

Weaknesses remain. Affordable places where working-class families can dine without forfeiting their weekly paychecks are almost nonexistent. Ethnic joints — Greek, Indian, German, Chinese, Mexican, etc. — are, with few exceptions, timid and formulaic. Our bakeries, butchers, fish markets, and breakfast joints are not first-class. Seven years into the 21st Century, Miami does not have a single decent vegetarian eatery. And, notwithstanding the kind words I've expressed toward some of the incoming restaurant chains, we stand in danger of becoming Las Vegas-ized. Govind Armstrong, David Bouley, and Michael Mina are big-name chefs, but, like Vegas, all we get are the big names — not the chefs. We have, as I've mentioned, developed a fair amount of homegrown talent, but eminent food cities likewise rely on the import of professional culinarians from other parts of the world. Miami is very much deficient in this regard.

The final feebleness: us. Up to this point, the citizens of our fair city have proven themselves extremely fickle in supporting fine restaurants. Or, to put it another way: If steak houses, Italian restaurants, and sushi joints are packed and everything else is empty, chances are we're going to keep getting only steak, Italian, and sushi places opening up. Then again, the rousing success of many of the aforementioned establishments (Michael's, Michy's, Sardinia, etc.) offers hope that our dining population is becoming more sophisticated. Time will tell if this development pans out. If it does, we will likely look back on 2007 as a potentially pivotal year in Miami dining history.

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