Cheap Eats at Four Downtown Miami Restaurants

Daytime ushers in workers, walkers, and a wonderfully bustling lunch scene.

You can, however, expect better than overcooked penne arrabiata with a warm, salsa-like sauce that would seemingly pair better with corn chips. And I must admit, the thought of creamy bacon-bit sauce simply never occurred to me until I tried Viagio's fettuccine carbonara. The pair of three-buck offerings comprise spaghetti with olive oil and mac 'n' cheese, the latter aptly Velveeta-ish and a legitimate gut-filling substitute for the Big Mac.

Also on the limited menu are viagellones, which are pressed panini sandwiches, and fast-foody salads with packaged dressings. Combo lunch deals pair pasta with salad ($8.99) or panini ($9.99). La Loggia, located next door, also offers a $9.99 lunch special. Just saying.

Should your concept of comestible bliss involve sandwiches, you'll be happy that Jimmy John's debuted a couple of months ago across the street from the courthouse (another location exists at 125 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables). J.J.'s was started in 1983 by a very young Jimmy John Liautaud, who parlayed his Charleston, Illinois sub shop into 700 franchises nationwide. Still, I don't think Subway has to panic quite yet: Jimmy's makes good, inexpensive subs, but they don't live up to billing as "World's Greatest Gourmet Sandwiches."

Joe Rocco

Location Info


Jimmy John's

125 Miracle Mile
Coral Gables, FL 33134

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Matahari Cafe

40 NE 1st Ave.
Miami, FL 33130

Category: Restaurant > Indonesian

Region: Downtown/Overtown

Shaka Jon's

48 E. Flagler St., mezzanine
Miami, FL 33130

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Brickell


Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches: 45 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-403-5900. Lunch daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Matahari Cafe: 40 NE First Ave., Miami; 305-379-3677. Lunch Wednesday through Monday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Shaka Jon's: 48 E. Flagler St., mezzanine, Miami; 305-371-4304. Lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Viagio Pasta Restaurant: 50 W. Flagler St., Miami; 305-373-4408. Lunch and dinner daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The décor is clean and modern, with a retro-Americana reliance on posted slogans and sayings that attempt to please (or distract?) customers via cuteness. "Freaky Fast, Freaky Good" reads one. Freaky fast, yes; to paraphrase Satchel Paige: You can flick off the light switch and your sandwich will be ready before the bulb goes dark. Freaky good... well, the meats are thinly sliced, the mayo is Hellmann's, the mustard label reads Grey Poupon, and bread is baked fresh in-house. It is a soft, pale, unexceptional loaf; thickly sliced seven-grain bread is probably your better bet, but then your sandwich becomes a club, not a sub. The former boasts more meat and clocks in at $5.99 each; an eight-inch sub is $4.99. The J.J. Gargantuan, at $7.99, claims to be "Huge enough to feed the hungriest of all humans!" It is indeed stocked with plenty of Genoa salami, smoked ham, capicola, roast beef, turkey, and provolone, but it's the same length as the others, and each of the three tomato slices inside was barely larger than a quarter. Still, the sandwich is tasty and certainly sating enough. Tuna is good, too, freshly made and mixed with minced celery and onions. An "unwich" brings "same ingredients and price of the sub or club without the bread." Shouldn't it cost less?

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