Route 9: Great service but inconsistent food

Route 9: Great service but inconsistent food
Michael McElroy
Route 9's chef/owners are married couple Paola and Jeremy Goldberg. View our Route 9 slide show.

This story was removed from the Internet overnight while several factual errors were corrected. We apologize for the inconvenience.

There's a sweet, old-fashioned story behind Route 9 restaurant. The moniker derives from the highway that sweeps by the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Owners Paola and Jeremy Goldberg met while studying there. Before schooling, they had worked as prep cooks in Miami eateries. After graduating in 1991 2003, they managed restaurants such as Timo, Johnny V Las Olas, and Escopazzo. Less than two months ago, they opened their own dining establishment.

There is something dulcet about the restaurant as well: No bar dispenses trendy cocktails, blaring music is out, and the only flat-screen TV set is tucked into a nook/lounge out of view of most of the 60 seats. The storefront dining room on Ponce de Leon Boulevard is defined by wood plank floors, laminated tables, upholstered chairs, and little else. This is a place where you can eat, drink wine, and talk with friends without distraction.

Smoked-marlin-stuffed poblano. View our Route 9 slide show.
Michael McElroy
Smoked-marlin-stuffed poblano. View our Route 9 slide show.

Location Info

Map

Route 9

1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
Coral Gables, FL 33134

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Coral Gables/South Miami

Details

1915 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-569-9009; route9miami.com. Lunch and dinner Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Brunch Sunday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

View our Route 9 slide show.

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The cooking here is described as "American-style cuisine with a bit of Latin and Florida flair." But on the occasions we visited, ceviche of the day and fish tacos were the only Latin dishes among some three dozen items (although the menu changes often). The Mediterranean region and America seem to exert the most influence on the food. The bill of fare is composed of charcuterie and cheese plates, soups and salads, nine small plates, eight main plates, and sides. The first category encompasses artisan cheeses with olives and jelly; burrata cheese with fig preserves; prosciutto with almond-chive pesto and ricotta cheese; and roasted Hebrew National salami with spicy brown mustard.

Roasted Hebrew National salami? I had fried bologna as a kid but never heard of this one. The most surprising thing about it turned out to be the shape, which was that of a small muffin. Taste-wise, imagine eating a very dense, salami-flavored hot dog.

Though it is refreshing to see a selection of "small plates" devoid of pork belly and noodle bowls, this menu could have been written decades ago. The grab bag of bites includes olives with pickled peppers; grilled squid with lentils and roasted peppers; focaccia with blue cheese and Granny Smith apples; mussels with chorizo; baked goat cheese with olives and soft garlic cloves, served in hot olive oil and addictively good spread on bread; and sticky chicken wings, which should have been labeled spicy chicken wings — or at least described as piquant. Still, they were the tastiest things we sampled.

A smoked-marlin-filled poblano pepper arrived sliced diagonally into four pieces, with fried flour corn tortilla chips in the role of crackers. The fish spread was tasty, but the dish could have used another component. Some mini-meatballs in marinara sauce were raw inside; others (there were eight altogether) were cooked through and unremarkable. Cream of tomato soup registered a tinny blandness reminiscent of Campbell's.

The selection of main plates includes a couple of lunch-style foods such as a cheeseburger and fish tacos "with housemade guacamole" (as opposed to the canned variety?). The trio of tacos, on soft flour corn tortillas, featured small cubes of sea bass cobia, apparently poached (definitely not grilled or battered and fried, as is tradition). A vinegary salsa sparked the flavor, but the price, $17, is steep for a street snack with no accompaniments.

Proteins on entrée plates were nicely executed: A small wedge of salmon steak and a cylinder of prosciutto-wrapped pork loin both boasted crisp exteriors and were moist and impeccably cooked within; flank steak, cut into thick strips, was flavorful. Accompaniments on each plate were wanting. Steak came with two long, skinny romaine lettuce hearts grilled and lightly dressed with blue cheese vinaigrette (meh); five little cipollini onions were served alongside the pork (less than meh); and salmon rested on a bed of bland, soggy, overcooked couscous (awful).

Homemade linguine with shrimp didn't work either. The pasta was too thick and dressed in olive oil, a splash of lemon juice, and nothing else. The shrimp were of the very small, tasteless variety. The four entrées mentioned range from $21 to $24, which would represent decent pricing if the food were better.

No complaints over a side of cauliflower gratin infused with truffle oil; the vegetable retained some crunch and wasn't overburdened by cheese. Other sides are fries with garlicky mayonnaise, balsamic-glazed Brussels sprouts, roasted garlic hummus with grilled bread, smashed red bliss potatoes, and sautéed mushrooms with herbs.

Banana cream pie is one of a few desserts offered each night. The word pie should appear in quotation marks on the menu, because the presentation is that of sliced bananas in a ramekin of soupy, condensed-milk-based cream with some crumbs lining the dish. Sweet and tasty, but not pie.

Usually when food is badly cooked, service wants as well. But Route 9 is an exception: The waitstaff here is excellent, and service is about as good as it gets: personable, knowledgeable, efficient, and professionally trained. Those years spent managing local restaurants evidently served the Goldbergs well. They might, however, want to revisit the CIA to take some refresher courses in cooking. A very thin line exists between simple, unpretentious restaurant fare and that which is boring and uninspired. Route 9 travels the wrong side of that line too often.

 
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30 comments
Pleasedontsendmeemail
Pleasedontsendmeemail

This place is exactly what the owners set out for...a nice neighborhood establishment. And I must tell you, I saw a lot of people from the Coral Gables neighborhood there.

Food is very good (simple, nothing fancy), service is some of the best in town, and wine list might take the cake for the most thought out/reasonable in Miami.

Guest
Guest

Reading this review gives credence to the idea that blogs will overtake print media in the not too distant future. There is a difference between a negative review and what you find here in Mr. Klein' article - casual flippance towards a couple pouring their life into a business venture while creating jobs and supporting the local community. I can only imagine that Mr. Klein would not appreciate a performance review that takes the tone of this article.

Lovefood
Lovefood

Another botched review by Lee Klein

Foodfan
Foodfan

awesome meal for sunday brunch at route 9 this past week. these guys are gonna kill it.

Penny11885
Penny11885

This place was horrible. I went Saturday night with my wife. The menu makes no sense. It is all across the spectrum. The shrimp scampi was a buttery mess with no flavor. The service was horrible. After the waitress dropped a tray of guacamole all over the floor beside our table and on her new jacket. The waitress reacted by bring us a wet towel and walked away. No one ever offered to clean the jacket or even asked us if everything was ok.

Batman
Batman

I'm a serious foodie (I have been for 30 years). I've been there twice. It's nothing fancy, but it's good. Lee Klein's reviews are usually bull. I've often suspected him in the past. He NEVER visited this place. All of the food blogs as talking about it. As far as I'm concerned, HE HAS COMMITTED FRAUD and should be fired. Shame on the New Times Editor. I can no longer believe anything I read in the New Times.

Dblithe
Dblithe

I wish I was in town when all of this was going on. Anyway, a few weeks later, and I am so intrigued. I have always doubted the credibility of Lee Klein (and a few other people at New Times). Somehow, I rarely agree with his articles, and this is not the first time I have seen him discuss incorrect facts. It sounds like it is just the first time that somebody stuck up to him. Good for you, Route 9 (we hear your place is great from many different friends)

Sandy
Sandy

Can't disagree with this review more. Nice to see that most of these comments are supporting what I have found to be, by far, the best new place in Coral Gables. Maybe the best place, in general (we love whisk).

Zhenglish38
Zhenglish38

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alvaro
alvaro

Lee must not have gone to the same restaurant as we did. The only thing that rang true with his article and our meal was that we had great service. There were some facts that he did not know, but had no problem admitting, finding out the right answer, and letting us know. We were more than happy with his professionalism and loved the personality of the whole place.

The food was very good...not exceptional (except for dessert, mussels, and goat cheese). But it did not seem that they were aiming for exceptional. The menu was simple, well thought out, and comfortable. It's the kind of place where everyone can find something they like.

We were a party of 6. We love wine and good food, and eat out often. This will definitely be added into our regular repertoire.

alvaro
alvaro

Sorry..don't want this to come off wrong

Dessert, mussels, and goat cheese were awesome, not just very good

CARLOS ENRIQUE
CARLOS ENRIQUE

You can argue with the factual errors in the article, but I went there with a group of friends and while the wait staff was very nice and professional, I was disappointed in the food. My friends and I agreed we wouldn't go back and several people I work with have eaten there and said the same, it's overpriced for the quality you get. Not impressed, NEXT!

Wow
Wow

you actually wrote this after less than two months of business being open..

you are alumni from the same school...

you think this is ok?...

Brad (Chef)
Brad (Chef)

either way the food wasnt very good on several occasions, as for me this article was perfect for me because now i know what to expect and is the reason i wont be eating 16 dollar tacos any time in the future.

CIA stands for Cook It Again

because this is what you have to tell your cooks from cia when they screw up one of your dishes

Brad_souschef
Brad_souschef

Brad (chef)...at least you can call yourself chef..quite sure nobody else does or else you would not be on here bashing another restaurant.

Rich S.
Rich S.

Mr. Klein- Agreeing with many of the commenters below, you should definitely put aside your own expertise, opinions and knowledge and give this couple a fantastic review because they deserve it and have so many friends within the community. Who cares if the food at times was not up to par, unimaginative or lacked the quality expected of two CIA graduates. Of course we readers realize that if our friends restaurant gets some disparaging criticism, it is due to your desire to sent diners to restaurants operated by your own friends. You obviously must be biased- who are you going to believe? Us commenters or your lying taste-buds.

I read the New Times primarily for the restaurant reviews and have been doing so for more than a decade. While not always agreeing with Mr. Klien, I do respect his integrity as a critic who not only knows food, but knows how to write. Keep up the good work for those of us who want an honest "opinion", we will continue to read you and at times, even disagree with you.

cljahn
cljahn

He made stuff up. It's not about expertise or opinion when you basically make it up out of whole cloth. Klein has lost my respect, and Strouse has demonstrated that he lacks the integrity and intelligence to edit anything.

Mgatz
Mgatz

Lee Klein is a complete joke. His reviews are always completely biased. Never liked him, and hope the New Times (which I have read for years), finally gets rid of him. They should use this as their chance.

Robertomoreno
Robertomoreno

I have personally always questioned Lee Klien's integrity and honesty in writing reviews. Some restaurants he has raved, about are simply horrible and the food is uneatable, yet he continues to pushes them so much one has to question if there is nothing else that is motivating Mr Klein. I stand behind Jeremy Goldberg and his assessment. I think it is time that people stand up and take this buffoon out of his job and replace him with some one that is honest and most important knowledgable in reviewing restaurants. A true and honest review helps every one. Us as the owners or chefs to adjust things we might have missed and the rest of miami because it has a better place to eat.

Cljahn
Cljahn

Jeez, Chuck, there's a big gap between 1991 and 2003 - which is it? Frankly, there's stench around Klein right now. This restaurant deserves a review from someone who isn't in the pocket of a competing chef.

Alex
Alex

Corrected? It still reads: "...after graduating in 1991 2003, they managed restaurants such as Timo..."

New Times, get your act together. I know from now on I won't be reading Klein's reviews.

Jose D. Duran
Jose D. Duran

Alex, there are strike-throughs that are not showing up. Working on fixing it.

cljahn
cljahn

The only way to fix this atrocious insult to journalism is to pull it. I don't care about "factual errors," but what you attempted to strike out were outright lies; striking out their fictitious work history doesn't make the NEW TIMES or Strouse look any less culpable. And no matter how much you like the snarky comment about pie, it's impossible to put quotes around a word that does not appear in the menu.Understand, this isn't about Klein's opinions. If he didn't like the food, he didn't like the food. But at this point, I'm not convinced that he was ever in the restaurant, let alone that he ate the food; the man couldn't tell that his host wasn't 40, he apparently still doesn't know that the pie isn't printed in the menu.What else has he made up? How many of his past reviews are rife with "factual errors?"

Gableslawyer
Gableslawyer

Well, I must admit that I rarely read the New Times because of the lack of credibility in articles like this. A friend emailed me a link this morning and it made me sick to read.

I was treated to not just amazing food and service, but one of the better restaurant experiences I have had since moving to Miami 18 years ago. If you want an unpretentious, down-to-earth spot, run by an extremely nice and talented husband/wife, this is the spot.

Lee Klein should be ashamed of himself and the treatment that he gives. (He wripped apart Red Steakhouse a couple years ago...joke is on him)

Wrmillar
Wrmillar

We have been to the restaurant for lunch and dinner (will get to brunch soon). I am no critic or review guru, but must say that there are a few things in this article that cause me concern...to the point where im not sure the author has actually ever been there. Major inconsistencies between things said and what actually goes on there.

The most glaring to me was "the word pie should appear in quotation marks on the menu, because the presentation is that of sliced bananas..."

Every time I went in, dessert was stated verbally...there was no menu.

I plan on looking further into this. Have heard about reviewers writing articles based on other people's thoughts and information found on the web.

Juan
Juan

Agree with the review - entree meats were great, but the sides were not well executed - give them credit for knowing how to cook some things well, but couscous was definitely not one of them. Wait staff was amazing. Back to the food - My partner had the fries and they were overcooked to the point we sent them back; I didn't touch the couscous after the first bite, it was soggy just like Lee described it. Salmon and steak were great, but you pay for the whole dish, and it wasn't worth the price. I wish them well, but the word of the mouth is bad on this already. The area is hyper-competitive and they need to pull their act together quick. We may go back in a couple of months and let them work out the kinks, there is too much talent in that kitchem for them to fall flat like this.

Juan
Juan

meant " word of mouth "

Bill
Bill

Have been an avid eater & supporter and You-Lee got this one wrong!Paola and Jeremy deserve enormous amount of congrats for their 1st foray into the restaurant business at such a young age and we should embrace them instead of cut them down for your perceived inconsistency...We need 20 more of these in Coral Gables. I have been to Route 9 maybe a dozen times since their opening and each time the food is more polished and more flavorful...Paola takes constructive thoughts on her food and you see the transformation as she and Jeremy pay close attention. To deliver the quality food and at such a REASONABLE price is no easy task. As well as the wine list that you never even mentioned in your diatribe: a brilliant selection with wines at 15-20 dollars over retail prices nowhere to be found in the vicinity… The food is a great representation of the couple, open, young and vibrant…and my Rabbi even goes to eat the Maple Bacon Sticky Buns on Sunday! Coral Gables is embracing them and they will thrive in spite of your hyper-critical thoughts. Paola & Jeremy both do the CIA proud, as for you maybe you should check in at Jackson Hospital for a tongue transplant.

noblerot
noblerot

I wanna hang with your Rabbi

 
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