Whenever The Bitch needed a change from desayuno especial from Enriqueta's Sandwich Shop, conveniently located only a block from the New Times doghouse, she used to trot over to Smitty's Family Restaurant on the corner of 31st Street and NE Second Avenue for a hearty, old-school breakfast of fried eggs and toast. Alas, Smitty's has fallen prey to Miami's doom-and-gloom real estate boom. This past weekend, Ted and Mira Tampouris, the Greek brother and sister who assumed ownership of the diner twelve years ago, served the last bowl of creamy grits at Smitty's.
Miami's four-pawed muckraker was not the only siren-chasing, rabble-rousing reporter to savor Smitty's. Miami Herald executive editor Tom Fiedler, the late television news anchor Ann Bishop, and crews from WLRN-FM and WPLG-TV have enjoyed the classic diner's comfort food and ambiance over the years. The joint first opened in 1941, and not much changed inside over the years, from the U-shape retro diner counter to the chalkboard specials.
When the Tampourises bought Smitty's, some of their friends told them they had "committed an error," says Ted. "There were a lot more empty buildings, a lot more homeless people, and a lot more prostitution in those days," Ted adds. "But Smitty's always had a good, loyal clientele since it first opened 64 years ago. Our customers have kept us going."
Ted and Mira, who grew up in Venezuela and speak fluent Spanish, admit they have shed a few tears. "Today I had to say goodbye to a long-time customer because we won't be here when she gets back from her vacation," Mira says.
At least they'll always have Paris, or at least memories of French toast, says Chris Tully, who's worked as the restaurant's delivery driver for the past six years. "I'll never forget when they got me an X-rated birthday cake," says Tully, an animated woman born and raised in Overtown. "I kept singing, 'All I want for my birthday is a big black dick, a big black dick."
So the Tampourises and the Smitty's staff bought Tully a chocolate cake shaped like a long, dark dong complete with sugar-coated testicles. "I had to eat a little bit at a time," Tully reveals, "but I ate it all."
With tales like that, Smitty's will sorely be missed.
Who's Fighting Now?
What goes together better than good, inexpensive wine and tasty baguettes savored in the Design District? How about a Dumpster dispute and a knuckle sandwich? This was apparently Cane a Sucre co-owner Mike Vega's idea of a toothsome pairing when he went next door to wine bar Stop Miami on June 17 to register a complaint about the placement of the bar's trash receptacle.
Stop Miami owner Dan Brody was standing behind the bar about 8:00 p.m., when Vega's complaint turned into "yelling and screaming at me and my customers." Brody asked Vega to leave. Vega advised Brody to come out from behind the bar and say that. He did. The two men then went outside. "I was pretty sure he was drunk," Brody recalls. "I said, öTake your best shot.'" Vega obliged, grabbing Brody and ripping his shirt while throwing him to the ground. Brody says he didn't fight back because he didn't want his customers any more freaked out than they were. Instead, the police were called and a report was filed.
Meanwhile Brody, his wife Alexandra Rangel, and customers watched while Vega took off in his truck. A delivery man on his scooter, Vega's backup, also puttered off. Vega owns Cane a Sucre as well as the excellent Uva 69 on Biscayne Boulevard with his artist brother Sinuhe Vega.
Stop Miami opened June 3, after more than a year wrangling with bureaucratic permitting issues. Brody, an editor for NBC Sports, and Rangel, a former producer for National Geographic television, say they moved here from Washington, D.C., to escape urban tension. A low-key neighborhood wine bar seemed just the trick.
Brody says he thinks Vega's angst actually had something to do with a dispute between Cane a Sucre and the landlord of the building in which both establishments lease. "I don't really know why their panties are in a twist, other than they are jealous we got this space they wanted," he says. "I'm hoping he comes to his senses and stays away from us."
Vega couldn't be reached for comment.
A few months ago it seemed as if South Florida's athletes had fallen out of the lead in the never-ending contest to act shamelessly stupid as publicly as possible. This was a fact The Bitch lamented ("Waiting for Willie Williams," December 9, 2004) as the Ron Artests and Jason Giambis of the world encroached on our territory. Now, finally, two University of Miami alums have gone on to the NFL and made complete jackasses of themselves.
First, would-be warrior Kellen Winslow, Jr. , known for postgame tirades and a neck approximately twice the width of his glowering head, violated the terms of his rookie contract with the Cleveland Browns by buying a high-powered motorcycle and then proceeding to try a few stunts in an Ohio parking lot. He crashed, of course, sustaining a number of serious injuries that required season-ending surgery -- before the season began. For posterity's sake, he chose a parking lot with security cameras, presumably so he could ensure numerous appearances on ESPN even though he won't be playing a lick this year.
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In an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal, Winslow admitted he knew he was breaching his contract, and attempted to justify/apologize for his transgression with the following amazingly contradictory statement: "I'm grown. I still have to live my life. I did know the circumstances behind it, but I'm still learning. I'm young."
Then fellow Canes star Sean Taylor spent June ignoring phone calls from legendary Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. (Um, even The Bitch knows that when a Hall of Fame coach personally calls a player more than once, that player returns said call but quick.) To top it off, Taylor was charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and simple battery in Miami-Dade County on June 4, after an argument over two all-terrain vehicles turned into a dispute in which at least one gun was brandished and one person was assaulted with a baseball bat.
Thanks for bringing that Magic City mojo back to the Canes, fellas.