The Cafe at Books & Books has long been a Lincoln Road fixture.
In a sea of cafes with colorful umbrellas offering overpriced and underwhelming food for unaware tourists, Books & Books served up honest, delicious meals at reasonable prices. Plus, if you forgot reading material, a good story (and fantastic people watching) was always within arm's reach.
Since 2005, Bernie Matz was the man behind the menu which offered an mix of food that reflected South Beach itself -- black bean hummus served with matzo arrived at your table gratis while you perused choices ranging from mussels steeped in Red Stripe beer to Key West crab cakes to pan con lechon. Plus, the cafe offered an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan meals (the tofu fajita wrap was a particular favorite).
Now, there's a change in the air. A recent Books & Books e-blast reminded book lovers to "grab something to eat at the cafes by Chef Allen at the Gables and Miami Beach locations. The cafe's general manager, Irving Fields, confirmed that, Bernie left us a few weeks ago." In July, Matz closed his Bernie's L.A. Cafe, only six months after his Meatball Joint closed.
Chef Allen Susser, who revamped the Cafe at Books & Books' Coral Gables location in 2010, has been tapped to consult on the Lincoln Road location.
We spoke with Chef Allen who told us that he's just started to become involved in the transition. "We've got a great team in place. We're going to make some menu changes first and then do some more dramatic changes."
Susser told Short Order that he's planning on expanding on the restaurant's reputation for serving healthful food. "We want to make the menu more exciting, with local food and sustainable seafood on the menu. I would also like to see the menu a bit more seasonal."
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We asked Chef Allen whether or not he was keeping the cafe's vegetarian and vegan-friendly menu. He said yes and that the new meat-free options would be, "actually better, with a little more creativity to it. I'm looking to have more farm fresh and seasonal choices."
Though the iconic Miami chef didn't have a specific time frame regarding the new menu launch, he said most likely by winter. One thing that won't change is the vibe. "We love the casualness of the cafe," he beamed.