Every restaurant up and down Miami Beach claims to pay close attention to detail. After all, how can they get away with charging exorbitant prices for simple dishes and subpar service? One thing is for sure: Only one restaurant in Miami Beach features original lamps that 150 years ago were chosen to adorn the entrance to Paris's first-ever shopping mall, La Samaritaine (pictured).
"If we paid that much attention to our lamps, imagine how much dedication and attention to detail goes in every single one of our dishes," says Nicolas Coussens, half of the French brother-sister pair that teamed with former Fontainebleau chef Jose Monier to recently open FL Café on 14th Street and Collins Avenue.
Few folks here realize that in France the letters FL refer to the iconic Eiffel Tower. As the apt moniker suggests, Coussens and his sister, Elise Fable, envision a fusion of the two cultures under the roof of a historic art deco building that dates to 1934. The two spent a grueling 16 months transforming the former Café Des Arts until every nook and cranny was perfect.
The outside seating area features more than a dozen tables scattered throughout a comfortably sized patio just a couple of steps above the sidewalk. The corner location allows for a nice wrap-around breeze while you people-watch the busy 14th and Collins intersection. Inside, the dining room resembles a French diner, with black leather booths and red chairs. Elise and Nick spared no expense to realize their vision but have managed to keep prices to a minimum.
"We really want to make a place for both locals and tourists," Elise says. "Nothing against the restaurants on Ocean Drive, but our mission was to keep our prices much lower for locals."
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The visionaries have done just that, with breakfast as low as $3.75 and served until 3 p.m. Lunch brings sandwiches that range in price from $8.95 for a tuna panini to $13.95 for a FL Burger. The most expensive item on the menu is dinner's grilled Pacific tunafish steak ($19.95). A quick glance through the menu reveals other selections such as barbecued spare ribs and churrasco steak. Study the menu just a little longer, and the place's Mediterranean-fusion style becomes apparent.
Bringing in Johnson & Wales graduate Chef Jose fit perfectly with what the three call a family atmosphere. The half-Cuban, half-French former Fontainebleau executive chef is an embodiment of the fusion of cuisines and cultures that promises to make FL Cafe a success for years to come.