Iron Side is an art complex by the railroad tracks in Miami's Upper Eastside. Partners Fernando Nascimento and chef Nuno Grullon, both formerly of Metro Bistro, opened Iron Side Café within the complex about six months ago. Fernando is from Rio de Janeiro; Nuno is from the Bronx and learned to cook from his Dominican family. Both wanted a small, personal restaurant of their own where they could serve simple fare based on organic ingredients. Iron Side is that restaurant.
It's an airy, lofty, comfortable space, with two industrial-style rooms surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. One room has white leather couches and a large table; the other room features a smaller table with chairs, a cowhide throw rug, a counter behind which the cooking gets done, and four stools. A beautiful outdoor garden with more tables beckons through the glass.
The menu is basic: seven salads and appetizers ($9 to $13), five sandwiches ($10 to $11), pizza with a choice of toppings ($10 to $12), smoothies ($5), beer ($6 to $11), and wine ($7 per glass).
I started with a salad made with organic greens (including baby romaine), bright red cherry tomatoes, marinated fresh artichoke hearts, ripe avocado, fresh oregano, and an organic free-range chicken breast cooked to a juicy state. Nuno, who was working the counter, whisked some lemon juice and olive oil for the dressing. Great ingredients, a talented hand assembling them, and care in doing so equal a fantastic salad ($12).
Other salads/apps include tuna niçoise, caprese with fresh mozzarella from local MiMo Mozzarella, and a spicy tuna tartare.
I didn't sample any of the sandwiches, but a steak panini with caramelized onion, fontina cheese, and sriracha mayo (plus an organic baby arugula salad on the side) sure looked good (and was just $11). Grass-fed organic ground beef is used in the burger; all of Iron Side's meat is sourced from Gaucho Ranch. Although the café is open only for lunch Monday through Friday (11 a.m. to 6 p.m.), every Saturday night brings a "Grass-fed Beef BBQ and Live Music" (8 p.m. "til late").
I skipped the fancy pizza garnishes (such as artichokes and niçoise olives, or fresh mozzarella and quail eggs, which actually sounds pretty good) and went with the Margherita ($10). Talk about having a pie made to order: When chef Grullon took the dough out and started stretching it, I thought I'd have to wait forever for the pizza to be done. But the man moves fast, and the hot oven with a baking stone inside cooked the pie quickly. Grated and fresh mozzarella went on top, and when it came out of the oven, Nuno drizzled olive oil on it. I was surprised at just how good a pie it was.
Dessert also hit the spot. A chocolate mousse cake with a thin bottom crust of ground walnuts was, like the other sweet treats, noticeably fresh.
The block that Iron Side Café occupies seems a bit off the beaten track, but it's just a few blocks west of Biscayne Boulevard and 76th Street. (Nearby workers take note: They deliver.) Lunch is definitely worth checking out. The barbecue looks promising too, but I'll have to get back to you on that one.
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Iron Side Cafe
7600 NE Fourth Ct., Miami