It's January in the Magic City. The sun is shining, the weather is sweet, and it's perfect picnic time. And since it's a new year and you're probably very much committed to the universal resolution of eating healthy and losing weight, Cheetos puffs and croquetas can't be on your basket's menu. Unfortunately, the only thing most South Beach restaurants and markets offer are an array of chips, dips, soda, and empty calories. As deliciously devilish as those are, there are better alternatives for the mind and soul. And the waistline.
Grab an oversize beach towel, a few friends, and head over to these spots for mindful eats. Don't forget your umbrella and hand sanitizer. Eating sand is no fun.
Conveniently on your way to the beach, on the off-ramp to Alton, Whole Foods is a sanctuary for the healthy eater, and the perfect place to pick up everything you need and want for a sumptuous picnic on the nearby sand. No Cheetos or Funyons to be found here. Instead, they have natural and kettle cooked chips and popcorn, an olive and nut bar, and freshly made and packaged dips and cold salads like smoked fish dip ($7), Mediterranean pimiento and creamy artichoke dip ($4), macaroni salad ($4), egg salad ($6), tabbouleh ($5) that are Miami weather and SoBe picnic perfect. A diverse natural juice selection and perhaps the most OCD fruit display that includes everything from apples to oranges and organic and healthy creme sans the whipped make Whole Foods a picnic destination. And in case you forgot protection, they've got organic sunblock here too (what did you think we were talking about?) Be sure to get here early or the parking lot will resemble a battlefield. People really take the organic thing seriously.
Rebelling against the healthy, natural, this is the way we should live life organic fad, or simply don't want to have a brawl at 9am over a supermarket parking spot? Hunger down. Epicure is just a few blocks away. A gourmet, and just as pricy (in case you were getting excited about spending less) market, Epicure is truly for the epicurean eater. And since you're fancy and having a picnic on a spring break destination, we're assuming you fall into this category. House made and packaged dried fruits, nuts, and vegetables like carrots ($6) along with exotic spreads like truffle mousse with sherry ($9), too many imported cheeses and a collection of delectable charcuterie that vary in price beginning at $5 is just what every picnic basket craves. French bread, seeded rye, pumpernickel, and others are also made daily and will be the perfect plate for all that other stuff you just put in your shopping basket. Fresh fruits, pre-made sandwiches, and a cold bar with items like chicken liver, cucumber salad, and caprese salad (all sold by weight) are also picnic commendable.
If you're not a market person and yearn for something fatty and sugar loaded, but still want the homemade picnic factor, Panizza Bistro fits that mold. Right around the corner from Epicure, Panizza Bistro is an Argentinian family owned sit-down or to-go joint. Offered as a grab and go are Argentinian style empanadas of many flavors: beef, ham & cheese, spinach & ricotta, caprese, cheese & mushroom, chicken, and Arabian (spicy beef) ($2 each). They also have quiche, sold by the slice ($5) with similar flavors that vary from day to day, and sandwiches de miga ($2), which are akin to the English cucumber sandwich, a typical tea-time food. So English tea-time equals South Beach Picnic. Ham and cheese is the flavor and wheat is an alternative offered to regular butter bread. But enough of salty, let's talk sweet. Facturas, or Argentinian sweet pastries are up for grabs at less than a dollar a pop.
Americans love their sandwiches. So do Italians. So will your picnic basket. This salad and sandwich shop serves up skinny but stretched, cut-in-half, and perfectly put together sandwiches that are easy to share and won't fall apart. Very important for a picnic. They have about 24 different sandwiches ranging in ingredients and in price from $5.35 to $8.25. For the occasion at hand, we suggest the Girotondo (turkey breast, fresh mozzarella, sun dried tomato, arugula, and balsamic vinegar) Biancanieve (carpaccio, avocado, lettuce, mayonnaise, and salt), or Capitan Spaventa (tuna, green olives, eggs, lettuce, and mayonnaise).
We almost forgot about the French, who also love their bread and sandwiches, especially this spot that's been serving up SoBe since 1988 through a window counter in the middle of an alley. Fresh fruit juice, smoothies, and shakes play the sidekick to any sandwicherie sandwich and will keep you cool and fruity in the scorching sun for $5. As for their sandwiches go, anything that has enough cornichons and vinaigrette, which they all do, is good. We like the turkey and prosciutto with fresh mozzarella. Sub-style and with all the toppings please.
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Now that you've filled up your picnic basket with junk, or not junk, don't forget about the most important thing for any day at the beach. Booze. No drinking is allowed on SoBe, except in red solo cups, but you've got a basket filled with stuff, perfect for hiding. Pick your poison and hide it under all that non-junk and let loose. Everybody does it. Just remember your protection.
Follow Carla on twitter @ohcarlucha