The Flavors of Freedom

"Give me liberty or give me Parrilla Liberty."

I think a famous freedom fighter said that.

If he didn't, he should have, because a meal at Parrilla Liberty -- an ink spot of an Argentine steak house just blocks from Lincoln Road -- will definitely set you free: free from outrageous South Beach prices, free from infamous South Beach attitude, free from annoyingly hip South Beach cuisine.


Parrilla Liberty

1925 Liberty Ave, Miami Beach

305-695-0099. Open Monday through Friday 6:00 p.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday noon to midnight.

Actually it's pretty much free of South Beach everything. Although it's only a short stroll from the tony shops and restaurants on that little boardwalk of Botox, Parrilla Liberty might as well be on Mars.

The restaurant itself is modest to an almost-seedy extreme. Nestled on the ground floor of an aging apartment building, it uses the kind of minimal signage that's either a vision test or an afterthought. A mosh pit of various edifices surround, some old and neatly tended, others vacant or abandoned, with peeling paint and boarded-up windows that stare out at the street like sightless eyes.

Oh, did I mention Parrilla Liberty is cheap? As in blessedly, absurdly, unbelievably cheap?

I did? Well, it's worth repeating. For the price of an appetizer at just about any restaurant on the Beach, you'll get a complete dinner large enough to leave you groaning and to do double duty as lunch the next day.

And did I talk about huge? As in portions so big you want to suggest the staff consider sending out maybe a little less food so there's some left for other diners.

I did that too? Well, it's the truth. Take Liberty's "parrillada for one." The princely sum of $14 gets you a plump, inky-purple blood sausage, rich, unctuous, and full of deep, dusky flavor; a link of bouncy, piquant chorizo; a big chunk of sweetbreads, firm yet creamy, perfect with a squeeze of lemon; a thin slab of short rib, cut across the bone, a little chewy but tasty and still pink in the center; and a fat hunk of vacio -- flank steak -- rosy-rare, surprisingly tender, full of meaty goodness under an aggressively salted crust.

And did I note it comes with your choice of fries, salad, Russian salad, rice, or mashed potatoes? And that the Russian salad -- an Argentine fave of cubed potatoes, carrots, and peas tossed with mayonnaise -- is delicious in a retro, Fifties sort of way, and the mound arrives in a bowl larger than many birdbaths?

I didn't? Well, I did now.

I should remark too that the chimichurri served with the parrillada and the sizable (for $8!), nicely done churrasco is oily and bland, with neither the sharp bite of vinegar or chilies, nor the herbal tang of fresh parsley. But the fries are wondrous -- thin, crisp, greaseless, and, once salted, impossible to stop inhaling -- and better than those served by at least one local la-di-da steak house that charges eight bucks for the platter of limp, greasy spuds alone.

Wash them down with a light, inoffensive Quilmes, an Argentine lager, or glass of fruity Argentine Merlot. You can afford it; they're inexpensive too.

If you somehow have an appetite for appetizers, housemade spinach and cheese empanadas are a worthy and filling choice, as is matambre, a terrine-like concoction typically composed of flank steak, bacon, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. The latter is not made in-house but is of good quality, and as I pointed out, portions are large and prices are small.

Do save room for dessert: two lacy, golden crêpes filled with outrageously luscious dulce de leche and drizzled with caramel. They'll set you back a mere four bucks and change.

Did I mention I really like this Parrilla Liberty?

I did? Good.


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