During the coming week, you'll be hearing and reading a lot about how this Friday kicks off the official hurricane season in South Florida. You will be privy to all manner of advice on how to best weather the potential storms, and the very word hurricane will blow into your ears over and over again like a relentless wind.
Here's my tip: Don't go out to eat during any sort of tropical storm.
On the other hand, if you should happen to be dining out when a hurricane unexpectedly visits, or if you live in a flimsy abode and wisely decide to seek shelter in a restaurant, these are the five best places to be.
5. PM Fish & Steak House
The place is built like a fortress -- brick on the outside, brick on the inside, and not many windows. There are giant wood ceiling beams that appear capable of withstanding a Pompeii-like volcano, never mind a hurricane. The ceilings soar, and the spacious 202-seat dining arena is divided into separate rooms, so it should prove less claustrophobic than the average restaurant. The kitchen is large and there's a lot of food kept in stock. Plus, if you're stranded here with the staff for any extended period of time, you can take the opportunity to improve your Spanish.
4. The Café at Coral Gables Books & Books
Storms start out with an exciting bang, but eventually the days can tend towards the boring side if you don't figure out a way to occupy your time. Nothing beats hanging out at home with some food, drink, and a good book, except for maybe hanging out in a book store with other people, and rooms filled with books, magazines, and all manner of reading material, and food prepared for you -- plus a wine bar. Books & Books in Coral Gables has all that, and if the hurricane arrives on a Friday evening, you might get some musicians providing live music too. That would be nice. An author giving a reading could be interesting as well, although if the writer turned out to be a bore, the experience might become a living hell ("Moving on to the inspiration for my 14th historical novel, The Mormons of Mississippi, let me say that..."). But back to the bookstore: Bistro-style sandwiches, cheese boards, fresh fruit, spring rolls, crudités, and other light fare, as well as tempting desserts. Granted, the dining area will have to be moved from the courtyard indoors, but the reading room can be utilized; there are plenty of chairs, which can be used to sleep on. If you doubt this, you have evidently never sat through a poetry reading.
3. db Bistro Moderne
Fantastic French food, a huge inventory of great wine and spirits, and a J.W. Marriott Hotel's worth of bedrooms upstairs. If all the rooms are booked, the lobby couches are very comfortable, as are those in the lounge (see photo). And while panic and pain reign on the flooded streets outside, you can be savoring steamy cheese gougéres, pâté de Campagne, scallops over saffron-soaked fregola, and a basket of madeleines from chef Jarrod Verbiak and his stellar kitchen crew/ The 30-page wine menu should keep most folks engaged through as many days as is necessary. It'll almost be a sin to have it so good while others have it so bad, but what can you do? Life just isn't fair.
2. Area 31
Firstly, the name of the restaurant sounds like a hurricane shelter -- or else a place where aliens are being hidden. Secondly, the view from the 16th floor of the Epic Hotel should be stunning -- with potentially dramatic photo-ops of Biscayne Bay in a tempest. What does one feel like eating when viewing surging waters? Seafood, of course, and nobody does it better than chef E. Michael Reidt at Area 31. As with the other noted establishments, there's plenty of wine, spirits, and places to sleep. Also, sometimes building sway in these storms, which probably feels something like being in one of those revolving Hyatt restaurants, except less dizzying.
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1. The Cafe at Whole Foods Market
Never mind the prepared foods -- you'd be better off stranded at Fresh Market if that's all we're talking about. But if the storm has you trapped for a few days or more, there's no place better than a quality supermarket with a cafe. ;Any Whole Foods will do, but the one in Aventura seems the sturdiest, and has one of the larger selections of goodies. Still, they all have seating and lots and lots of things to eat -- and to eat quickly, assuming the electricity is down and the ice cream is melting and the cheeses, cold cuts, smoked fish, caviar and other delicacies have only so long a period before expiring. Crackers to go along? Practically limitless! Olives, pâtés, peppers, olive oils, a bakery, sandwich shop, and lengthy aisles of wines and beers, too. (IMPORTANT NOTE: First thing to do if you should find yourself in a Whole Foods Market/hurricane scenario is assemble a team of physically able bodies to quickly move all the beers into the freezer section). Then there's all the fruit, produce, juices...a lengthy internment here can prove to be more salubrious than a week spent at an expensive spa resort.