Midtown Is Miami's Best Dining Neighborhood
| February 3, 2011 | 7:00am
As Waylon Jennings might have put it, we were looking for Miami's up-and-coming dining scene in all the wrong places. Like, for instance, the Design District. When Michael's Genuine Food & Drink took off, followed by Fratelli Lyon, Michelle Bernstein's Sra. Martinez, and Jonathan Eismann's mini-empire, it appeared that the neighborhood that everyone had long been predicting to be the next big thing, was finally the next big thing. Except things didn't work out quite so big, and although the M & M chefs still provide strong draws, a vibrant dining scene still hasn't developed there. To put it another way: Vino e Olio and Mai Tardi are no Sugarcane and Sustain.
We next turned our attention to the Upper East Side, where Casa Toscana had long held fort, where Bernstein's Michy's moved in and became a popular pioneer for the renaissance, followed by Kris Wessel's Red Light Little River and most recently Michael Bloise' American Noodle Bar. There are solid midrange alternatives in the area as well, like UVA 69, Moshi Moshi, Anise, and Balans -- and a hot dog place too (Dogma). But it's still not the sort of neighborhood where one ambles along the streets after dinner and chooses an outdoor cafe at which to sip cappuccino. If anything, after dinner you rush to your car to make sure it hasn't been broken into.
South Beach? Coconut Grove? Coral Gables? You're kidding, right?
In the meanwhile, midtown Miami has grown from empty condos, a struggling shopping mall, and Five Guys, to house the best restaurants to open in the city over the past two years.
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Five Guys was a eye-catching addition, but foodies started really flocking to midtown when Sakaya Kitchen opened in 2009. Since then, it's been a rapid succession of hip joints jumping with patrons and putting out affordable, often exceptional food: Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill, Mercadito, Gigi, Sustain...
(The Morgan's Restaurant is considered Wynwood, but it's really just a few blocks from midtown.)
Midtown boasts the only real cheese store, and a cool restaurant in its own right, The Cheese Course. Lime Fresh Mexican Grill and Hurricane Grill and Wings are better-than-average chains, Primo Pizza makes real good pies. Egyptian Pizza just opened (how timely!) to give Primo a run for its' mozzarella (Egyptian Pizza uses a wood-burning oven).
100 Montaditos debuted last week -- Serrano ham sandwich (and 99 others) on warm, fresh bread for a buck and bottled/draft beers for under $3. Looking for a more upscale sip? The Wine Vault will be ready for the public in a matter of weeks. So will Sweet Point Bakery & Cafe and Muscle Maker Grill ("Great food with your health in mind!").
It's true: Midtown has more new excellent restaurants, and offers more variety, than any other neighborhood in Miami-Dade right now. Who'd have thunk it?