Alfredo Patino, Owner of Tap 79 and Firito Taco, Plans French Spot on 79th Street

When Alfredo Patino opened Bin No. 18 (1800 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-235-7575) on the boundary between downtown Miami and Edgewater in late 2006, nightfall was a warning sign. "It was prostitutes and crackheads," he says. But the condo buildings now towering over Biscayne Boulevard were already approved. The writing was on the wall. Fast-forward nine years, and the quaint Italian spot is still going strong.

Patino, now 42, got a similar feeling when he moved from downtown to an apartment farther north. "I drove 79th Street almost every day and realized that besides a few gems, there was nothing."

So in mid-2014, he opened the modest Tap 79 (1071 NE 79th St., Miami; 305-381-0946), replete with beer culled from beloved local breweries and a sophisticated, booze-friendly bar menu that ranges from clams and spicy chorizo ($12) to a lamb burger with charred onions, feta cheese, and watercress ($13).

Then, this past October, he opened Firito Taco & Bocce (305-793-6676) in the adjoining space that had once housed a convenience store. The menu is brutally simple: ten taco varieties, quesadillas, and salads. Sombreros and dramatic images of bullfighters dot the walls. Used burlap sacks of rice imported from India paper the ceiling. Despite the mismatched ethnic decor choices, a pair of carne asada tacos ($8) — served with fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, and a spicy aioli — hits the spot. So too does the guerrillero pastor ($7), with sweet charred cubes of pineapple decorating shreds of pork laced with a fragrant, spicy adobo. The only shortfall is the tortillas. They're too stiff and taste store-bought.

Still, Patino says the place in only a few months has become a neighborhood favorite. Along with Tap 79, it has given him the confidence to embark on a fourth venture, which will open sometime next year. "I can't tell you much," he says, "but it will speak French."

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