Alligator Chili, She-Crab Soup, and Homemade Hot Sauce in the Mailbox

These days, the ritual of getting the mail has devolved into a steady stream of circulars and credit card offers making their way from the box to the recycling bin.

So opening a real piece of mail — something someone sat down, wrote, addressed, and stamped — can be confusing. Such a rare find deserves attention, so when I received an all-caps handwritten letter from Gary in Pembroke Pines, I felt obligated to answer. Thanks, Gary, for making my day. Here we go:

Where can you go to find a place in Miami that specializes in bacon?
I think what you seek is a Miami version of Allan Benton’s smokehouse in the Tennessee Hills. The closest you’ll find here is the shop Proper Sausages in Miami Shores or the deli Miami Smokers in Little Havana. Both offer fine pieces of smoked and cured pork belly. If you want to be fancier, Quality Meats Miami Beach sells a house-cured slab of bacon served with chunky peanut butter and a spicy, tangy apple-jalapeño chutney.

A restaurant that specializes in chili:
First, Gary, I need to know where you stand on chili. Are you in the pro-bean crowd? I am not. Chili should be long-cooked meats and spices topped with diced onion. If you really need cheddar cheese on it, fine. Your best bet is probably Skyline Chili in Fort Lauderdale. It’s a branch of the Cincinnati chain, and they pile it on hot dogs and spaghetti with reckless abandon. Your request for kangaroo chili could’ve been filled by Nemesis Urban Bistro’s Micah Edelstein. She once served a carpaccio of the marsupial but has since departed Miami for the West Coast. According to this very recent blog post, the alligator chili you desire awaits on U.S. 27 between Clermont and Kissimmee.

A restaurant that specializes in all kinds of chowders, bisques, seafood stews, clams, and lobster rolls:
Go to Mignonette. Danny Serfer’s downtown spot provides a fine take on the knuckle-and-butter lobster roll. Go to Joe’s Take Away if you’re keen on the mayo-slathered variety. Serfer also offers a rotation of she-crab soup, gumbos, Manhattan clam chowders, and everything else you’re looking for. North Miami’s Captain Jim's Seafood also ladles out nice bowls of lobster, conch, and clam chowder.

A hot sauce restaurant where the food is extremely hot:
This seems a question more fitting for Adam Richman’s blown-out colon, but I’ll try. When you order your duck or conch roti at L.C. Roti Shop in Miami Gardens, they often ask if you want it spicy or not. You say spicy, because you want LC’s slightly tangy, face-flaming concoction. It’s a complex brew with lime juice, vinegar, and garlic. Occasionally, this place also dishes out a sweet papaya hot sauce with the Trinidadian split-pea fritters pholourie. You also might want to try the lineup of homemade hot sauces at Todd Erickson’s Huahua’s Taqueria next time you’re in South Beach. Any yutz can line up a hot sauce collection, but not here.

Send me mail! Recipes, questions, and fake anthrax can be sent to Miami New Times, 2750 NW Third Ave., Miami, FL 33127

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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson