Barmeli Miami: Wine and Tapas on the Upper Eastside

When Liza Meli closes one restaurant door, she doesn't waste time opening another. The former owner of the now-defunct Ouzo's Greek Island Taverna, Meli is now at Barmeli Miami, a wine shop that serves Mediterranean tapas on the Upper Eastside.

Fans of Ouzo's will be pleased to see many of the restaurant's signature Greek dishes on Barmeli's menu. Meli hasn't strayed too far in her choice of location either.

Ouzo's boasted a waterfront location off NE 78th and Biscayne Boulevard; Barmeli resides on NE 79th Street just west of the causeway.

See also: The Honey Tree: Amazing Vegan Comfort Food on the Upper Eastside

"Seventy-Ninth Street is the new cool area," Meli says. Whether you agree or not, it's hard to deny she's doing her part for the neighborhood. Barmeli offers not only tasty and affordable tapas in a cozy setting but also $25 food and wine tastings every Thursday, when diners can meet various winemakers from small, family-owned vineyards.

What's more, there's happy hour daily and live music every Saturday -- an Ouzo's tradition.

Short Order stopped by the month-old eatery to try Cuban chef Maykel Solis' Mediterranean fare. Here's what we ordered:

Flames abound once brandy is poured over the cheese saganaki ($10), an Ouzo's staple. Dip the accompanying toasted triangles of oregano-topped pita into this deliciously gooey dish.

Almost everything at Barmeli is prepared on the grill, including the beef meatballs, which arrive with a creamy tzatziki dip ($8).

A generous portion of Spanish grilled octopus ($14) is flavored with plenty of lemon juice.

The mini lamb chops ($6 each) and the Greek-style roast potatoes ($5) are generously seasoned with oregano. For a moment, they might make you think you're vacationing in the Mediterranean.

Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter @ValeriaNekhim

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