Biscayne Diner soft-opened yesterday -- without half of its menu -- and was packed for lunch. Chef Alfredo Alvarez, who was the opening executive chef at the popular Seaspice, owns the place with his wife, Tara Nicosia. They're proffering elevated diner fare 24 hours a day at the resurrected eatery on Biscayne Boulevard.
"I haven't even had my vendors deliver everything yet, so we're literally just going with it," says New York native Nicosia, whose Big Apple diner, This Little Piggy, was a go-to place for housewives, garbage collectors, and Wall Street businessmen. On its first day of business, her second concept seemed to be attracting the same diverse clientele.
The space is retro-chic. Graffiti on the outside channels a concrete-jungle takeover. Nicosia commissioned a former New Yorker, artist Don Rimx, to instill at the 24-hour diner a sense of the city that never sleeps.
Inside, Biscayne Diner resembles a subway station platform, with black-and-white checkered floors, red booths, and a modern soda pop cooler.
A mural by Rimx depicting both Lady Liberty and Nicosia wraps around the step-down dining room. "We wanted to bring that New York diner culture to Miami. Over there you have 24-hour diners on every street corner, but here that's nonexistent."
Nicosia doesn't believe in using anything processed. "Even our orange juice is freshly squeezed," she says. "As it should be." Get 12 ounces for $5 or 16 ounces for $6.50.
As for the food, we didn't sample much because most of the menu wasn't yet available, but Nicosia whipped up one of her high-end salads. "The tuna is amazing." This off-menu salad blended the savory white fish with mixed greens and feta cheese.
Breakfast at Biscayne Diner is available half the day (midnight to noon) and includes offerings such as smoked salmon and toasted bagel with cream cheese, tomato, onions, and capers ($13.95); banana chocolate chip pancakes ($7.95); peanut butter and jelly French toast ($7); waffles ($6); huevos rancheros ($9.95); and skirt steak and eggs ($13.95).
The other half of the day, customers can opt for appetizers, soups, diner classics, specialty sandwiches, salads, comfort classics, and burgers. Appetizers include veggie tacos ($7.95), zucchini croquettes ($4), mac 'n' cheese bites ($8.50), turkey chili ($6.95), and meatballs with ricotta ($8.50). Sandwiches span the usual suspects: corned beef on rye, pastrami on rye, turkey Reuben, tuna melt panini, chicken parm panini, and turkey club ($9.95 and served with homemade chips).
Nicosia's salads include the classic Cobb, spinach, Greek, Oriental, roasted beets and goat cheese, and Harrison. Are burgers more your style? Biscayne Diner offers five, like the Phat Fuck, with a double patty, bacon, cheeses, onions, chipotle mayo, and a fried egg on top ($12.95).
"I want people to feel comfortable here," Nicosia says. Comfort classics such as chicken scarpariello ($13.95), New York pot roast ($14.95), baked mac 'n' cheese ($10.95), and meatloaf with mashed potatoes ($13.95) are available, as are daily specials, ranging from panko pork chops with yellow rice and beans ($15.95) Monday to chicken cordon bleu with homemade potato disks and cauliflower soufflé ($17.95) Thursday.
"We spent all day yesterday making dessert," Nicosia says. "I know everyone says their key lime pie is the best, but mine is really up there." Her version doesn't employ just key lime, though; it's got passionfruit. And, as Nicosia says, it's up there, and available 24 hours a day.
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