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Blogger's Bout: Michael's Genuine

Blogger Hannah Littman and New Times editor Chuck Strouse disagree about Design District pioneer and national powerhouse Michael's Genuine. What follows are their disparate views:

Walk into Michael's Genuine, the much applauded, infrequently dissed Design District restaurant and you note it right away. There's none of the pretense that so many of South Florida restaurants serve up. Here, instead, it's all about the food. And the food is unbelievably good thanks to the freshest ingredients, which are prepared and cooked so that they shine. Fresh, simple, pure? You betcha.

Let's face facts. Until recently, South Florida food--though the offspring of many regions-- was truly lacking. Here, there aren't even any good diners, few great bagel shops, and Thai food is always served up alongside sushi for some bizarre reason. And don't even get me started on the fine food side of things. But in 2007, along came Michael's Genuine.Two years later,m the place took a James Beard Award. And the New York Times' ranked it number 4 in America in 2008. Zagat has it as the third most popular restaurant in Miami.

Need we go on? Not necessarily. Here's what you to do to discover for yourself why Michael's Genuine is so worthy of its glory. First, while you peruse the menu, order a drink. Accompany said beverage with an order of the hominy and, while you're at it, the chicken liver crostini. Peruse the menu if you must, but I suggest you order the burrata (none better in Miami) and a chargrilled octopus (ditto). Round off with a wood-fired snapper that's been grilled alongside fennel, fleur-de-sel and lemon. Believe me, nothing finer. Or for carnivorous types, the pork chop is one of the best I've tasted. And while you're at it, throw in an order of the brussel sprouts. (Thought you didn't like them? Think again.) And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Or, in this instance, you'd be missing something pretty spectacular if you didn't round off your meal with a Chocolate Cremoso. Do this and I can guarantee that you'll be heading home, deliciously full and insisting that Michael's Genuine is, indeed, all it's cracked up to be.

-- Hannah Litman

Michael's Genuine has indeed garnered lots of praise nationally in the last couple years, but it ain't as good as all that. Michael Schwartz, who sometimes contributes to this blog by the way, is one smart dude., And he has expanded his empire like crazy. No question about that.

But the place just up from our offices doesn't merit all the hype. Here's a list of my complaints:

1. The front desk is chronically disorganized.
2. Inside, the place is louder than a high school gymnasium.
3. The valet is absurdly expensive for the Design District.*
4. On two different occasions, I have suffered through lunch-time pizza with a droopy crust. Once would be an exception. Twice, uh-uh.

I'm not saying it's a bad restaurant. Uh-uh. I'm just saying Frank Bruni's fawning -- He's ditching the haute for the homey and focusing more on sourcing than on saucing." -- and rating this number 4 is just not justified.

As for pizza, gimme Steve's up on Biscayne. Now that's a pie!

*Editor's Note: I later learned the cost had been reduced from $10 the last time I parked there to $3. Sorry Michael.
-- Chuck Strouse

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