An iced coffee should consist of two things: (1) ice and (2) refrigerated coffee. Not hot coffee, because that melts the ice and invariably turns the drink into a watered-down, 2 Girls 1 Cup-style gag-inducing experience within 15 minutes.
It's simple, you would think. I'm not even asking for the ice cubes made out of coffee. I realize this isn't Oregon. Yet precious few restaurants and cafés in Miami seem to understand the concept of chilling the coffee. Not only do they not stock real iced coffee, but also they, for some unknown reason, lie about it: "Yeah, we have iced coffee."
Then, $2 and change later, out comes the plastic cup full of make-you-barf.
You know it the moment you see it. The ice cubes have already become pathetic little slivers, melting so fast you half-expect miniature polar bears to be clinging to them as a tiny Al Gore narrates. And there's steam coming off the drink. Steam. From an iced coffee. It makes no sense.
At a now-defunct crappy kosher café in Surfside -- I've blocked its name and address from my brain -- I knew I was in trouble when I heard about five minutes of whirring behind the counter after I ordered an iced coffee.
Attention: Blenders are not part of the iced coffee process. I do not want an 800-calorie whipped-cream-and-caramel delight. I just want coffee, cold.
The thing they served me was white, frothy, and tasted like something a grandmother would drink right before bed.
Damn it all if the same harrowing thing didn't happen at the Cheese Course, an otherwise welcome addition to midtown Miami's restaurant scene and the winner of a New Times' "Best of Miami" award this year. This is the sort of place where a couple of moldy milk curds can cost more than an oil change for your car. Yet they make the same sort of nasty frothy concoction made by the unnamed Surfside joint, and call it an iced coffee. Why?
Then there's Lost & Found Saloon. To know that what you're doing is wrong, and to do it anyway, is the mark of a sociopath. Lost & Found, one of my favorite lunch spots in Miami, has probably the best iced coffee in town. But one time they were apparently out of refrigerated coffee, because they POURED HOT BLACK LIQUID ALL OVER SOME ICE CUBES AND SERVED IT TO ME. Not cool, Saloon. I thought I knew you.
Here is the way-too-short list of restaurants/cafés I've found that actually understand iced coffee. Please add your favorites to the list, because I'm at a loss.
5. Starbucks and McDonald's, multiple locations
Sad, yes. But all I want in an iced coffee is consistency. And these corporate harlots refrigerate the coffee before putting it on ice. But McDonald's coffee, because of the syrups they use, tastes like melted Peeps.
4. The French Bakery, 1023 Kane Concourse, Bay Harbor Islands
Cold coffee over ice. Yes!
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3. La Provence, multiple locations
See #4. Plus they have some pseudo-cinnamon bun thing with raisins that is so shiny with sugar that it's blindingly good. Another thing Miami lacks: cinnamon buns.
2. Lost & Found Saloon, 185 NW 36th St., Miami
It'd be the winner if it weren't for that one traumatic experience. The iced coffee here is Detroit-brand, and it's damn good. Sit at the bar and watch the high-def nature programs the place has on endless loop. The best lunchtime iced coffee.
1. Bagel Bar East, 1990 NE 123rd St., North Miami
Besides just being probably the best place to have an incredible egg-and-cheese bagel at noon on a hungover Saturday, Bagel Bar East understands iced coffee -- and gives you unlimited refills when you dine in. Do you realize that four big ol' glasses of good iced coffee and cream, served to you by a friendly/grizzled 87-year-old waitress, can make any weekend exponentially better?