Carol's in Downtown: Affordable Italian-Brazilian Fare

When Carolina Moura worked long hours as an implementation consultant for restaurants, she would eat at Gigi -- a lot. A regular at the bar, she quickly bonded with sous-chef Kris Hillborn. In fact, Moura even went so far as to tell him that the day she opened her own place, she'd hire him as executive chef.

Sure enough, when Carol's opened in downtown this past December, Moura followed through on her promise. Located on SE First Street, Carol's is an Italian restaurant with Brazilian influences -- a nod to the owner's mixed heritage.

See also: Michael Mina's Five Favorite Restaurants In Miami

During Saturday brunch, Carol's serves feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew made with black beans and a mixture of salted, smoked, and fresh meats.

A frequent diner herself, 30-year-old Moura found the city lacked great-tasting, affordable restaurants where people would feel comfortable dressed in their gym clothes.

With a friendly staff, warm décor, and a menu where nothing is priced over $16, Carol's is determined to fill that void. Given its location, though, lunch draws mainly business types.

Short Order recently sampled some of Chef Hillborn's fare. Here's what we ordered:

In Brazil, coxinha is a popular fried treat comprising pulled chicken in a spicy marinade, potatoes, and sometimes yuca. At Carol's, however, the coxinha ($6) is made with rice to resemble the Italian snack arancini. Paired with Tabasco aioli, this pear-shaped appetizer is refined comfort food.

Carol's ravioli ($14) doesn't skimp on the wild mushroom filling, and the sage cream sauce is rich but not overpowering.

Moura tries to use local ingredients whenever possible, and Florida grouper ($16) was the fish of the day. The tasty fillet was lightly fried and arrived on a bed of mashed potatoes with beets and a rosemary cream sauce.

The zesty panna cotta ($4) is made with papaya and acerola -- a vitamin C-rich tropical fruit that resembles a cherry.

Prosecco and sour black cherry make up Carol's signature cocktail.

Follow Valeria Nekhim on Twitter @ValeriaNekhim

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