First Bites

Crackers Casual Dining in Miami Springs: Tiger Prawns, Brisket and Fried Green Tomatoes

Crackers Casual Dining in Miami Springs opened up a little over two weeks ago, replacing the Riverside Grille. It's the newest restaurant to open up in the suburban city near the airport and it labels itself as a Southern-style eatery.

The term "Southern" is a broad category in regard to regional cuisine. After all, this region includes several states, from North Carolina to Louisiana, all with their own unique brand of food.

So what's on the menu at Crackers? Tiger shrimp, catfish, beef and chicken are the mainstays of the entree menu.

Sunshine shrimp and swine ($15,95) and shrimp and grits ($15.95) are at the top of the menu. And of course there is pan fried catfish served with collard greens ($13.95) -- you can't call yourself Southern without catfish.

Then, further down the menu, there are chicken finger dinners with two sides ($8.95), lightly pan-fried chicken breast served in a wine sauce with lemon and butter over pasta ($12.95), slow-roasted brisket with brisket au jus served with one side ($10.95), and braised short ribs served on a bed of pureed plantains and a side ($15.95).

And the short ribs do not have the bone in them, so any doubters who try them should know that the chefs take the time to remove the bone so the customer doesn't have to.

For sides ($1.95), there are French fries, cheese grits, grilled veggies, cold cucumber salad, collard greens and garlic mashed potatoes.

Crackers has burgers ($5.25-7.25) and chicken wings ($7.95) too, but it's a place to get Southern food that is hard to find in Miami.

"It's more geared for what you can't get in the neighborhood," says Mitnick. "For instance, this is the only place that serves fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, and even collard greens."

What's more is that they even serve crawfish, although they take the fun out of peeling it yourself. It comes as an appetizer called Lobster Baby ($7.95), which is a creamy crawfish dip served with crostinis.

If you have a hankering for fried okra, they have that too ($4.75), and fried black-eyed peas ($3.95).

They have a kids menu with grilled cheese sandwiches, fettuccine and mini burgers.

The dessert menu consists fried bread pudding served with vanilla bean ice cream ($4.95), peach cobbler and whipped cream ($3.95), red velvet cake ($3.25), chocolate cup cake served with vanilla bean ice cream and cherries ($4.95) and key lime pie cheesecake ($3.95) just to remind you that you're still in Miami.

The wine menu is solid, with your standard whites and reds, ranging from $5-9 a glass, and up to $34 for bottles.

For a Southern restaurant, the beer list could use a bit of pepping up. Right now it consists entirely of bottled big brand domestics and imports, although Mitnick is entertaining the possibility of having Cracker Southern White Ale from Cigar City Brewing Company for their in-house tap beer. That's a fine idea, but what about Abita? Or Lazy Magnolia? Those are fine Southern microbrews, too.

Crackers definitely has a Southern feel to it. The indoor and outdoor decor is in line with a Gulf Coast Southern state, resembling a wooden beach house anywhere along the U.S. Highway 90 corridor between Mobile and New Orleans. The outdoor dining area is a tiki hut patio next to an open lot that will soon be developed into a recreation area, most likely a horseshoe tossing range.

Don't let the name fool you, it's not what you think, says Mitnick. "The theme is old Florida, and the old Florida settles were called crackers."

A good measure of any Southern restaurant is their seafood. Sadly, the shrimp po'boy doesn't compare what you can get anywhere else in the South, but you get four pieces of plump tiger shrimp (the only one they use on the menu), not bad for $6.95. The fried catfish is fat, crispy and delicious. 

Owner Mitnick and his wife have over 30 years of restaurant experience. He is from the Westchester neighborhood in Miami, which is technically Southern. But Miami Springs is different. It's like the Southern gem of Miami. Once you cross the canal from Hialeah, it feels like you just crossed into Biloxi, Mississippi, with Crackers greeting you a little ways down Canal Street.

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David Minsky is a U.S. Navy veteran and Tulane graduate who has experience reporting on stories from California, South Florida, and the Deep South. He has also won some journalism awards. Email or tweet David with story tips and ideas.
Contact: David Minsky