Ray Hicks, owner of First & First Southern Baking Company in downtown Miami, is a nice Southern boy from West Virginia. He wants to share with South Floridians his love of good old-fashioned baked treats and Southern cooking. Soft-spoken and cheeful, he spent years in property management before opening the doors of this downtown eatery with business partner Nina Perez.
On a recent hot summer day, a visitor is greeted with a glass of minty lemon iced tea and a slice of Ray's freshly made Coca-Cola cake: a decadent and dense slice of chocolate heaven topped with Coke-infused frosting.
"I love creating new recipes and bringing old ones to life" he says as he walks us through his menu of 150 cakes and desserts, all available to order. His homemade specialties -- such as 7UP cake, Southern cobbler, and bread pudding made with Krispy Kreme doughnuts -- prove he is here to stay. If you don't believe us, ask the folks at Segafredo, Brickell Irish Pub, and Village Café, which all feature his cakes on their menus.
On any given day, the restaurant, which seats 60 (30 outdoors), features about 25 freshly made desserts. There are 150 delicacies available. Whole-cake prices range from $20 to $38 (for a three-layer beauty), reminding us that good does not have to be expensive.
The extensive breakfast and lunch menu features specialties such as grilled cheese with fried green tomatoes; chicken and waffles; baked grits; cheese biscuits with gravy; and Louisiana crab cakes. Not your traditional Miami fare, but as Ray says: "I have not found any true Southern restaurants in Miami. I grew up with these flavors and love them. Hopefully, Miami will too." Southern hospitality, a kitschy décor, and an owner with a big smile should be a winning combination. Let's hope locals and tourists alike give this neighborhood café a fair chance.
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First & First Southern Baking Company
109 NE First Ave., Miami