It was 3 p.m. on Thursday afternoon and there was a long, winding line at Design Miami. The line, however, wasn't exactly where you'd expect. It wasn't by the entrance, or by the stunning Glithero Perrier-Jouet installation. And it wasn't by the ladies' bathroom, either.
This line was at Michael Schwartz's pop-up eatery, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink Café.
Behind the counter, James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz was frantically handing out Panther Coffee cold brews, as well as booze like wine, cocktails and beers. Nearby, executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith was supervising the distribution of desserts, including an apple cake with salted caramel. Around the dining room, I spotted other members of The Genuine Hospitality Group crew, like Eric Larkee, wine director, and Ryan Goodspeed, beverage director.
Why is it important to know the who's who of the café? Well, let's put this scene in perspective. Art Basel Miami Beach is the busiest week of the year for the group's Design District eatery, Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. Instead of being there, these head honchos were all present at the café.
This can only mean one thing: Michael's Genuine Food & Drink Café isn't some half-assed pop-up. This is serious business.
The menu -- which is written on an expansive chalkboard -- features a concise listing mostly of fresh salads and sandwiches.
I sampled a roasted beet and orange salad with aged goat cheese and toasted pumpkin seeds, a bowl of the soup, one Panther coffee cold brew, a bottle of water, and a slice of chocolate dulce de leche pie. My lunch amounted to $39.38, with 18% gratuity included.
At first, these prices seemed high. Sandwiches sold at $14 sounded a lot like they included a South Beach surcharge. Or, even worse, a dose of Art Basel inflation.
But, after a little research, I realized that the lunch prices at the café were similar -- if not identical -- to those at Harry's Pizzeria and Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, the two Design District eateries owned by the hospitality group.
At Harry's Pizzeria, salads are sold at the $8 to $11 range. At Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, soup specials are typically about $6, and lunch sandwiches average between $14 to $16.
At the pop-up, patrons looking for a sandwich or salad lunch will generally spend less than $20. Considering that the eatery is open during Art Basel, and inside the Design Miami tent, I'd say that this is a more-than-fair price to pay for Schwartz and Goldsmith's delectable farm-fresh fare.
In terms of the cuisine, patrons can expect simple, unfussy dishes -- executed with care and dominated by crisp flavors.
On my visit, the best ones were the hearty minestrone soup -- loaded with a myriad of chopped vegetables and house-smoked bacon -- and the creamy chocolate pie. The latter is layered atop a pool of thick, rich dulce de leche.
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So, for those of you near Miami Beach this weekend, this café is definitely a great lunch option. Now, as to how to skip the $25 admission fee to enter the fair, well... we can't really help you there.
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink Café runs during Design Miami fair hours (closes on December 9): Friday and Saturday from noon to 8 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.
Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.