Pacific Time, South Beach
Pacific Time reopened in the Design District (and later closed there) but something went missing in the trip over the Venetian Causeway. The original location on Lincoln Road might have lost its luster in the years before it closed, but something about a place can't be transferred. Lee Klein said it best about the original Pacific Time: "It is a tragic truth that when a neighborhood loses its soul, its restaurants go to hell." Ain't that the truth Lincoln Road.
The Denny's before Denny's, or at least before Denny's became what it is today, Lum's was like an R-rated version of the former. They served draft beer, but the booze that truly distinguished it was the suds in which they steamed their hot dogs. What became a national restaurant chain had humble origins when a couple of entrepreneurs bought the Lum's Hot Dog Stand in Miami Beach in the early 1960s. From there, they expanded across the country and had more than 500 restaurants at one point. The last South Florida Lum's in Davie closed in 2009 but apparently there's still one open in Omaha, Nebraska (as if you needed another reason to visit the Cornhusker state!).
Taisho II, Coral Gables
Where have you gone, all-you-can-eat-sushi places? We miss Taisho II in Coral Gables, which for a time was located next to Books and Books. Nothing comes close to the experience of using those lotto-style pencils to fill out your paper menu order. We know sushi is not the type of food you want mass-produced. We get it. But let's face it, there was something dangerous and life-affirming about gorging on icky barbecue eel, second-tier tempura and slimy tasting salmon in the Bagel Roll. Maybe our lifeline got longer when Taisho closed, but we're still sore about it. We love that you had to pay for any uneaten sushi--the sight of a grown woman stuffing sashimi in her purse to avoid being charged is not easily forgotten.
The Beehive, South Beach
Another Lincoln Road staple of the 1990s (but one that closed in 1998 before the street went totally tourist), it was just what its name implies: hidden from plain view and usually buzzing with activity. The entrance was in the 600 block of Lincoln but you had to walk through a short corridor to really enter the honeycomb. There you'd find an open-air courtyard with an array of hepcats smoking and drinking and generally being hepcatty. It was a passable restaurant with pizza, pasta and ribs, among other things but it really, it was a lounge with live music on most nights and a place to enjoy being out until the early morning on weekdays.
The restaurant/lounge that was part of the Mutiny Hotel in Coconut Grove was decadence incarnate -- at a level South Beach clubs can't even touch more than two decades later. The center of the action at the hotel (whose guess list included dictators, gunrunners, drug dealers, celebrities like Cher, Jackie O. and politicians, including George H. W. Bush), was the Mutiny Club, where drug dealers and DEA agents sometimes would sit at adjoining tables. But don't take my word for it, listen to a smuggler describe the scene:
"I would arrive at the Mutiny at seven in the morning, have breakfast, and talk to the girls. Each table had its own phone. You snapped your fingers and they'd bring the phone, plug it in the jack at the base of the table, and tell you what the number was. I would drink coffee till about noon, interspersed with a couple Heinekens. Then I would switch from the patio area to the glassed-in dining room for lunch.
The afternoons were drinking martinis between one and five. Back to Scotch at five, calling assorted girlfriends, calling the front desk, ordering assorted theme rooms. Plus ordering a nice supply of champagne and cocaine -- a gram, an eighth, whatever.