Daily Bread, a Middle Eastern market and eatery that opened on the tip of South Beach just over two months ago, is a spinoff of Daily Bread in South Miami. These operations should not be confused, though both will be, with two other Daily Bread Middle Eastern markets, one on SW 27th Avenue and another on U.S. 1, whose association with the Daily Bread we'll be discussing is one involving the same menus, same food, two brothers who have split up, and presumably a couple of lawyers. Let's move on.
This Daily Bread is a bright, clean room with an ocean-blue Mediterranean mural on the left wall, a food counter to the right, eight tables in the center, a Middle Eastern market in back, and a solo table outdoors in front of the shop. Service is amiable, the foods freshly prepared each day, the sandwiches, salads, and platters put together meticulously -- altogether a very neatly operated spot.
The daily bread is fresh, delicate pita -- thinner, lighter, and better than those usually encountered. Problem is, because the kitchen is in back and not directly accessible to the counter where the food gets assembled, there's no way to heat the pita; there's something about a warm, griddled flatbread that greatly enhances Mediterranean-style sandwiches. Then again, lack of heat takes a back seat to using the wrong kind: My falafel was microwaved, which as a method for reheating fried foods is about as apropos as boiling is for reheating baklava. Tastewise, the falafel were savorily seasoned and plumped into pita with pristinely crisp lettuce, tomatoes, marinated cabbage, and tahini sauce.
840 1st St, Miami Beach
305-673-2252. Open Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Other sandwiches are garnished with the same dressings and priced between $4.25 and $4.95. These include a kaftah kebab of grilled, ground lamb; a shish tawook of grilled, curry-marinated chicken breast; and kibbie, a patty of ground beef, cracked wheat, and onions. All are deftly flavored with regional spices ranging from cumin to sumac, and all are microwaved -- some comestibles make it through this process better than others, but generally speaking zapped food loses zip.
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Hummably smooth hummus is another sandwich option, though we tried it as a plate, which means trading in the lettuce, tomatoes, and marinated cabbage for olives, pickles, and an extra pita bread. Baba ghannouj, referred to here as eggplant purée with lemon and garlic, also comes plated, and like the hummus is a superior version. If you'll be eating at home, you can purchase prepackaged plastic take-out containers of these specialties, as well as meat or meatless grape leaves, lentil or spinach dip, and tabbouleh, a perky, parsley-dominated variety with tomatoes, cucumber, bulgur wheat, olive oil, and lemon juice. Small portions are $2.75, large $4.95.
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern version of the gyro, usually slices of lamb roasted slowly for hours upon a vertical, rotating spit. Daily Bread does it differently in that it uses marinated beef, and during my three visits I never saw the spit spinning -- the shawarma, too, got microwaved to order. On the positive side, the beef emitted pleasant, clove-ish aromatics, was certainly well-warmed, and, as with all platters, came accompanied by hummus, tabbouleh, marinated cabbage salad, and a pair of pitas -- the bread may be circular, but the deal is a square one at $5.95.
I'm beginning to suspect that all Middle Eastern restaurants in South Florida get their desserts from the same bakery -- located, I think, somewhere in Chicago, which is where Daily Bread imports its baklava, bird's nests, burmas, nut rolls, and other phyllo, honey, butter, and nut-studded treats from. It does prepare its own namoul, a soft, Fig Newtonish cookie dough over dates; another riff on homemade namoul comes rife with rosewater-perfumed walnuts. If you're in the mood for an exotic wake-up call, try a couple of these with a good, hot cup of coffee in the morning -- Daily Bread serves daily breakfast.
Daily Bread provides a pleasant ambiance and fresh, zestily flavored Middle Eastern fare. I highly recommend the salads and cold dishes, but until they mute the microwave I'll be eating my falafel and shawarma elsewhere.