For restaurants, Miami Spice's two months of dining deals can be a raging hassle. With $23 for lunch menus and $39 for dinner, there's the possibility of lower check averages for servers. Plus there's extra ordering and menu planning for chefs and kitchen managers and a whole new slew of dishes for sweat-drenched line cooks to master.
We feel your pain; we really do. Still, Spice is a time to let your restaurant shine. Take it as an opportunity to break out of the daily grind. It's a chance to gain a new clientele that otherwise might not see value in your usual offerings.
See also: The Great of Miami Spice 2014, Part Two
So skip the Axis of Evil -- skirt steak, salmon, and chicken or pasta entrées. If you're going to stoop to that level, make some effort to fake caring. Braise a brisket or short ribs into tender, melting oblivion. It's not difficult to get away with serving chicken if you know how to brine a thigh and cook it so the meat is juicy and the skin crisp. Make pasta, any pasta. Make cavatelli or pappardelle or ravioli. Keep the sauces and fillings simple; let the noodles shine.
New Times reviewed the menus of the more than 170 restaurants participating in Miami Spice this year. Some are more generous than others. Here are a few of the grudging.
The city's top purveyor of Certified Angus Beef starts off dinner with two types of salad -- spinach or classic caesar -- and steak tartare. For mains, chef Peter Vauthy is turning out a petit filet mignon, roast chicken, a double-cut pork chop, and salmon with basil pesto. All of them are accompanied by the same baked potato and broccoli. If you want to fork out extra, the sky is the limit. Add $15 for oysters Rockefeller to start. With $24 more, you can grab an eight-ounce prime filet or a 16-ounce rib eye. Vidalia onion rings can also be yours -- for $5. Available daily for dinner. With the upcharges, the food is great. Without? Not so much.
Richard Sandoval's restaurant inside the InterContinental takes an interesting approach to lunch, offering a buffet with avocado, tomato, and mozzarella and build-your-own salads. Mains change daily and include pork shoulder, ribs, lamb leg, and adobo turkey breast. At dinner, appetizer choices include smoked swordfish dip, lomo saltado empanadas, and crispy shrimp with ají amarillo and rocoto mint salsa. Then the whole thing just deflates with grilled chicken and salmon. The churrasco tasting -- with lamb, chorizo, chicken, and picanha steak -- seems the best bet. Lunch available Monday through Friday, dinner daily.
During Spice, one of 50 Eggs' odes to Southern cooking is offering crisp cajun boudin -- a bloodless creole sausage/pudding common around New Orleans -- along with little gem lettuce and smoked fish dip. At lunch, either a smoked chicken and farro sandwich or a pork belly BLT follows. At dinner, it's grilled salmon or a smoked brisket steak. Yawn. Prior to launching their spice menu Swine was offering ribs for an extra $5. That option, however, no longer exists and a restaurant spokesman said it was dropped "because it devalued the menu overall for potential guests." Available for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Sunday through Thursday.
Lunch here is what you want, starting with ham croquetas with honey mustard and guava chicken flatbread Cuban sandwich sticks. The blackened chicken wrap and chopped salad are reminiscent of an office cafeteria; however, Rodriguez appears to be doing his own take on La Camaronera's famed minuta sandwich, with ginger-ale-battered red snapper. Then it's back to abuela's for dessert with cuatro leches. Skip dinner, though. It's the avoidable combo of salmon, chicken, and short rib. Available for lunch daily, dinner daily.
Where's the beef, Wolfy? The lone meat option is a petit filet mignon au poivre at dinner. It may be preceded by the forgettable steak-house caesar salad or Manhattan clam chowder. If you're not getting the steak, and we don't know why you wouldn't, you're getting chicken paillard or broiled snapper. Joy. All come with a choice of classic steak-house sides, including creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. Available for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Sunday through Thursday.
Khong's Spice menus are brief but with some exciting choices. Burmese noodle wraps with roasted chili, peanuts, palm sugar, and lemon juice start dinner. They sound like a good preface to Chinese fried rice with pork belly, Chinese sausage, and a sunny-side-up egg. The green curry Atlantic salmon and Khong sundae -- with devil's food cake, vanilla ice cream, and passionfruit caramel -- seem totally skippable. We'd like to see more Thai food in this Thai restaurant -- not Chinese or Burmese. And how about a little something from the Chiang Mai region? Available for lunch Monday through Friday, dinner Sunday through Thursday.
Update: A Khong spokesperson tells us it is not a Thai restaurant but a "concept... built around the food that has developed and continues to develop along the Mekong River." That includes China, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Thailand.
At Earl's in Dadeland, you can start with barbecued pork buns doused in spicy hoisin and dressed with roasted peanuts and cilantro. Crispy shrimp with kaffir lime and spicy Thai basil are also a good option. However, for the main event, your only choice is the half rack of ribs and Cajun chicken with warm potato salad and coleslaw. The mustard-glazed cedar plank salmon is all too common, though a Thai vegetable bowl of quinoa, crispy onions, and ginger in a coconut lemongrass broth will be a savior for your vegetarian friend if you end up here. Available for dinner Sunday through Thursday. (What, no Friday and Saturday?)
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This Miracle Mile Spanish restaurant offers value but no variety. The lone lunch entrée is hake grilled and served with saffron sauce, sautéed spinach, and glazed carrots. At dinner, there's only a rib-eye steak. This is a good deal, but where are the options? Available for lunch Tuesday through Sunday, dinner Tuesday through Sunday.