First Bites

The Local Panini & Flat Bar Officially Opens

There's something about a well-hidden, undiscovered restaurant that is particularly  enticing. So when we heard about a panini and flat bar hidden in the depths of Flamingo South Beach, we headed over..

The Local Panini & Flat Bar opened quietly for Flamingo's condo occupants just a few weeks ago, but had its official Grand Opening bash this past Friday. And we understand the appeal not only for residents, but visitors too. Finding this concealed space is well worth it.

After getting past the front gate guards and walking a few minutes across the property to the left, you spot a tiny sign pasted on the wall with the Local's logo. And once you get through the key-only South Tower entry (the reception area right in front of the glass door makes it much less of a challenge) and make a right, you're home free.

The chic but unassuming entrance offers a pool table, flat screen, and a regularly rotating art display, giving the otherwise posh vibe a lived-in feel. Through the month of June, you'll see Jeff Thomas Schuller's New Orleans-inspired works showcased and up for sale. "I've always loved the idea of an ever-changing place, meaning food and ambiance," says owner Ken Ray. "Our menu will continue to change as well as the artwork, giving the place a fresh feel all the time."

This menu ranges from appetizers and salads to the restaurant's namesakes -- paninis and flats. A wide range of cocktails and a decent beer selection make it an ideal stop-in for resident passersby, and we noticed a good mixture of casually dressed locals and suits ready to unwind after work. "Our great wine list and micro brew selection has been a hit," says chef Marco Bidart. "Our Raspberry Mojito and homemade Bloody Mary's have been favorites."

But what really makes the trip is the cuisine. The large portions make it hard to finish, but the flavor-rich dishes make it hard to stop. The homemade meatballs stuffed with gooey mozzarella were a personal favorite appetizer, and at $9, definitely worth the price. They come smothered in tomato sauce with hints of basil and balsamic thrown in, and olive oil drenched throughout. The garlic crustinis with hints of melted cheese are --in essence-- giant croutons, and the perfect texture to scoop up any left over sauce.

The Oven Roasted Veggie Flat, $11, is a must-try for vegetarians and meat eaters, alike, with oven roasted zucchini, squash, egg plant, red peppers, and goat cheese. The warm goat cheese has a soft sweetness that works well with the heavily topped veggies, and the crusty flatbread helps make the dish surprisingly meaty and filling.

The Local Panini & Flat Bar
1500 Bay Road (inside the Flamingo South Tower), Miami Beach

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Christine Borges