While South Beach is home to some of the fanciest, priciest, poshest, most celeb-driven eateries in the county, there are also many inexpensive spots where one can nosh without breaking the bank. In fact, there are nooks off Collins and Washington avenues (to say nothing of Española Way) where budget-minded foodies can experiment with global cuisine on the low end of the pay scale -- and not worry about LeBron James stealing a table.
We're using the word inexpensive here to denote anything lower than Prime 112/Nobu prices. Nevertheless, our criteria center around cost, food, and ambiance. Here are five places where you can dine on South Beach without having to take out a second mortgage.
Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, 1439 Alton Rd.; 305-532-5463. Although it is a burgeoning chain, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill started on a crowded stretch of Alton Road in 2004. Since then, six other locations have sprouted, but South Beach remains a consistent spot to gorge on healthful and inexpensive Mexican fare such as nachos, quesadillas, fish tacos, and burritos. Prices hover in the $5 range for starters, hearty salads cost about $8, and the most expensive entrée (the fajita platter) is $9.99. Complimentary are six salsas and 50 hot sauces from all over the world. Lime's meats are certified humanely raised and handled, which means they are hormone- and antibiotic-free. The rest of the fare is 100 percent free of trans fats, and the beans are vegetarian-friendly. Better yet, there are margaritas and cold beer. The only drawback to this location is the crappy parking situation, which, more often than not, results in first-timers being towed.
Burger & Beer Joint, 1766 Bay Rd.; 305-672-3287. Although it's been open only a year, Burger & Beer Joint feels like a fixture on the South Beach scene. Tucked away in the up-and-coming Sunset Harbour neighborhood (where Fresh Market will launch soon), it more than lives up to its name. First up are the burgers, which range from Angus beef, turkey, and American Kobe to lobster and ahi tuna. They cost around $11, although the American Kobe version commands a whopping $39. Then there are 99 beers (as in 99 bottles of beer on the wall) spanning countries such as China, Spain, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Jamaica, Argentina, and India. And nothing goes better with suds than fried pickles ($6), mini corn dogs ($9), octane chicken wings ($10), and onion rings with cheddar-jalapeño sauce ($6). Open late-night for midnight munchies, B&B (as the locals call it) also has a rocking sports bar where Sports Center fanatics can get their fix.
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David's Café II, 1654 Meridian Ave.; 305-672-8707. Cuban food is a staple in Miami. And David's Café II is the go-to destination for South Beach locals searching for the best plantains and medianoche sandwiches. Whether you are grabbing a café con leche from the pick-up counter or sitting down to a full Cuban feast, David's Café II attracts politicians, hipsters, club kids, tourists, and seemingly the entire Miami Beach Police Department. (Seriously, don't commit a crime too close to this Lincoln Road hot spot; you will get caught.) Open 24 hours a day, this eatery cranks out breakfast, lunch, and dinner at breakneck speed and for relatively inexpensive prices. Two eggs, home fries, coffee, and American toast cost $4.75, and on the high end, steak and eggs will set you back $9.25. All-day dining spans medianoche sandwiches ($7.55), black bean soup ($4), churrasco sandwiches ($10.95), and marinated pork chunks ($12.95). There's also a $9.50 lunch buffet featuring all-you-can-eat Cuban specialties from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Sylvano's, 820 Alton Rd.; 305-673-3959. Expensive and overrated Italian restaurants dot the South Beach landscape. But it's rare to discover a reasonably priced spaghetti joint consistently producing quality meals. For that, you'll have to head to Sylvano's on Alton Road, where charming owner Sylvano Carrara presides over a little slice of Italy. Here you'll find appetizers in the $10 range (including fried calamari, mussels in marinara broth, and tuna carpaccio) and entrees from $10 (spaghetti pomodoro) to $20 (New York steak). Even better, though, the pastas are all under $13, with choices such as meat lasagna, black linguine with crabmeat, linguine with clams, and four-cheese gnocchi. And who can resist homemade margherita pizza for $8.95? Wash it all down with a mainly Italian wine list, and catch the latest soccer match. It's like being at a casual trattoria in a small town in Italy, minus the plane ticket. Watch out for the parking situation here: The lot next door is tow-happy.
Icebox Café, 1657 Michigan Ave.; 305-538-8448. Icebox Café serves American comfort food with a healthful bent. Yes, everyone (including Oprah) raves about the indulgent cakes, but for locals, Icebox is more about turkey meat loaf than white chocolate soufflé. Opt for the Mediterranean chicken salad with baby spinach, kalamata olives, and caramelized onions ($12); wasabi-glazed salmon (14); falafel wrap with hummus ($11); and linguine with olives, capers, pancetta, and basil ($11). Go for breakfast or lunch, because the prices spike unreasonably for dinner: $27 for wasabi-glazed sea bass at a neighborhood eatery? Really? We'll stick to brunch, when the crab eggs Benedict with lime hollandaise sauce is $14 and the mimosas are $10.