Whatever Happened To Coral Gables?

It wasn't that long ago that serious diners in these parts pointed to Coral Gables as the go-to spot for eating out. Palme d'Or, Pascals, Ortanique, Christy's, Caffe Abracci, Francesco's, Norman's, Mundo, Chispa, Restaurant Brana, Max's Grille, The Palm Steakhouse...quite a roster. Mundo, Norman's, Chispa, Restaurant Brana, Max's Grille and The Palm have since left, and excepting La Cofradia and Por Fin, not much of note has come in to replace them -- unless you include the slew of chains like Starbucks, Houston's, Bonefish Grill, Chick-N-Grill, Chili's...and on and on.

There are still plenty of smaller, worthwhile places to eat -- Miss Saigon Bistro, Mint Leaf, Bugatti, Randazzo's Little Italy, Caramelo, Caffe Vialetto, and so forth, but the dining spotlight and momentum have clearly shifted towards the Design District, MiMo, and downtown Miami. Heck, The Fontainebleau alone has more exciting new restaurants opening this month than the Gables has seen in years. Worse news for "The City Beautiful": Those diners seeking chains, not change, can navigate towards Mary Brickell Village's superior selection of such (Oceanaire, Rosa Mexicano, P.F. Chang's, Balans...).

Well, these things happen. After all, in the mid-nineties South Beach was considered the mecca for Miami's fine dining. A wider view of our culinary landscape reveals more praiseworthy new restaurants than ever before. Coral Gables is simply no longer the place they are settling in.

--Lee Klein

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