Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Florida’ Category

Shorty’s BBQ & Fox’s Sherron Inn

Shortys_facade Are you as sick of hearing about Miami (and bbq) as I am? No worries, this is the last food-related recap of my Labor Day mini-trip. I can’t say when the NYC barbecue mania will die down, however. I’m behind the times anyway–I still haven’t been to Fette Sau, I can’t even think about Hill Country yet.

As I’m certain I’ve made clear before, I’m no barbecue know-it-all. Not even close. (I can’t even recall the logic that brought us to Shorty’s. For our last meal I said, “no Cuban” because I really wanted Asian, any country, but nothing seemed very promising from that continent.) Sure, I can determine if the meat is too fatty, dry or flavorless but I can’t speak to regional styles and adherence to authenticity. In fact, I have no idea what Florida-style barbecue is exactly.

Shortys_more_interiorShorty’s appeared to do a little of everything, ribs dominated the menu but they also served pulled pork, chicken and beef brisket. The ribs were dry-rubbed and two sauces were available along the wooden communal tables. One, in a shaker bottle more typically used for pizzeria chile flakes, was smoky. Another in a squeeze bottle was kind of spicy. It made sense to tinker with both.

Shortys_brisket_2Uncharacteristically, I went Texan and chose the brisket instead of anything made of pork and was thrilled by what my $8.95 got me. The portion was more substantial than the photo shows. You can’t even get mediocre (yet strangely likeable) bargain Dallas BBQ entrees for that price. It’s really about the meat. The crinkle cut fries were ok, garlic bread nothing special, well, the coleslaw was actually edible.

It felt negligent to visit Florida and never try key lime pie, so we shared a slice. Once again showing my lack of refined palate, I couldn’t tell you if the tart dessert was truly made with the tiny local variety or with ordinary limes. It seems that I’m not the only one who can’t differentiate (there’s something unnerving about the Food & Wine blog not allowing comments—not that I ever partake in online conversations).

Shortys_key_lime_pieAll meal long I was wondering what might be in the windowed metal heat lamp box at the front counter. Crispy Critters was emblazoned across its top. Something creepy and deep fried like rocky mountain oysters or perhaps frog legs? Nah, just little chocolate chip cookie nubs, as it turned out. Chocolate chips are not critters.

One of my favorite finds in Miami involved no food at all, just two gin and tonics up the highway from Shorty’s at Fox’s Sherron Inn. I love dark, burgundy vinyl booth, mid-century cocktail lounges. Real hold outs, not contrived Swingers era bars that were popular last decade, or total dumpy dives where old men dominate or faux modern speakeasies. Just an unassuming place where regular folks commingle with a younger crowd. Oldies play, not indie rock. And they serve food food like steak and chops.

Maybe it’s a west coast genre, it feels kind of Vegas or L.A. Portland still had a few left during my day. I can’t think of a single place that fits the profile in NYC. The only problem is that these joints should be filled with smoke and like many a state in the U.S., cigarettes are no longer allowed indoors in Florida. Lately, I try to keep my smoking to a minimum, maybe three cigarettes a week, if that, but a cocktail cries out for an unhealthy accompaniment.

Shorty’s BBQ * 9200 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami, FL
Fox's Sherron Inn * 6030 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami, FL 

Latin American Bayside Café

After our welcome to Miami mishap in finding the Latin American Cafeteria, we never made it back out to that part of the city. I’m not even sure what that part is even called. We passed through Coral Gables, that’s all I know. Sad, but we ended up settling for an offshoot, which may or may not be related to the original, wedged in a kind of horrific South Street Seaport conglomerate of shops called Bayside Marketplace.

Once again, I was so sweaty that I didn’t feel like eating (I began wondering if residents were somehow genetically inured to humidity because no one ever seemed to care, and even dared to dine al fresco, while I was perpetually hot and bothered, literally and idiomatically, even in air conditioned restaurants like this one. I was relieved to see one waitress moist-faced and fanning herself).

But I wasn’t going to come all the way to Miami and go cubano-less. A medianoche, which our waitress actually called a “midnight,” was the sensible solution. Sure, it’s on sweeter bread but it’s more manageable in size. I’m not actually sure why it’s named as such, though I can envision it as a suitable midnight snack.


There was definitely no NYC salami aberration occurring (which I actually like). And the most interesting thing I experienced and have heard is the norm, is no inclusion of condiments. The mustard I always assumed was standard, was offered in a foil packet, totally do-it-yourself. And definitely no mayonnaise, which is fine by me. The roast pork is so moist and naturally flavorful that it could actually stand as it’s served. I did try a few shakes of Frank’s Xtra Hot that was passed our way. Of course, the ham, swiss and pickle are included.

In a perfect world I could’ve conducted some form of taste test but that kind of determined eating requires more than an extended weekend.

Latin American Bayside Café * 401 Biscayne Blvd. # S102, Miami, FL

Fish House

Fish_house_facadeIs there a food you like to eat even though it makes you sick? Battered, fried shellfish tends to make me a little queasy but I love it. I steer clear of coated, fried fish, though. I don’t know if it’s bad Gorton’s (check out their Halloween Fish Sticks Graveyard—spoooky) or Filet-O-Fish memories or what but I can’t handle it. Even in England, I eat chips and do without the fish part (it’s ok because I like meat pies).

So, I was a little bummed that since it wasn’t stone crab season I was kind of stuck with lots of places known for fish sandwiches. I’m sure The Keys are filled with great fish sandwiches but coupled with the long car ride, it would be courting digestive disaster.

Fish_house_crab_quesadillaWe stopped at the aptly named Fish House in Key Largo. In my mind I had pictured a breezy spot with picnic tables on the water. In actuality, the seating is indoors (I couldn’t have stood the humidity anyway) and full of dark wood, fishing nets and maritime kitsch.

I went unorthodox and split a crab quesadilla. At least it wasn’t bulging with surimi. Crab is always either pricy or dubious here.

Fish_house_shrimp_crab_po_boy I was also swayed by an oyster and shrimp po boy, which despite the name was nothing like you’d find in New Orleans. For one, the bread was encrusted with melted cheddar. That seemed kind of wrong, especially since I’d just been barraged with oozing dairy in the quesadilla. The sandwich was more like seafood on garlic cheese bread topped with shredded lettuce, and then it kind of grew on me even though I got all dainty and had to use a knife and fork. Then I became concerned over the decadence and scared myself into only gnawing on one half of the roll. Like the damage hadn’t already been done.

My only regret is not trying the key lime pie. I was plagued by the same problem that always thwarts me in Southeast Asia: the too hot to be hungry syndrome.

Fish House * 102341 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo, FL

No Name Pub

Pizza in Florida? I know, it doesn’t make any sense. And it’s not like Pizzeria Bianco in Arizona where you’re like, “wha?” but it’s all artisanal and quite possibly the best pizza in the entire nation (not that I know this first hand).

PubpizzaNo, this was total childhood pizza, neither deep dish thick nor NYC skinny. ‘80s pizza is doughy yet still fairly crispy on the bottom. Kind of stiff, some might say cardboard-like. And there’s a buttload of cheese, what would pass for extra cheese anywhere else.

Despite being touristy as anything, No Name Pub where the gimmick is to inexplicably staple a dollar bill on any surface, became our Keys dinner destination. The little I saw of Key West was scary in a Beale St./Bourbon St., whatever other B street filled with frozen drink revelers, way. We didn’t have time to dig for charm. And it took so long to get there that by the time we turned around and left it was already approaching 10pm. I feared it might be slim pickings on Rt. 1 Sunday night. So, we hightailed it to Big Pine Key hoping that the pub in their name might save us with a reasonable closing time (11pm, as it turned out).

PubwallWrong as it seemed, pizza definitely appeared to be their thing. Everyone had pies on their tables, along with pitchers of beer. I always take the opportunity to order a pitcher since they tend to be scarce in NYC. Plus, they’d already turned off the deep fryer, which ruled out most of the seafood side of the menu. It was our second attempt that day to try conch fritters. A pier side bar we’d stopped at earlier claimed to have run out. It was very suspicious. Did we look like people who should be denied conch fritters?

I can’t believe I got my way with the ham and pineapple, maybe James was too beat to argue. It’s not always easy convincing others of the beauty of “Hawaiian” food.

And the best part was the pitch black, windy drive on back roads back to the main highway. On the way down, I’d thought all the signs about deer crossing were bullshit (it’s not like I saw any alligators) but it turns out key deer are real, not a jackalope farce. All sorts of tiny, german shepherd-sized creatures popped into bushes as we drove past.

No Name Pub * North Watson Blvd., Big Pine Key, FL

Confiteria Buenos Aires Bakery & Café

1/2 I seem to have it in my head that I love South American bakeries even though Chilean San Antonio Bakery is the only one in NYC I’ve actually been to. There’s an Uruguayan one in Woodside that’s perpetually on my to try list. In the spring, I attempted another Uruguayan bakery that I think was called La Nueva but it had turned Italian and was covered in a Grand Opening banner. I picked up a tasty mini cheesecake but that wasn’t my original goal.

Confiteria_buenos_airesSo, perhaps it’s a bit premature to declare my love of South American bakeries but Confiteria Buenos Aires in Miami certainly bolstered my feelings. I like these places because on the surface they them seem to be all about sweets, yet they also tend to have interesting sandwiches and sell imported groceries from behind the counter like an old-timey mercantile.

On Labor Day proper, The Miami café was bustling enough to require taking a number. Fine by me because I like order and it prevents awkward and frequently inaccurate NYC-style sideways lining up. I was overwhelmed with choice and could only pick a few things because a cubano was scheduled for our next stop.

Confiteria_buenos_aires_cookiesI wish I knew what things were called but there wasn’t any signage and everyone even the least Hispanic-looking (I know that’s a ridiculous call with Argentina since the population is heavily European in origin) customers spoke fluent Spanish. That’s something that struck me about Miami compared to NYC. You certainly hear Spanish here but not to the same degree. Even in the Keys, at a seafood shack, all of the diners and waiters were speaking Spanish. I would definitely get up to speed with my language skills quicker in Florida.

We got an OK spinach empanada, a ham and cheese sandwich that was dazzlingly sweet/savory (one of the world’s best flavor duos) because it was on sugared crackly pastry like a napoleon, and an incredibly dense dulce de leche roll. You could barely even cut it with a plastic fork the caramel was so thick.



Others seemed to be enjoying a breaded chicken cutlet sandwich, eggy tortilla/quiche wedges, and what appeared to be croquettes of some sort. There was a stack of crustless tea sandwiches in a domed refrigerated countertop case. Those never tend to be that exciting (except for the bizarre England by way of Malaysia interpretations with prawn sambal) but I do wonder what the fillings were. I should’ve picked up some alfajores. So many should haves, would haves. I’m just glad that we didn’t skip over this seemingly non-essential shop.

Confiteria Buenos Aires Bakery & Café * 7134 Collins Ave., Miami, FL

Habanos Cafe

A cubano at Latin American Cafeteria was first on my agenda, post-disembarkment. But it wasn’t meant to be. I’ve never experienced a two-plus hour wait for a rental car, and I’m still not sure if that was a uniquely Miami pain in the ass or a typical Labor Day weekend trauma. Not only was I starving by 4pm but also concerned that we were going to ruin our 9pm dinner appetites with hefty sandwiches (assuming we eventually got them).

Habanos_cafeWell, we followed the directions to the address I had looked up and there was no Latin American Cafeteria to be found (though we did pass one about twenty blocks before reaching our intended destination). Being exhausted, sweaty and defeated, we gave up and decided to eat at Habanos Café, the casual Cuban restaurant residing at the address. Driving back twenty blocks would've been too ennervating at this point. After taking a seat on the more formal side, which was hardly stuffy; it was simply tables and chairs rather than counter and stools, we discovered that cubanos weren’t on the menu. Argh. My first impressions of Miami were not stellar.

Fine. I was hungry enough to eat a full on meal anyway. And frankly, the food was considerably better than the frumpy décor and geriatric clientele belied. Not to say that old frumps necessarily have bad taste, but it’s hard to banish the cranky early bird special stereotypes.

Habanos_cafe_lechon_and_moros For me, keeping it light involved beans, rice, yuca and roast pork, just eschewing an appetizer for good measure. The moros had to have had pork fat in them because instead of dry graininess, they were soft and dare I say succulent (ok, I don’t dare—that word drives me crazy even when it involves plants). They weren’t like filler, the way I usually treat them, but could be a meal alone. The fried yuca was different that I was accustomed to, also. Usually, the starchiness requires a glass of water nearby. These were creamy inside rather than chewy and the exterior crackingly crisp. I was only going to eat half of my lechon, but that didn’t happen either; there wasn’t a dry strip in the pile or pork.

I attempted to revive myself with a cafecito and marveled at what tasty food could be found at unremarkable restaurants. Perhaps Miami could redeem itself.

Habanos Café * 9796 SW 24th St., Miami, FL


At least one “nice” dinner should be squeezed into a vacation, even if it’s just an extended weekend jaunt. But where in Miami? No offense to savvy residents but message boards weren’t much help. I couldn’t trust the posters’ judgment and knew I was in trouble when I glanced at the top five most booked restaurants on Open Table and three were Seasons 52, a Darden chain (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, et al.), a fact strategically absent from their website. Sure, I love me some chains but this wasn’t what I’d had in mind.

Not good, and I wasn’t about to touch a flashy clone like Nobu or Table 8 either. In fact, I wasn’t gung ho on South Beach at all. We never set foot or tire within the area, at least not that I was aware of. I did look at the ocean and walked in sand for maybe 60 seconds near a mini South American enclave, though.

I eventually settled on Michy’s, a restaurant I hadn’t initially considered because of the celebrity chef. But then I had to remind myself of how stupid that was considering that Michelle Bernstein hasn’t been on Food Network in a million years and her guest judge appearance on season two’s Top Chef hardly tarnished her image. Melting Pot was from a different era. Michelle Bernstein wouldn’t pose covered in tomato sauce or demonstrate her Latina-ness by becoming the Colombian Rachael Ray.

I think the restaurant is in what they call the design district, but it just looked like a commercial strip with lots of low rent motels advertising HBO and waterbeds like you find in downtown Las Vegas. The young, bossy M.B.A. seated next to us (I’m always seated next to an M.B.A., it seems) described the area as “gritty” to his date that he was only mildly impressing. Maybe it had something to do with his telling her what she was going to eat and insisting on doing all the ordering. I’d describe the décor more beyond being cheerily stylish and cozy but apparently they’re closing and remodeling in the middle of this month. It could be wildly different in October. Even though the restaurant was hardly a scene, it was packed and there were plenty of dresses barely covering ass cheeks and skin tanned to shades of wet clay.

Earlier, James had been grilling me about what kind of food Michy’s served and I couldn’t answer. It’s not like anything, no one ethnicity or style. New American? Small Plates? That tells you nothing other than the aesthetic. I’d hate to label the cuisine as comfort food, though that’s close; it’s the kind of food that’s good to eat, uh, ok? Rich and decadent…or maybe that’s just how I ordered.

Portions are available in full and halves and since we still had moros, yucca and lechon yet to be digested, we ordered four half sizes. Plus a shared dessert, it was right on. We, which is to say I, also chose a bottle of Albariño, which seemed to garner a strong approval from our waitress. But it also wrongly pegged James as knowing something about wine so he did the tasting and all of that and when I ordered an after dinner glass of Moscato d'Asti I was informed that it was sparkling like I was a know nothing. Ahem.


Blue cheese and jamon croquetas with fig marmalade. For some reason I thought these contained smoked duck, but that is not so according to MenuPages (restaurants with no websites stymie me). I’m relieved because I couldn’t taste any duck. The ham was just a hint. Really, these were like awesome, sophisticated mozzarella sticks. Fig jam blows marinara away for its dipping properties.


Orecchiette with duck sausage and herbed ricotta. This isn’t listed online so I could be off. I never order pasta at restaurants because it seems like a boring carby waste but this was reasonably sized and it’s kind of hard to resist game sausage.


Steak frite, a.k.a. churrasco with fries and béarnaise and au poivre dipping sauces. Yes, fries and béarnaise, not to mention steak, are heavy as heck. But all three were nearly rendered cute in this abbreviated form. A few slices of beef and a handful of fries never killed anyone. The béarnaise was much preferred over the au poivre.


Yellowtail with bok choy and shiitake broth. We stepped out of the fatty, creamy theme with this one. I think the bok choy was the only substantial vegetable we ate during this meal. The tuna was flaky and as delicate as it looked.


I wasn’t about to try the warn a.k.a. molten chocolate cake and didn’t want to do the bread pudding even though it seemed like their signature. The cuatro leches caught my attention because four is better than three, right? If I’m correct, dulce de leche is the extra dairy component. And coupled with baked Alaska? It was a must. The meringue was described as soft, which I didn’t understand until I poked it. The edges were all toasted golden but the mushroom-like mound was pliable, not chalky like those fat free meringue cookies you find at Trader Joe’s. The light egg white blob went well with the caramelly cake and pool of fruit-studded sauce. My bubbly Italian wine wasn’t so bad with it either.

Michy's * 6927 Biscayne Blvd. Miami, FL