Cara Mia Trattoria

Looking for Miami restaurants near Art Basel fairs in Midtown, Design District, and Miami Beach? There are a lot of good places, but I had strict criteria – to be able to eat well, regain some tranquility as they’re off the radar screen (and less likely to have long waits), most are casual eateries, they don’t bust the budget (higher priced dining spots are starred), and, very importantly,  you can walk there from the fairs or, in the case of Pulse, take public transport. Here’s my selection of places I’ve vetted. All restaurants are open for lunch and dinner unless otherwise noted:

 South Beach near the Convention Center (17th street):

Semilla, 1330 Alton Road , a gastropub at the hands of talented Michelin pedigree chef Frederic Joulin. Frederic pays homage to his French roots in some of the dishes, presentations, and use of sauces, but Peruvian influences are not far behind. Choose to eat at the bar for a quick bite or grab a table.  The happy hour offers $6 glasses of wine and bar bites. (Dinner only)

Cara Mia Trattoria, 1040 Alton Road, a small, intimate Italian restaurant where the food is reliably good, portions are just right, service is excellent and prices translate to very good value.  Standout dishes include spaghetti carbonara and, for dessert, a home made light, airy marscapone cheesecake. There’s an early bird special from 5 to 7 p.m.

**The Traymore , 2445 Collins Avenue. This new entry on the Miami scene will be my stop for lunch. Their mantra is “silence is the new luxury” and I’ll be ready for that after the main event. In the well curated menu fresh, sustainable seafood stars. If you’re a gin drinker, what’s billed as a Gin Bar alone should be on your “to do” list, what with its 40 different  choices, from an aged variety to craft offerings from Europe and the US.  There’s also a special  COMO Shambala wellness menu with dishes like chilled soba noodles with raw yellowfin tuna, seaweed and avocado with Japanese inspired dressing and the seared spiced salmon with chopped cauliflower, quinoa and pomegranate salad with smokey eggplant puree. Indoor and outdoor seating.

Indomania , 131 26th street (right off of Collins Avenue),If you’re looking for something different, this is the place for Indonesian rijstaffel.A rijstaffel which means “rice table” in Dutch is a self contained meal with small plates, here as many as 17, which can include seafood, meats, chicken, vegetables, fruit, pickles and nuts. Just about every taste sensation and texture are represented — sweet, salty, spicy, chewy, crispy, on and on.Although the dishes served come from Indonesia, with its multi-cultural influences, its origins are colonial, created by the Dutch to provide guests with a wide array of dishes at a single setting and to impress them with the exotic abundance of their colony. Indomania offers a choice of vegetarian, seafood, pork and beef varieties. (Dinner only)

 

 Miami Beach (40’s and 70’s), NADA and PULSE fairs:

 

Mixtura, 7118 Collins Avenue. One of the better Peruvian restaurants in a town of many, this eatery has a wide menu of ceviches, crudos and tiraditos , even a vegetarian selection of ceviche.

Fifi’s Place Seafood Restaurant, 6934 Collins Avenue They offer just about everything you can image with seafood – from classic seafood parrillada (a medley of lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, and mussels) and paella to seafood soup, pastas, ceviches, tartares and more. Then there’s a selection of choices for the carnivore crowd . The signature dish is whole fish done as you like it (fried is the signature dish). Team that up with a glass of Albarino or your other favorite white and you’ll be ready to make your next art foray.Indoor and outdoor seating.

Little Brazil, 6984 Collins Avenue . When I go to a Brazilian restaurant I always wonder what with the hearty (and delicious) dishes, how the Brazilian beauties manage to maintain their lithe figures. You come here to eat well and be fortified with family style food, very tasty, and a good deal.  The four page menu has more than enough choices to suit the most demanding tastes – like ten varieties of meat, nine kinds of chicken and 16 different dishes of seafood. A fave of mine here is the churrasco, grilled skirt steak served with sauteed onions, mushrooms or heart of palm with vegetables . An unusual selection of fresh fruit juices too.

 

Midtown

I happen to love Sugarcane but, being right there practically next to Art Miami, it’s always a scene. Newcomer Bocce named for its bocce court, has looked good to me but I haven’t yet tried it out.

Kouzina, 3535 N.E. 2nd Avenue straddles Midtown and the Design District, out of sight and not well known. I’ve always eaten well here, usually a branzino and greek salad or one of the daily specials. The Greek chef, Alexa Apostolidistakes features traditional dishes her grandmother made and adds an exciting new take, whether it’s new herbs or an ingredient not usually paired with a particular dish. Menu items are inspired by the cuisines of different Greek islands — so you have Dakos from Crete with barley bread, fresh crushed tomatoes, mountain oregano and creamy feta you didn’t know could be so good or Santorini chicken. Hot and cold Meze, appetizers, are standouts and the branzino is always a good bet. Team your meal up with a Retsina Greek wine and you’ll be dreaming of Greece. Whatever you do save room for the Greek yogurt with wildflower honey and walnuts. Indoor and outdoor seating.

 

Design District:

Buena Vista Deli, 4590 N.E.2nd Avenue. This super casual spot is a French deli bakery where the specialties are home baked goods and pastries. Think salads, sandwiches, a quiche of the day, croissants and other French favorites. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. Good for breakfast too. A serious foodie friend of mine swears by the almond croissants. Indoor and outdoor seating.

 

Brickell Avenue:

Though none of the art fairs are here I’m including this for those who are staying at hotels in the area. Once you return to your hotel in the later afternoon, I recommend walking to restaurants around Brickell. There are some very good options and you’ll avoid what is likely to be serious traffic.

 

**Tamarina, 600 Brickell Avenue. Open for a little over a month, this is a stylish, sophisticated space infused with European contemporary design sensibilities. Think a color palette of rich aubergine, and charcoal grey with white accents, strategically placed mirrors, and a semi private dining area for 12 people that’s separated by a diaphanous curtain that is in itself 22 feet high.But enough on the décor; now for the food. The menu reminds me of what you’d find in an Italian brasserie, though with a more creative presentation thanks to the Spanish born chef Israel Mora, formerly of Zuma. Crudos, oysters and pastas are the specialty here, with welcome twists in what is offered in other fine restaurants around town. There’s also a crudo bar. (Note: Check my review tomorrow).Indoor and outdoor seating.

**Toscana Divino, 900 South Miami AVenue. This casually elegant Tuscan inspired restaurant never disappoints in the food or service.A favorite starter is the burrata. It’s served as one of the selections of Salumi and Formaggi along with other cheeses and hams (one, three or five in an order). For entrees, you can’t go wrong with any of the pastas or risottos. A favorite — not just of mine but many were ordering it —  is the lombata d’ agnello (roasted lamb loin) and, for fish lovers, the branzino is a good choice. Executive Chef Julian Alexander has a tasting menu and signature Osso Bucco for two.  The decor is casually elegant and stylish, with a play on natural materials and textures and  fashion accessories on display (products of Tuscany). Choose to eat indoors at a  table or bar seating or outdoors.

**Oceanaire, , 900 South Miami Avenue. The star here is fresh fish prepared as you like it or creative takes thanks to Jamaican born Executive Chef Kareem Anguin. Want something different? Try the chef’s specialty, jerk wahoo. It’s marinated in jerk spices, smoked and then grilled, served with pineapple chutney on a bed of sweet potato puree.  Like American style desserts? This is the place. If you’re lucky they’ll have Baked Alaska on the menu. The decor is contemporary and, no surprise, nautical. Tables are well spaced and comfortable. There’s also outdoor seating and the deals at happy hour are among the best in  town and last until closing.

Perfecto , 1450 Brickell Avenue. Perfecto is a Gastrobar, the US outpost of a very successful group of restaurants from Barcelona. So here, not surprisingly, you find a large tapas menu as well as several large plates.  The tapas are large enough for two to share. For starters and on the “don’t miss list” is the fuet sausage, 5 Jotas jamon serrano (the “caviar” of Spanish ham) and the marinated tomato tartare. A first sight you’d think it was a beef tartare as the tomatoes are finely chopped, molded, and garnished with fried onions and  thin slivers of crunchy breadsticks. Another good bet is the cochinillo, baby pig with mashed potatoes and olive sauce. And now for the setting: soaring ceilings, walls paneled in a rustic light wood, abundant bouquets of  white hydrangea, open kitchen and 360 degree bar. And best of all is the music – cool, loungey with just the right vibe and never overpowering. If they sold the CD of the music, I’d have bought one. Indoor and outdoor seating.

Moye, 829 SW 1st Avenue  . If you ever went to Sardinia In South Beach, then note that this is the newest offering of the owners of that successful eatery. Here they’re featuring the cuisine of Apulia known for its cheeses, fish and wines. Do not miss the house made burrata, straciatella and mozzarella, zucchini flan and pastas. Solid selection of meats as well.  Eat here once and you’ll be back, I promise.

I’ve written about all of these restaurants except Buena Vista Deli,  so if you want to know more, go to “Food” in the archives. Now if you want to celebrate, as in special occasions or maybe because you bought a major piece of art or scored a great deal, click here for a list of the 6 best places to celebrate. Looking for nifty happy hour spots? Here are my lists, Part I and Part II of where to go.

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