New Year and you’re not feeling flush, with money that is. Here’s a list of my favorite cheap eats Miami. As I write in “About my blog”, quality doesn’t have to be pricey. These places have very good food, and you can eat lunch and/or dinner for around $20 a person exclusive of alcohol. None is a national restaurant chain, and all have seats to eat in. Love to hear your suggestions, too, for your favorite spots.
Lung Yai Thai Tapas is my newest find, thanks to good friends who are regulars. It reminded me of the non touristy, out of the way places you can find in Thailand, in its no frills ambiance, cooked in front of you dishes, and menu. The large menu is divided into snacks, salads, spicy Thai curry (in the red, green, panang, and massaman varieties), soups, chef’s recommendations, wok stirred fried noodles and rice and Northern Thai specialties. There are also add ons for $2 including different kinds of rice, omelette, and pork crackling. I had the generous portion of crispy just fried oyster mushrooms and savory green curry with chicken made with a light green sauce with eggplant, bamboo shoots, green peas, bell peppers and basil. It came with white rice.
Friends had the traditional green papaya salad and crispy duck salad and Mr. W loved his Khao Soi Gai, egg noodles in golden curry topped with crispy noodles, coriander, red onions and braised beef . Everything was super tasty, and had a spicy kick, but was just right. There’s seating at the slim bar or in a few tables outside. Lunch is served Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 3; dinner from 5 p.m. daily except Monday. Very important, there are no reservations. If you don’t want to wait a long time, especially on the weekends, get there at 5 p.m. when it opens, and put your name on the list. Also, note that you have to order all your dishes at once. Wine and liquor are offered. It’s a great place to go before or after a movie at the Tower Theater. 1731 SW 8th Street (T.786-334-6262).
Amsterdam Falafel in South Miami you’ve read about before. I returned recently and found it as good as ever. You can have the falafel (deep fried balls of chick peas) in a bowl that you fill up with toppings, or in a sandwich on a pita bread.There are more than two dozen toppings and sauces, allowing over four million combinations, spicy and mild. The choices are varied with lots of spicy sauces and toppings alongside mild ones. Options include cucumber with red onion, cucumber with tomatoes, red cabbage, crunchy onions, Baba Ganoush (cooked eggplant salad), chickpea salad, hummus, fried eggplant, garlic and parsley, and many pickled vegetables including cauliflower, beets and turnips.
No lack of sauces and dressings as well, including hot pepper paste, tomato salsa, tahini, tzatziki (yogurt sauce) and garlic cream. Both the bowl and pita are absolutely delicious, though the sandwich has a slight edge because of the melding of all of the flavors.
B & M Market is a Jamaican grocery store that happens to have an eatery in the back, with a few tables and bar stools.And according to co-owner Nafeeza Ali, it is one of the first and longest-running West Indian grocery stores in Miami. Its serious claim to fame is that Anthony Bourdain ate here with Michelle Bernstein, spending seven hours to sample everything from oxtail and curried goat to salt fish and ackee. Its devotees come from all over town to eat their daily lunch specials and utterly delicious rotis, crepe like pancakes filled with savory stuffings that can include everything from beef, vegetables and jerk chicken to goat and shrimp. We tried the stewed chicken lunch special ($5), a very tasty dish served with cabbage and coconut rice and beans . Our favorite was the roti, a good sized portion with two well stuffed rotis.
Team anything up with a side of fried plantains, rice or beef, chicken or vegetable patties and green salad. For a real Jamaican eating experience try the callaloo (a dark green leafy vegetable) and saltfish with boiled bananas, yams and dumplings. Wash it all down with a homemade juice of ginger beer, sorrel or fresh Irish moss. It’s open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m; Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. B & M Market, 219 N.E.79th Street. T.619-702-9309. There’s free parking next door.
Basilic Vietnamese Grill. While the other places are more “eateries”, this is a restaurant. You know it’s authentic by the number of Asians who eat here.The place is comfortable (choose a banquette), spacious, and service is good. Find a wide variety of traditional Vietnamese dishes – the pork belly buns, shrimp rolls, noodle dishes, all matter of protein entrees with spicy lemongrass, wok tossed green mussels and salads . As soon as you sit down they serve you a basket of crispy shrimp crackers.
I always come here for the the iconic Pho, a meal in a dish. There are 9 varieties including the classic made with beef broth or chicken broth with shrimp, pork, meatball or chicken (breast or grilled) and rice noodles. It’s topped with cilantro and green onion with bean sprouts, Thai basil, lime, and a selection of hot sauces on the side. Also don’t miss the Banh Mi, a crispy baguette filled with a variety of ingredients, including meat, pickled vegetables, and chili peppers. The restaurant is about two blocks from the Costco in a strip mall, also with Total Wine. 14734 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami Beach (T.305) 944-0577). They also have a sister restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.
Finally, a favorite is 1-800-LUCKY Asian food hall in Wynwood. For more information, click here for my earlier review.