By Linda Bladholm
We’ve got more cheap places to eat in Miami for you, hidden gems. Check out these affordable eats, Part 2, curated by Linda Bladholm, a columnist for the Miami Herald . Here are her exciting picks, from Korean and Trinidadian to Peruvian, Colombian hot dog joint, Serbian and more! All are family run, no big chains, where the emphasis is on home made food in no frills to smart spaces. Price point is $20 or less with no alcohol. For Part 1 of this series, click here.
Peruvian Divino Ceviche is on the pedestrian-only stretch of Giralda Avenue in the City Beautiful. The name means “divine” and you are in for some heavenly ceviche on an evolving menu. I recently had choritos a la chalaca bringing china spoons filled with a few mussels in lime juice with choclo (giant white corn), diced tomato and cilantro to slurp down. There’s also shots of leche de tiger ceviche juice, good with cancha (roasted corn) with mint and aji amarillo sauces. I also like the chicken causa, a small scoop of mashed yellow potato topped with shredded chicken in a creamy mayo sauce.
Get the ceviche trio with corvina and shrimp with aji amarillo sauce, lavender olive sauce and spicy rocoto chile sauce. For a Peruvian-Japanese fusion get sea bass marinated in lime juice with soy, sesame oil, ginger and scallions. My dining companion, J, who doesn’t do raw fish enjoyed the fried corvina balls. The Chinese-style chaufa Amazonico is fried rice with sweet banana, scrambled egg and bits of smoked pork. End with the poetically named suspiro de limena or “sigh of a young girl of Lima”, caramel pudding topped with meringue. Walk to 160 Giralda Avenue Coral Gables, 786-360-3775, open Sunday-Thursday noon-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday noon-11 p.m. A sister location is at 2629 NW 79th Avenue, Doral.
Enjoy the Balkan party held all day Tuesdays at Rakija Lounge. My friend M who is from Montenegro brought me and we toasted many Serbs, Bosnians and Croatians with glasses of rakija like it was a U.N. peace party. The courtyard garden is between two art deco hotels on South Beach. There are burgers, pasta and pizza but I come for the Serbian specialties. It is mandatory to toast with a small glass of rakija fruit brandy here. Then I get the ustipci, a doughnut served with kajmak (clotted cream). Burek is a snail-shaped pastry stuffed with feta and cottage cheese served with ajvar, a smoky roasted red pepper and eggplant spread.
Cevapi are grilled beef sausages served in pita with kajmak and ajvar. Plejeskavica are thin burger patties. I had to try a dish named after a former ruling dynasty: the karadjordjeva schnitzel. Pounded pork cutlets are rolled up with kajmak, breaded and fried. Sarma are cabbage leaf parcels stuffed with ground beef and rice in tomato sauce with mashed potatoes. Alexandria Riesling made in Macedonia pairs well with. It has an aroma of honey and citrus with complex floral flavors and sweet finish but ask as it is not on the wine list. Rakija is at 1131 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-709-0739, open 9:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily.
For a taste of Trinidad, I head to Chokas. You are on island time now. The Persad family who run it are from Port-of-Spain. The name refers to an Indian dish of roasted and mashed vegetables. My must get is buss up shut paratha roti with tender flaky layers of dough cooked on a griddle beaten with flat sticks called dablas to create what looks like a torn shirt. It got its name as the TV show The Hulk was very popular on the island with the Hulk busting out of a shirt. Use the bread to scoop up potato and mashed chickpea or goat curry.
I come on the weekend for pineapple jerk chicken in creamy BBQ sauce served in a pineapple shell. Roti are rolled like a plump burrito with chicken, beef, goat, spiny lobster tail or shrimp curry with sides of potato-chickpea curry and steamed cabbage. Plant eaters can get the veggie roti stuffed with cabbage and potato chickpea. This is the only place to get stewed shredded oxtail in a roti with house made hot pepper sauce that I know of. End with sweet moist pone made from grated yuca and coconut. Chokas Caribbean Restaurant is at 710 Washington Avenue, Suite #3, Miami Beach, 305-432-7477, open Monday-Thursday noon-11 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to midnight.
Anthony Bourdain visited La Perrada de Edgar, a Colombian hotdog joint. I brought him as I knew Edgar Gomez and Tony would click. See it for yourself on the video, a tribute turned memorial. Get the Edgar special, a Colombian-style dog with melted mozzarella and dried pineapple, plums, blackberries and whipped cream that is strangely delicious. There’s ceviche with shrimp in lightly spiced tomato-based sauce reminiscent of what you’d find along the coasts of Colombia plus tamales, quesadillas and arepas.
But here it all about the wiener. I often start with the sausage trio platter. Perhaps the German, Italian and Swiss with sauerkraut or coleslaw. I also can’t resist the salchipapa, small boiled yellow potatoes with chopped up sausage. Hotdogs here are all beef. I go for the Chilean topped with mashed avocado and tomatoes. The most interesting is the Japanese dog. It comes with melted cheddar, rice, zucchini and egg with pink sauce and wasabi garnished with potato sticks. Nothing like anything I ate in Japan but very tasty with a bit of kick. Also on offer here are natural juices and smoothies. I favor lulu juice made from a fruit in the nightshade family that tastes like lemon, rhubarb and pineapple. La Perrada is located at 6976 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 305-866-4543. Open daily from noon to midnight.
Bistro Bulgogi is a Korean resto with a sleek interior in neutral tones. The logo is an upside down fork bursting with a flame. I come for the unpretentious Korean food and start with the crispy shrimp and scallion jeon pancake made from a light flour and egg batter. I also like the japchae, a stir-fry of glass noodles with onions, beef and bell pepper. There’s also steamed mandu. These are half moon-shaped dumplings stuffed with ground pork served with mango-ponzu salsa.
I use the traditional steel chopsticks to dig into kalbi, Korean-style short ribs. They are marinated in a fruity soy mixture then grilled in the cast iron pan. Dip them in hot-sweet gochjang paste and gnaw off the bone. Bulgogi means “fire beef” with thin slices marinated in a sweet soy mixture and grilled over high heat. Try bibimbap with bulgogi dilsot. It comes in a hot stone bowl so a rice crust forms. Stir in beef bulgogi, mushrooms, vegetables and an egg. Bulgogi assam is a wrap with a choice of marinated pork or beef with scallions for rolling in herbaceous perilla leaves. The frozen shaved soft-serve ice cream resembles an edible lichen. Located at 1450 NW 87th Avenue, Suite #108, Doral, 305-456-2804. Open Monday-Friday 11: 30 a.m.-3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m., Saturday 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m.