Five Guy's Burgers: 1500 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Having been starved off my BA flight (2 meals in almost 10 hours with not an offer of a peanut in between), upon arrival at Miami, I was starting to eye off passing limbs as I made my way to Five Guy's Burgers. Lucky for me, The Peanut Gallery had cased out the South Beach scene the night before, and recommended I sample a wee burger as a pre-dinner emergency snack.
I ordered the "small" cheese burger with lettuce, tomato, pickle and ketchup (although choose your own adventure with the toppings at no extra charge). Greasy, juicy, flavoursome, delicious. Looks somewhat disturbingly like a Maccas burger, but tastes in a whole different league. Just the right beef to fat ratio (which according to Marco Pierre White, should be 80:20 and I'm not inclined to argue). And it turns out "small" simply means 1 normal sized patty as opposed to "large" which involves 2 double decker slabs of meat (tempting...).
A big box of unshelled peanuts is available on a help yourself basis to crack and nibble while you wait. And chips are served peel on. I like it! Less than $3-something for the "small" (but not really small) burger.
Miss Yip Chinese Cafe: 1661 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Despite the funky interior, Miss Yip was not all style over substance. Big chunks of sesame chicken with broccoli were addictively delicious, and the sweet and sour shrimp were big, buxom and packed with flavour. There's lots to choose from on the "Hong Kong inspired" menu.
Along with sake (not a good match) and rice, eat fairly cheaply for around $15 per head.
David's Cafe: 1654 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
Just across the road from Miss Yip, David's Cafe offers Cuban cuisine served in an extremely basic (borderline grotty) setting.
On the prowl for a decent morning caffeine heart-starter, it was hard to go past David's with the gathering hordes queuing out the front for their morning fix. The cortaditos were formidable (Cuban coffee in the form of a strong short black with about 25% frothy warm milk). Yeeehaaah.
With some interesting Cuban brekkie options on the menu, but the hope of some significant meals on the day's agenda, it took some willpower to stick to the Cuban toast - long thin (rather dry) bread served with jam and, as a consequence of minor theft from TPG's plate, a generous dollop of cream cheese (my own spontaneous American-Cuban fusion). 3 coffees, 1 large Cuban toast, 1 bagel and 1 OJ later the bill came to less than $10 for two. Did I mention how much I loved the cortaditos?
The Spot: 1570B Alton Road, Miami Beach, Florida, USA
I am probably one of only a chosen few who have ever taken a taxi from a luxury, poolside cocktail bar specifically to get to The Spot. A tiny, non-descript takeaway style joint, I would definitely not have shot The Spot a second glance had I not heard the good oil from other trusted foodies (thanks Frodnesor).
But, as is often the case, it's the quiet types that you have to watch. In the case of The Spot, it is bang on the money when it comes to simple (heart attack inspiring) food that hits, well, the spot.
The Spot serves a simple menu of soul/Southern food. I was not leaving without indulging in The Spot Shrimp Po' Boy. About 35,000 kilos of fried shrimp, lettuce and mayo walloped my way, crammed happily into a long crunchy roll. "Just use your fork to squash it in, grab some napkins and eat it" offered the helpful counter guy. So, I did.
As the mayo dripped down my face, I also sampled the side of the day: the black eyed peas. Cooked with bacon and onion, this was a mushy little concoction of no particular flavour or merit, although - true to form - I ate it all the same.
Po' boy ($8), mush and giant forearm sized lemonade came to a hefty $18 bill, presumably including a decent tip (although I was so busy talking through with the staff the possibility of having a Po' Boy delivered to the beach, that I paid this sum plus a considerable extra post shrimp delirium tip without calculating.)
After some serious beach time (alas, no Po' Boy delivery for afternoon tea - this time...), it was necessary to gather my thoughts over a well made martini at the luxurious Delano Hotel (the foyer alone is a sight to be seen), backed up nicely by a refreshing mohito at the Shore Club's Skybar, which was everything a glitzy Miami meat market should be.
Then it was over the bridge towards the glistening lights of downtown Miami and the Design District to the main event...
Michael's Genuine Food and Drink: 130 North East 40th Street, Miami Design District, Florida, USA
I was eating solo, and willing to travel for a hearty bite. Tucked away in the artsy Miami Design District, Michael's Genuine Food and Drink is well worth the cab fare from South Beach across the Biscayne Bay.
Michael Schwartz's restaurant is a popular, bustling Miami institution for those seeking great quality, locally sourced food a world away from the South Beach scene. I perched myself up at bar overlooking the frenetic kitchen. As the tickets rolled in at an alarming pace, before a morsel had even passed my lips, I was already in heaven watching the kitchen theatre play out. Cries of "chicken in the hole" and "2 grouper" rang out, as pizza bases were tossed and rolled, the enormous pastry chef (a good sign) juggled trays of eggs and spliced through dough, trays of giant wood oven roasted whole snapper sprung over the counter, and the woodfire flames burned merrily throughout.
Dishes are conveniently layed out on the menu in terms of size: small (ranging from $8 - $15), medium $10 - $20), large ($20 - $30) and extra large ($30 +, and where is The Peanut Gallery when you need him?)
I started with the wood roasted double yolk farm egg, cave aged gruyere, roasted tomato, chives and sourdough crostini. The waiter just smiled and nodded knowingly as I ordered. And it was simply breathtaking (the food, not the smile). A ramekin of soft perfectly formed yolks, were topped with baked earthy gruyere. My entire body was smiling, as I savoured each mouthful never wanting it to end. If I had someone to talk to, I would have been speechless.
Since it had been a light day for food (cough), I eventually moved on to the pan roasted 1/2 "poulet rouge" chicken, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, escarole. Poulet rouge is a rustic chicken breed raised organically, in this case, in parts of America's south. This one had clearly been, via the wood oven, to heaven and back. Crispy skin perfectly encased the juicy, smoky meat. Gorgeous.
For unpretentious, top quality, skilled home cooking, it would be hard to beat Michael's. The kitchen has the confidence to hold back from allowing too much chefyness interfere with simple, pure flavours. Sitting at the bar is spectacular, or you could opt for an alfresco dinner in the courtyard (it's warm in Miami even when its dark and cold in London...). Thanks again to Frodnesor for this much treasured recommendation.
The bill came to $52 including wine - such a small price to pay for perfection and a smile that will last for days.
News Cafe: 800 Ocean Drive, South Beach, Miami, Florida, USA
Breakfast. Time to get some cleansing vitamins in the system. After a stroll along the glamorous Ocean Drive, in the heart of Miami's Art Deco district, I settle on News Cafe to soak up some sun and take in the scene. There are plentiful options on Ocean Drive, which is lined with cafes, hotels and restaurants from glitzy to the fabulous - although food quality may be questionable despite the fact you'll pay over $5 for your latte. News Cafe is one of the more laid back options (less Botox, more Boho), packed with tables spilling on to the sidewalk.
As I was after a refreshingly light and healthy option, I ordered the pancakes with banana and strawberries. As my waiter disappeared onto the horizon, I looked down at my gullet, remembered I was soon to go on show as South Beach's whitest person in a bikini, and promptly had a change of heart. I chased down my waiter for the fruit salad and granola. The fruit was plentiful, and just the health boost I needed, although the granola was a little too sweet. My cortadito was bitter and not a patch on that at David's Cafe, but it did what I needed it to do.
An extensive menu for a casual, basic brekkie - mine came to around $10. News Cafe is not a "must do" on your Miami eats hit list, despite that it seems to have earned some fame, but a stroll along Ocean Drive should not be missed.
Tapas & Tintos: 448 Espanola Way, Miami, Florida, USA
Finally, we joined up with some friends for a last minute lunch at Tapas & Tintos. A hit and miss mix of tapas and salads was no match for the sparkling company.
Greedy Diva's 50 hour whirlwind tour of Miami had come to an end. Not only had I topped up on essential vitamin D stocks to get me through the dark London winter, but Miami was so much more than I had bargained for - loved it, loved it, loved it!
But this is no time for reminiscences. Next stop, New York!