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09 Jul


The Van Dyke Cafe

July 9, 2013 | By |

One of my favorite restaurants on Lincoln Road Mall has to be the Van Dyke Cafe, located at 846 Lincoln Road on the corner of Jefferson Avenue. From the same purveyors of the famous News Cafe on Ocean Drive, The Van Dyke Cafe, offers up a great vantage point for some serious people watching in a charming European setting.

Happy hour is a great time to give them a try, Monday through Friday from 5-7:00 pm. In my opinion, you won’t find a better plate of fried calamari on the beach. ($6.00)

I love this place early in the morning, for coffee and a light breakfast, but if you are a lover of live Blues and Jazz, head upstairs for some great nightly performances. You are sure to have a great time here, but drinks will run you about $14 each outside of happy hour.

Happy Hour Specials: mojitos $6, fried calamari $6, draft beer $3, Sangria $4


16 May


Café Versailles

May 16, 2013 | By |

Spend any amount of time in South Miami and you will quickly notice that it is very rich in its diversity of cultures. South Beach in particular, is a flavourful mix of cultures that come together in this exotic paradise. As you walk on the beach or go for a stroll, you will hear many of the different languages of the world. This mix of cultures makes this place all the more interesting as it draws in people from all over the world.

One such culture that that adds to the spicy dish that is Miami, and cannot be ignored is that of Cuban Americans. One can’t help but notice the influence Cuban’s have on South Florida and in particular, Miami. In fact, one has to understand the role Cuban’s have played in making up this diverse community called Miami in order to really get a sense for this place. Alongside the blonde, and blue eyed Floridians with permanent beach tans, Cubans are at the heart of Miami.

And there is no better place to get a pulse on the Cuban community, than the Versailles Cuban Restaurant. Soon after it opened its doors in 1971, Versailles quickly became the gathering place for Miami’s Cuban exiles.

Go their for the best Cuban food in town, the best “cortaditto” (espresso with milk), and deserts you just can’t resist. My favourite is the dark caramel flan, which I have on a few occasions driven over the bridge from South Beach into town for.

Upon my first visit to Versailles,I walked into the traditional open window café where you come as close to Cuba while in the U.S.A. I was greeted by a local that immediately welcomed me to this cultural meeting place. “Benvenido” he said, welcoming me to this place, as though he was the owner of the establishment. I later realized that he was just a patron, but that this was no ordinary place. This place was special and was home to the community of Cuban American’s.

I don’t want to sound overly pariotic, I am a Canadian after all, but this place embodies “the American dream’. And although the Cuban men in double pocketed white shirts spend hours in front of the old open café window, talking politics, one can’t help but appreciate the freedom that has made America what it is today.

Every time I am down here, their is a story, still to this day, of the ordeal and danger that Cubans take on as they appear on the local news with images of dozens of Cuban escapees huddled together in makeshift rafts. We see the ones that thankfully make it to the American shore, but Versailles Café pays honour to the men and women that never had the chance to realize their same freedom.

The Versailles restaurant and café is located in Little Havana and worth the visit. On most afternoons, a charming older gentleman dances to the sounds of Cuba with his lovely mannequin partner, that never misses a step.

I recommend the Versailles Classico, and you cannot leave without having a café Bustello cortaditto with a dark mouth watering caramel flan.


25 Mar


Where to eat in South beach

March 25, 2013 | By |

I once asked a perceptive, professional observer of Miami’s South Beach restaurant scene why the restaurants there were often so mediocre, generally emphasizing flash over substance—I had just walked out of a place in which extravagant presentations and dramatic, dry ice induced clouds of steam diverted attention from really terrible food.  His answer was that presentation was everything, it’s what the crowd there wanted,  at least on South Beach. (Elsewhere in town, chefs like Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Michelle Bernstein at Michy’s were turning out serious food to appreciative diners.)

If you wanted to stay on the beach but eat really well, then, your choices were limited. But that is certainly changing. Some good new restaurants are imports from New York such as Andrew Carmellini’s The Dutch in the W South Beach or Los Angeles  (Jose Andres’ The Bazaar at the new SLS South Beach)  but others are home grown and ambitious. One of the best:  Florida Cookery at the new James Royal Palm, local chef Kris Wessel’s homage to the area’s cooking on its own, not fused with other cuisines, with some dishes derived from a cookbook published in the 1940’s that he found in his grandmother’s kitchen.  A Floridian whose family goes back 100 years in the area and who previously operated the Miami restaurant Red Light Little River, Wessel is both a James Beard Award dinner and perhaps even more impressive, a winner of the combine crazy ingredients- into- a- winning dish Food Network show “Chopped”  and his dishes are gutsy, vibrant, full of flavor. Favorites from a recent dinner: sticky Guanabana glazed ribs with green papaya slaw, conch chowder, slow braised oxtail and spiny lobster in a dry sherry bisque with green garlic zucchini. The only glitch was the South Floridastaple key lime pie—apparently the pastry chef altered the crust of Wessel’s grandmother’s recipe making it too tough but it was due to be changed back to the original. That’s good news since the filling was perfect, just the right balance between tangy and sweet.

Up Collins Avenue a few blocks from Florida Cookery, another new restaurant is aiming high in quality level as well as price. Tosca won’t win any awards for a light carbon footprint but its menu promises the best ingredients in the world—and they are, indeed, coming in from all over the world: pure Pata Negra Jamon aged 36 months from Spain, 100 year old Aceto Balsamico di Modena from Italy, blue lobsters from Brittany, A5 grade Kobe beef from Japan along with ingredients from artisan producers in the U.S.  To combine them in preparations worthy of their provenance,  executive chef Didier Elena signed on after 20 years with Alain Ducasse, most recently at Adour in New York. The restaurant’s showoff offering: an 11 course tasting menu featuring toro crudo, fettucine with white Alba truffles, Kobe ribeye, etc. It’s very impressive and there isn’t a dry ice vapor in sight.

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