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What is the address for Versailles? Also, can any of you recommend any particularly good cafes in South Beach with free wifi? I do have to do some work. :P

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Hello from Miami. A few quick notes:

Aside from the very modern, somewhat stark rooms, the Shore Club is tres romantic, particularly the garden bar. A shame I'm here solo tonight, and with a colleague tomorrow... The grounds are dark to the point of almost being spooky, but I kind of dig it.

There are two restaurants at the Shore Club and after doing a quick walk down Collins and over Lincoln and not having anything catch my eye, I dined at...both of my hotel's spots. No regrets (other than the bill, perhaps).

First I walked into what I thought was Ago, and ordering and receiving a glass of wine, I asked for a menu. On the cover? Nobu. Oops. A lot of the hotel is that way, poorly marked and near-intimidating. I mean, who wants to ask for directions to a hotel restaurant? It should be obvious, right? :P

Well, it's not. Because I'm not a sushi person (and because I will probably have dinner at Nobu tomorrow night with my colleague and business contacts), I ordered a few snacks before moving on to Ago. I loved my avocado tempura (although I wish it had just a hint of salt). One of the two pieces of asparagus, a medium-thickness green stalk, was delicious; the white asparagus was so tough that I couldn't get through it with my teeth. THAT was awkward.

With one glass of wine and the previously-described 18% service charge that appears everywhere I have been in Miami to date, my bill was about $25.

At 7, I moved on to Ago just as it opened. Having previously looked at the menu online, I already had a sense of what I'd order and I wasn't about to reduce said order just because I'd had some tempura. :D I started with Ago's burrata which is served with haricot verts, tomatoes and olive oil. The burrata itself gave Dino's a run for its money, HOWEVER I prefer the overall presentation at Dino. Score one for DC (sort of).

Instead of the egg noodles with duck ragu that I planned to order, I was swayed by a special of butternut squash ravioli with butter, sage and asparagus. No regrets there as it was all really delicious (but overall it was a lot of asparagus. For November. Oh well.). Previously I had planned on ordering the cheese plate, however I was too full.

With a glass of wine and the 18% service charge, the bill was ~$66. While not truly expensive, it became clear to me that Miami isn't an inexpensive place to eat. Another glass of wine (the range, I believe, was $10-18 per glass) or a dessert would have made the meal difficult to expense.

I'm not yet sure what I'll do for breakfast as I have deemed room service off-limits. A fruit plate alone is $18 and the french toast + bacon + coffee combo I'd order if left to my own devices would run about $32 (before tax and any service charges). Even paring it down to just oatmeal and water from the minibar (the Shore Club doesn't have a sundries store or any vending machine) would run me ~$18. I could probably pull it off vis a vis work, however it just seems silly.

Still accepting suggestions,

Jennifer

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Where is that? I'm trying to stay somewhere near my hotel before getting ready to drive to Coral Gables for a late morning meeting. I noticed L'Omlette at the nearby Marseille, but can't find any real info about it.

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We were in Coral Gables this weekend and found a great little wine shop and tapas restaurant. Copas & Tapas is located in Coral Gables on Miracle Mile. We had lunch there and had several good dishes. The fried chickpea casserole was excellent on its own or as a spread on some bread. The chorizo empanada was unusual, but good. Instead of the traditional circular-shaped dough patty, the empanada had alternating layers of chorizo and phyllo dough. Garlic shrimp were fresh and there was plenty of sauce left to dip our bread in. There is an extensive list of sandwiches on their menu which looked really good, but we did not try any of them. Their online menu does not reflect all of the tapas that are available. They appeared to have a huge selection of Spanish wines and gourmet foods, although I did not look around too much. If you are in the area, it is a great alternative to the many chain restaurants.

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Day 1 report: it's freakin' 82 degrees here in South Beach! Awesome. After switching back to short-sleeve mode, we drove back to the mainland in search of Garcia's Seafood Grille (398 NW North River Dr., Miami (305) 375-0765), mentioned in Sietsema's postcard. It's a proper riverfront seafood shack, along a relatively industrial stretch of the Miami River, and while we didn't see too many pleasure craft this evening, there were a couple of working fishing boats and tugs heading back upstream past our dockside table.

Garcia's was exactly the way we'd hoped to start our trip. It's a casual place, with a fish counter on the street side, and dining rooms in back, upstairs and outside that are reminiscent of good seafood houses everywhere you find them on the east coast. Fresh catch is listed on chalkboards near the host stands. You'll find fresh lime wedges freely accompanying almost every plate as it comes out.

We jumped into the deep end by starting with fish ceviche, fried cracked conch, a cup of red grouper chowder (sorry Laniloa, I was pretty sure I knew it was on the avoid list after seeing the display at Monterey Bay, but I failed my saving throw :( ), and a pound of large stone crab claws (i.e. four). The conch was tasty and well-fried, but so generously cut that the chewiness was bordering on rubbery, despite actually being pretty tender for conch. The ceviche was superb...very perky, swimming in its fresh lime juice and red onion brunoise. Stone crab is a new experience for me, and whoever prepped these was clearly very experienced at cracking all of the compartments just so, as I really didn't need the cracker tool. The texture is appealing (particularly as claw meat goes), and the meat is moderately sweet, but I didn't find it any more exciting than, say, dungeness. At $26/lb for large claws (rising to $40-something/lb for colossal) it wasn't a terribly good value either.

It was a lot of food, and yet we still (foolishly) had mains coming. I chose one of the daily specials - dolphin (mahi-mahi) in a champagne sauce, with shrimp. The champagne/vegetable sauce, colorful and buttery, added the right amount of spice and juicyness to complement the mahi-mahi, which has that meaty and relatively dry texture of an ocean fish. It worked a lot better than as an unadorned fishsteak in Gubeen's dolphin sandwich, which could have used something moist. For sides we both chose fried sweet plantains (Cuban style, and excellent), and I also chose yellow rice (prepared with a good chunky fish stock). We had no room left for dessert, so we each finished with a strong and delicious cup of café con leche.

We spent $118 plus tip for the two of us...but over half of the food total accounted for the rock crab and my daily special. If you choose with even a modicum of care, you can eat very well for not a lot of money here - a fish sandwich and beer can be had for under ten bucks.

I sense I'll be eating a lot of seafood in the coming week, and yet the Cuban food here is compelling...it's been a long time since I've had its like. We'll see what tomorrow holds, although I suspect we'll be driving south to check out the Miami-Dade Redland Fruit and Spice Park.

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We jumped into the deep end by starting with fish ceviche, fried cracked conch, a cup of red grouper chowder (sorry Laniloa, I was pretty sure I knew it was on the avoid list after seeing the display at Monterey Bay, but I failed my saving throw :( ), and a pound of large rock crab claws (i.e. four). The conch was tasty and well-fried, but so generously cut that the chewiness was bordering on rubbery, despite actually being pretty tender for conch. The ceviche was superb...very perky, swimming in its fresh lime juice and red onion brunoise. Rock crab is a new experience for me, and whoever prepped these was clearly very experienced at cracking all of the compartments just so, as I really didn't need the cracker tool. The texture is appealing (particularly as claw meat goes), and the meat is moderately sweet, but I didn't find it any more exciting than, say, dungeness. At $26/lb for large claws (rising to $40-something/lb for colossal) it wasn't a terribly good value either.
No apologies necessary-- there are many things about that list I don't agree with. The real risk is that you paid for grouper but didn't get it. There has been a big crack down on false sales Gulf-wide. And by rock crab, I think you mean stone crab. We're not having a good year. Spoke with some of the folks from the Keys and despite trap limits, the catch per unit effort is down this year. While both stone and dungeness are both sweet, the big difference for me is that stone shine cold with lime while the texture of dungeness works better for me when hot. Regardless, enjoy. If you take a ride to Key Largo and want to see fish politics in action, the Fish and Wildlife Commission will be meeting on Wed and Thurs.

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I got my stone crab fix from the Fish Peddler (on Commercial east of Federal) when I was in Ft. Lauderdale last weekend. We ate em at the hotel, instead of going out, so it was under $20/lb, which is much more palatable a cost. If you add sides, a pound is plenty for one person for dinner. And their mustard sauce is great!

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No apologies necessary-- there are many things about that list I don't agree with. The real risk is that you paid for grouper but didn't get it. There has been a big crack down on false sales Gulf-wide. And by rock crab, I think you mean stone crab.

Oops, you're absolutely right, and thanks. I had rock shrimp on my mind, and got my wires crossed. Edited to correct :(

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We were in South Beach in August and it continues to fascinate me: Mark's South Beach is an outstanding restaurant yet on a Friday night it was only half full. Driving around South Beach there was not a line anywhere. In fact South Beach seemed to have been virtually abandoned with few if any tourists in town and the locals seeming to shun any restaurant whose entree was more than, say, ten dollars.

The first of December, of course, is different. I hope.

Anyway, Mark's South Beach is Mark Millatello, a Beard winner from many years ago who helped put South Florida on the map with his landmark Mark's Place in North Miami Beach. Later he opened Mark's Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale and then a number of years ago followed this up with his South Beach spot. It is not as good as my memory tells me that Mark's Place was. Still, having said this, it is on par with all but one or two restaurants here-it is truly excellent. (Mark's Place, in the early '90's, was a GREAT American restaurant-one of the best I have been to on this side of the Atlantic.) With Norman's gone (speaking of Coral Gables-Norman Van Aken's WAS the standard by which all others were judged after Mark's Place closed) Mark's South Beach is now the last stand for what some would consider to be great South Florida cuisine. It is worth a visit.

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In fact South Beach seemed to have been virtually abandoned with few if any tourists in town and the locals seeming to shun any restaurant whose entree was more than, say, ten dollars.

The first of December, of course, is different. I hope.

I hope so too. We just got handed another budget cut for my program. Come spend!

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We were in South Beach in August and it continues to fascinate me: Mark's South Beach is an outstanding restaurant yet on a Friday night it was only half full. Driving around South Beach there was not a line anywhere. In fact South Beach seemed to have been virtually abandoned with few if any tourists in town and the locals seeming to shun any restaurant whose entree was more than, say, ten dollars.

The first of December, of course, is different. I hope.

Anyway, Mark's South Beach is Mark Millatello, a Beard winner from many years ago who helped put South Florida on the map with his landmark Mark's Place in North Miami Beach. Later he opened Mark's Las Olas in Ft. Lauderdale and then a number of years ago followed this up with his South Beach spot. It is not as good as my memory tells me that Mark's Place was. Still, having said this, it is on par with all but one or two restaurants here-it is truly excellent. (Mark's Place, in the early '90's, was a GREAT American restaurant-one of the best I have been to on this side of the Atlantic.) With Norman's gone (speaking of Coral Gables-Norman Van Aken's WAS the standard by which all others were judged after Mark's Place closed) Mark's South Beach is now the last stand for what some would consider to be great South Florida cuisine. It is worth a visit.

Nobody wants to be in South Florida in August. Blech.

In Lauderdale, Mark's Las Olas is still great, as is Johnny V's.

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Sunfish Grill is good, too, but I think Mark's South Beach is a step above both his Las Olas location and the Sunfish Grill.

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Since we didn't have an available evening this trip, Gubeen and I walked the few blocks over to Mark's South Beach (1120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach) for lunch today, and the roughly 76-seat dining room was occupied by us and one three-top across the room. We chatted up our server a bit, and the bottom line is that the South Beach market is so heavily focused on see-and-be-seen beachside restaurants(*), that lunch traffic at a place like Mark's is simply nonexistent, even on weekends. They wouldn't even be open for lunch, if not for contractual obligations with the Hotel Nash. And that's a shame, because Mark's prix fixe lunch is a steal. For $22, you choose from two starters, about four entrées, and two three desserts. If it doesn't tickle your fancy, a somewhat more extensive à la carte menu is also available.

I had the baby lettuce and pear salad, an interesting twist on the Waldorf using poached pears slices, candied spiced pecans, crispy bits of pancetta and dressed with a creamy gorgonzola. A slice of dehydrated sweet pear decorates the top. One of those salads that, after clearing your plate, you're left feeling a little bit guilty that maybe it still wasn't the healthiest choice :( The pan-fried arctic char over English pea and "farro risotto", pea shoots and beurre rouge was flawlessly executed. Nice crisp sear on the top and bottom of the arctic char, but barely medium rare on the interior. Pea shoots seasoned with a dash of salt brought a welcome touch of bitterness and crunch to the whole dish. Gubeen, who ordered à la carte, chose the conch chowder, the conch fritters set in a saffron-hued chowder with a good vegetable base and a touch of curry. I wrapped up with the sampler of housemade sorbets - peach/pineapple, apple/celery, and rosewater. Service was very good yet unpretentious, the only marks against being that our server didn't already know what the daily sorbet and crême brulée flavors were, and that they ask the leading "bottled still or sparkling" water question.

Mark's deserves your business. It's a small and quiet enough space that if you're seated towards the rear of the room, you can hear the cooking going on in the kitchen, and they bring their 'A' game even when there are only going to be five covers midday. Dinner attire is at least business formal but they're rather laissez-faire at lunchtime, although I'm not sure I'd go in full-on beach bum mode.

Yesterday, we drove down to Homestead to visit the Fruit and Spice Park, operated by the Miami-Dade parks department. This 27-acre park is an arboretum for mainly exotic fruit varieties, with a walled garden area for herbs. There is a modest admission fee. Despite the name, there are few spices being grown at the moment, apart from a nifty border hedge of bay rhum. You're permitted to eat any fruits that have fallen, but not to pick off the tree, and in any case you can't take any with you. The plantings are arranged roughly according to continent of origin. Bananas, plantains, atamoyas, soursop, eggfruit, sapote, guava, passionfruit, African "sausage fruit", carambola, etc etc etc. The guided tram tour, offered once or twice a day, is worth hopping onto, and lasted about 90 minutes in our case.

Enroute to the park, we needed a spot of lunch, so we reconnoitered the stretch of of US Route 1 just beyond the turnoff for SW 248th St that heads to the park. Along the east side of US 1 just south of 248th are three Mexican eateries; we chose the distal one, Hidalgo's, a mom-and-pop joint which says it serves dishes typical of Hidalgo state. Mom doesn't appear to speak much English at all, so try your best to pronounce the menu with a Spanish accent. Her taco platters (3 tacos on corn tortillas with rice and frijoles on the side for $6) were excellent, filled with meats that were a far cry from the soggy items you settle for from a taco truck. Gubeen chose the flavorful lengua, and I went with the al pastor, which was nicely moist. A small dish of homemade salsa picante accompanies the tacos. Skip the desserts; the tres leches cake come pre-fab from a supplier in Miami.

(*) they're playing on a whole different level of bling here. Only in South Beach have I now seen five Bentleys relegated to second-class VIP parking so the guy with the Bugatti Veyron 16.4 can have the rockstar spot.

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I highly recomend Chef Allen in North Miami beach. He is a James Beard Winner who has redefined miami cuisine.

www.chefallens.com Google Chef Allen to find out for yourself.

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One of the most enjoyable meals I've had in 2008 was at Michael's Genuine.
Great recommendation, thanks! The Design District was dead on Monday night, but this place was filled to capacity. The chargrilled octopus with gigande beans was fantastically tender after 7 hours of slow cooking in oil before a quick flash in the brick oven to provide some deep smokiness. Wines-by-the-glass list was a touch short (I think a third of their whites were CA chardonnays), but there was an Australian Grenache that I very much enjoyed.

Nice Frank Bruni write-up here.

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We are staying at the Tides in South Beach. 3 ladies in late forties on a girls weekend. I don't know South beach at all. I find there are not as many resources to follow for dining as say new york, so for help so I am relying on my fellow rockwellians.

Thursday night (we want casual, fun fine food): Michaels Genuine: Is this close to South Beach or an expensive cab ride?

Friday Lunch (we are going out later that night so we want a 2p.m. or so fun, festive lunch with either people watching or water view) : Bistro One in the Ritz Carlton or Il Dido in the same (this seems weak, so a better idea would be appreciated)

Fri Eve Clubbing: Setai bar or the Shore Club

Saturday Dinner: Vix

Sunday Dinner: a casual Cuban place: please name a good one

Monday lunch: Joe's Crab Stone House

How am I doing.

Thanks to all.

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We are staying at the Tides in South Beach. 3 ladies in late forties on a girls weekend. I don't know South beach at all. I find there are not as many resources to follow for dining as say new york, so for help so I am relying on my fellow rockwellians.

Fri Eve Clubbing: Setai bar or the Shore Club

Thanks to all.

While I can't speak to clubbing, I do stay at the Setai when in Miami (three trips last year, one coming up next month). The bar at the Setai will be much more sedate than the Shore Club, and less crowded. I think that the atmosphere is "swankier" (for lack of a better term) than the Shore Club, which will be louder and more of a party scene. The two are very close together, so if one doesn't suit, just walk down two blocks (or up, if at the SC) to the other.

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I don't really know South Beach all that well, having grown up in the Lauderdale suburbs, but I do know that Joe's Stone Crabs is only open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, so you're out of luck there.

That said, while stone crabs rock, Joe's is kind of over-rated. There's nothing to really distinguish one place from another when it comes to stone crabs (as long as they cook them properly) except for the mustard sauce, and theirs is nothing special. And they're really expensive there! I've never been for lunch, so I can't speak to the lines there, but at dinner the wait is looooooong, and they don't take reservations.

I must admit that when I go home (even staying in a hotel), we don't go out for stone crabs, but do takeout from a seafood store instead, and do a picnic on tables by the pool. We go to the Fish Peddler in Ft. Lauderdale, but that's far from South Beach. If you don't mind eating at the hotel, maybe you could try finding something close to you?

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Prime 112 on Ocean is a great "modern steakhouse" in the Brown's hotel. Awesome steaks and hip vibe.

Regarding Joes, I think it is totally worth it to eat there for the fun old-school feel of the place. In addition to the Stone Crabs, the sides, Manhattan Clam Chowder and salads are great. Yes, there are a lot of tourists who go there, but a lot of locals as well and as a native South Floridian, it is a must stop when I am down there as long as it is season.

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I don't really know South Beach all that well, having grown up in the Lauderdale suburbs, but I do know that Joe's Stone Crabs is only open for lunch Tuesday through Saturday, so you're out of luck there.

That said, while stone crabs rock, Joe's is kind of over-rated. There's nothing to really distinguish one place from another when it comes to stone crabs (as long as they cook them properly) except for the mustard sauce, and theirs is nothing special. And they're really expensive there! I've never been for lunch, so I can't speak to the lines there, but at dinner the wait is looooooong, and they don't take reservations.

I must admit that when I go home (even staying in a hotel), we don't go out for stone crabs, but do takeout from a seafood store instead, and do a picnic on tables by the pool. We go to the Fish Peddler in Ft. Lauderdale, but that's far from South Beach. If you don't mind eating at the hotel, maybe you could try finding something close to you?

thanks for the heads up on the timing of joe's. Also thanks for the heads up from rocks on the taxi ride for Michaels Genuine..I was afraid of that.

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