Westbound on Hialeah Drive, crossing the bridge where it turns into Curtiss Parkway, you enter Miami Springs with its quirky adobe buildings and small-town atmosphere. Just off the circle is Crackers Casual Dining, named for Florida cowboys who used a whip to “crack” cattle from swamps and scrub.
The theme here is Old Florida with jars of seashells, driftwood flamingos, mounted sailfish and a spacious tiki deck with picnic tables. The menu is Southern with deep-fried black-eyed peas, pulled pork sliders and fry biscuits with honey butter.
Westchester native Jeff Mitnick came up with the recipes, drawing on his mom and grandma’s good cooking and experimenting at home on wife Jo and their three daughters. Jeff, who worked for years in restaurant service and bartending, is chef with help from line cooks. Jo, who grew up in the restaurant business, makes the desserts. The couple opened three months ago with fried chicken and sweet potato waffles on Sundays and breakfast-for-dinner specials.
Lunch features salads like Sunshine Lemon Chicken with pine nuts and goat cheese and “sammiches” including shrimp po’ boy on a cornmeal hoagie, blackened catfish, fried green tomato with bacon aioli and the Bacon Jamburger, a half-pound patty topped with a cooked -own mixture of chopped bacon, coffee, maple syrup and shallots.
Dinner brings shrimp and cheese grits in spicy tomato broth, baby back ribs, mustard and maple glazed pork chops with pecans and slow-cooked brisket on garlicky mashed potatoes, good with green bean casserole or collards. There’s also “sunburned” tiger shrimp in a hot bacon cream sauce over pasta.
You may be stuffed, but peach cobbler and deep-fried bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce are must tries. Or hope strawberry shortcake sundaes are the special at this sweet ode to the South.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who blogs at FoodIndiaCook.com.