Food

Don’t get overwhelmed by Miami Spice. Here’s where the experts recommend eating

We asked several Miaimi food experts for their Miami Spice 2018 picks. Danny Serfer, Mike Romeu, Mike Ortiz and Andrew Giambarba
We asked several Miaimi food experts for their Miami Spice 2018 picks. Danny Serfer, Mike Romeu, Mike Ortiz and Andrew Giambarba

No one wants to have Miami Spice FOMO.

More than 240 restaurants are offering deals on lunch, brunch and dinner during the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau’s annual promotion. But on Oct. 1, it’s easy to wonder whether you missed out on the best deals.

We wouldn’t let that happen to you.

So I asked several of Miami’s biggest food nerds to tell us the five restaurants at which they are looking forward to eating during Miami Spice, which offers three-course, fixed-price meals ($23 for lunch or brunch, $39 for diner) Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. They sifted through the offerings at iLoveMiamiSpice.com and told us where they’re headed and what they’re ordering.

Don’t suffer a Fear of Missing Out. Take these folks’ advice to heart.

Mike Ortiz, co-founder, JoJo Tea

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Mike Ortiz (right) with Tico Aran, founders of JoJo Tea.

Ortiz travels the world with co-founder Tico Aran to import the highest quality whole-leaf tea directly to Miami, and their products are found in some of Miami’s best restaurants. You can also order online (SipJoJo.com) and stop in for a tasting with friends at what I call their tea speakeasy, hidden in a non-descript building off Calle Ocho. Ortiz recently started a food podcast with Ariete chef/owner Michael Beltran — Team Time With Mike & Mike. If you’re hungry for Miami food gossip, it’s a must.

Bazaar by José Andrés

1701 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

“I’ve got something of a never-ending desire for Spanish food done right. I also have tremendous respect for creativity and thinking outside the box. Bazaar is where the old flavors of Spain and the creative genius of chef José Andrés mingle. A shot of potato omelette, perfect croquetas, and wines by the wizard himself, Andy Myers, will make for an unforgettable dinner.”

What I’m having: “The fun part of visiting Bazaar is the menu options. Pick three of seventeen options for your entree! I’ll be having bao con lechón, and then Papas Canarias, Pisto (with eggplant, zuchini, and fried egg), and Cuban coffee-rubbed churrasco, s’mores chocolate cake.”

Da Tang Zhen Wei

801 Brickell Bay Dr., in the Four Ambassadors, Brickell

“Now, this is a hidden gem. After spending a couple weeks in Sichuan province last year, I have come to the conclusion that Sichuan spicy hot pot is a miracle. I don’t use that word lightly. The boiling pot of bright red, spicy broth in the middle of the table, and the spread of mushrooms, vegetables, and raw meats encourage a casual, laid back meal that can last hours.

What I’m having: “I’d order pork dumplings, and spicy Sichuan hot pot with beef shoulder, and finish up with strawberry and red bean ice cream.”

Blue Collar

6730 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

“Last year, during Spice, I asked lots of friends who their favorite participating menu was, and I specifically remember being impressed by how many said Blue Collar. Since 2011, Blue Collar has been so solid, so dependable. Their veggie options offer a refreshing variety of sides that is quite rare in Miami. Their rotating ribs and Parmigianos are consistently delicious.

What I’m having: “I’d order shrimp and grits, seared scallops, and housemade ice cream.”

Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons

1435 Brickell Ave., Miami

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s this: Whenever you have a chance to eat meat cooked by chef Aaron Brooks, just do it. Chef Brooks is certainly one of the most under-appreciated chefs in Miami. His attitude is amazing. His food, though. . . I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I mean, he’s offering rib-eye. So, that seals the deal as far as I’m concerned.

What I’m having: “I’d order lamb and apricot terrine, rib-eye, and dark chocolate opera cake.”

Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink

130 NE 40th St, Miami

“Michael’s Genuine is an incubator of talent. Their name couldn’t be better suited. Their roasted chicken, roasted fish, the fresh tomatoes lining the kitchen bar, and the echoes of the Miami greats that have passed through that kitchen, under the looming glasses of Michael Schwartz, they all combine to create a restaurant that simply cannot be left off of any list of Miami’s best.”

What I’m having: “I’d order grilled peaches, roasted chicken, and mini doughnuts.”

Mike Romeu, founder, Sweet Melody Ice Cream

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Sweet Melody ice cream founder Mike Romeu with his daughter, Melody

Romeu is making some of the best ice cream in Miami — and soon, you won’t have to simply happen across it as dessert at your favorite restaurant. Romeu, who started Sweet Melody as a tribute to his daughter of the same name, whips up some of the most inventive flavor combinations. Think cheesecake ice cream with Maine blueberries; Belgian chocolate with brandy and chocolate cake; Gorgonzola ice cream with apple-fig jam and pralines. You can find Sweet Melody at the Wharf and inside Mojo Donuts in Westchester, where he will have his first, dedicated shop.

Mignonette

210 NE 18th St, Miami

“Anything Danny Serfer does is magic. Good food, unpretentious and executed flawlessly. Add Devin Braddock to the mix handling pastry and this is a no-brainer.”

What I’m having: Smoked maple ice cream with brown butter waffle cone (of course).

Red

119 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

“Even though Red is upscale, chef Peter Vauthy keeps the authenticity of his dishes at the forefront. They’re rotating the Miami Spice menu every week to keep it fresh. The filet mignon might be the best in town!”

What I’m having: Certified Angus beef petite filet mignon

Caffe Vialetto

4019 S Le Jeune Rd., Coral Gables

“In my opinion, it’s the most underrated restaurant in town. Chef Ragz is a master of texture and flavor. I’ve eaten here dozens of times and never had a dish that wasn’t outstanding. There’s a reason why celebrities come here low key, they know they’re going to get an incredible meal and enjoy themselves without getting hassled. The champagne risotto is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten.”

What I’m having: Caribbean risotto with shrimp, sweet plantains, almonds and goat cheese

Michael’s Genuine

130 NE 40th St, Miami

“Everything at Michael’s Genuine is good. Everything. And I love the whimsical nature of how the dishes are prepared and presented. Lamb ribs are amazing, not to mention they always kill it on dessert. The ultimate date spot, too.

What I’m having: Wood oven roasted lamb ribs with mint yogurt

Ariete

3540 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove

“Does it get any better than this? Chef Michael Beltran is one of the creative and passionate culinary minds in Miami right now. You can’t go wrong with any of the choices on the menu. I recommend the avocado Lyonnaise for an appetizer. And for an entree, you have to get the Chug Burger.”

What I’m having: Chug burger. Nuff said. If you know, you know.

Andrew Giambarba, food adventurer

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Andrew Giambarba works in insurance by day, finds food adventures by night.

Giambarba’s Instagram photos are enough to make your mouth water. Giambarba, as @AndyMiami on Twitter and Instagram, is a galloping gourmet, discovering delicious meals, whether vegan cha gio at Phuc Yea in the MiMo district and whole fried fish at Clive’s Cafe in Little Haiti or baby eggplant at Pinch Kitchen and beautiful sushi rolls at Itamae in the Design District’s St. Roch Market. In between, you’re treated to gorgeous photos of food and more.

“As I went through the list, I saw favorites that fall into the ‘I’m going there regardless’ category and therefore don’t make it into this five. I chose five restaurants I have yet to visit (I know, there goes my cred!) but have been dying to. That’s what I love about Spice: it essentially obligates you to go try places you have been putting off,” Giambarba said.

Upland

49 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

“I can’t believe I haven’t tried this out yet. My friends love it. I’m a fan of chef Justin Smillie, and there’s a crab salad with ‘Nduja mayo and chicharrones on the non-Spice menu? Clearly my priorities have had issues.”

What I’m having: “Mortadella Pizza on the Spice Menu for the win.”

Boulud Sud

255 Biscayne Blvd Way, Miami

“I’m looking forward to trying the new spot because I enjoyed the old spot [db Bistro Moderne] and, from what I’ve heard, it has gotten even better. Any spot with that many lamb and charcuterie options on the non-Spice menu is a must.”

What I’m having: “Orecchiette with lamb ragu on the Spice Menu looks amazing.”

Stripsteak by Michael Mina

In the Fontainebleu Hotel, 4441 Collins Ave, Miami Beach

“I’ve tried chef Will Crandall’s food on many occasions at P.I.G. and Duck Duck Goose [dining events by pop-up chef Jeremiah Bullfrog] and it’s always great. I’m overdue to see what he’s doing now that he has hit his stride at this Miami classic eatery inside the Fontainbleau.”

What I’m having: “Sweet corn cavatelli with summer truffles looks like the way to go on their dinner-only Miami Spice menu.”

Estiatorio Milos

730 1st St., Miami Beach

“I’ve been wanting to try this spot ever since they opened. How can you go wrong with Mediterranean flavors and pristine ingredients?”

What I’m having: “The dinner menu looks a bit restrained but I’m hoping that ingredients and preparation shines through.”

Alma

3206 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove

“I’ve heard amazing things about this spot in the Grove and it’s high time to stop by. Plus, their menu is one of the best I’ve seen, given that restaurants can occasionally be a bit stingy during Spice.”

What I’m having: “All three options look fantastic, but I’m between the scallops with Valencia black rice and the lamb shank with puy lentils.”

Danny Serfer, chef/owner, Blue Collar and Mignonette

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Chef Danny Serfer

Serfer spent years learning to make the kind of food that wins James Beard awards so that he could turn his training to thoughtful comfort fare. He combines them at his Blue Collar restaurant in MiMo, where there’s always chicken parm on the menu, and Mignonette near downtown, where three kinds of caviar and oysters share space with simply prepared fish and a heath bar bread pudding to die for.

Three

50 NW 24th St #101, Miami

“Three, I went to once and loved it. It’s always a treat to experience a master like Norman Van Aken. I’m sure the inventive Spice menu will be a steal.”

What I’m having: Venezuelan cachapas with foie gras

Seven Dials

2030 Douglas Rd #102, Coral Gables

“Seven Dials is one of me and my business partner Ryan’s favorite places in the city. The whole crispy hen has my name all over it. No one fries anything better than Andy [chef Andrew Gilbert].”

What I’m having: Whole crispy cornish hen with English coleslaw and corn on the cob

Bourbon Steak

19999 W Country Club Dr, Aventura

“Bourbon, I always love anyways. During Spice however, Gabe (chef Gabriel Fenton) is fantastic at flexing his creative muscles and enticing me into Spice by putting things on that menu that are exclusive to it. Past years have been some sick pastas and foie dishes.”

What I’m having: Local smoked cobia crudo with Anaheim chilis, avocado and compressed cucumber.

Estiatorio Milos

730 1st St., Miami Beach

“I’ve never missed a Spice there.”

What I’m having: “Octopus. My favorite in the city and the lamb chops are a steal.”

Ariete

3540 Main Hwy, Coconut Grove

“I’ll eat anything [chef Michael] Beltran puts in front of me, but particularly his charcuterie.”

What I’m having: Smoked head cheese croquette and swordfish Milanese

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