Whenever I travel, I typically use two publications as guides: AAA tourbook for the place and a Frommer’s guide. I don’t always follow suggestions closely for dining experiences, but on my recent trip to Miami I followed some of Frommer’s recommendations.
Versailles in Little Havana received one star, but got high marks because of its historical importance to the community. I had a classic Cuban sandwich, which was a bit short on the pork but overall lived up to expectations. The café con leche capped deliciously capped the meal. I probably could have one every morning and evening. It is definitely important to the community, but the food was average. Overall, it merits one star.
Randazzo’s Little Italy in Coral Gables earned three stars (Frommer’s highest rating), but fell well short of my expectations. I ordered the fettuccine Alfredo with shrimp. The pasta was homemade and delicious, and while the four shrimps were gigantic I would have preferred slightly smaller shrimps instead of having to cut up the jumbo shrimp into smaller bites. The serving size was BIG, but overpriced at $32. Sorry, but it’s just pasta. Although some folks may find the numerous flat screen TVs showing The Godfather on DVD charming, I don’t think it’s appropriate for children in the restaurant to see some of the gratuitous violence at 7 p.m. The service was stellar, but the ambiance didn’t charm me. It seemed overdone and kitschy. Overall, I’d give it maybe one and a half stars.
Burger & Beer Joint in Miami Beach garnered no stars (Frommer’s lowest rating with just a listing in the guidebook). It’s removed from the hustle and bustle of South Beach, but isn’t that far either. So it’s a good spot for some well-priced burgers a bit removed from the sands. I had the Hotel California, which is a 10 oz. prime angus patty with guacamole, grilled red onion, sharp cheddar, and a sunny side up egg on a brioche bun. It comes with sides of ranchero salsa and cilantro sour cream, which add a nice zip to the burger. It was messy, but a delicious meal. The parking situation (metered street spots) wasn’t great, the food was excellent and the restaurant takes pride in its wide beer selection. B&B touts 99 beers on their web site, but only 4-5 are on tap. I had a Magic Hat #9, which went great with the burger. It was messy to eat, but any good burger would leave you with blood and grease dripping from your fingers. Overall, I’d give B&B at least one star if not two, especially because the recommend all burgers be cooked medium rare!
Oceanaire Seafood Room in downtown Miami received two stars. The restaurant is located in the middle of restaurant row in downtown across from two or three spots and down the road from a few more. So even if you can’t get a seat here, you have plenty of options available. Truth be told, Oceanaire was not the original selection for dinner that night. I’d intended to dine at The River Seafood & Oyster Bar, but didn’t make it there after confusion over its address. So not wanting to run through a brief downpour, I ended up at Oceanaire. I had swordfish Louie, which was excellent. The sourdough bread was outstanding as well, but the Hollandaise asparagus was lacking. I received oversized asparagus with Hollandaise sauce on the side, and the vegetable cooked al dente. It may be common at upscale restaurants to have a la carte side dishes, but the asparagus was very disappointing. Service was prompt and timely, which compensated for minor disappointment. Overall, two stars is probably the proper rating for the restaurant.
El Toro Taco Family Restaurant in Homestead, not far from Everglades National Park‘s Ernest Coe Visitor Center, got three stars. The restaurant is clearly owned and operated by a family, as I saw young kids watching TV while rolling silverware during lunchtime. I’m not a sophisticated Mexican eater, and usually go for the staples like enchiladas, tacos, fajitas, etc. So I got one of the lunch specials that had an enchilada and a taco. The tortilla used for the taco was definitely homemade, and was delicious. I wouldn’t trek to Homestead JUST for this place, but it is a GREAT place to stop for lunch after exploring Everglades National Park or anywhere west of Miami. It was probably one of the better Mexican restaurants where I have eaten, but I wouldn’t rate it above one star. It’s very good food, but not worthy of Frommer’s highest rating.
So over 5 days, I ate at five restaurants recommended by Frommer’s. I would eat at all of them again, except for Randazzo’s Little Italy. So I’d give Frommer’s a two out of three stars for their suggestions. Most places lived up to the expectations laid out in the guidebook. If I had to recommend just one place out of these five, I would go with B&B Joint. The food was great and I would gladly go back again the next time I visit Miami.