"A Little Forgotten": On 79th Street, New Restaurants Pave a Better Way Forward
By the time Brazil and Croatia kicked off the World Cup, Boteco was bursting at the seams. Sweaty bodies in yellow and green jerseys were squeezed together inside the flag-draped Brazilian restaurant that thumped with samba. More were crammed on the covered patio, which opens onto Miami's sometimes-slummy NE 79th Street.
billwisserphoto.com Clams and chorizo at Tap 79.
Fearing a fire department shutdown, managers locked the glass doors, leaving more than a dozen diehard fans stranded in the rain. They paid no attention to their hair and clothes, matted down long ago by the deluge. They pressed their faces against the glass, gazing hungrily at baskets of golden-brown orbs of the rich, chewy bread pastry called pão de queijo ($3.95) being passed around the room. They held their breath and covered their mouths with both hands when the soon-to-be-injured Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior took the ball. They let out a painful grunt when it was stripped away.
"I need a caipirinha bad," a man said to his friend, desperate for the sweet-tart Brazilian drink made of sugar, lime, and a sugarcane liquor called cachaça that is as suited for Miami as it is the beaches of Rio.
Boteco, among Miami's best Brazilian places, is not an aberration. The half-mile of NE 79th Street between Biscayne Boulevard and the bay includes a couple of bait shops, a boat dealership and repair shop, and a scooter store -- and it may be the next great dining district. During the past year, an array of varied, independently owned restaurants, including Tap 79 by Bin No. 18 owner Alfredo Patino, Choices Café, BarMeli, and Guarapo Organic Juice Bar, has moved into the area. With two 20-story towers soon to open on the bayfront, comparatively low rents, and wealthy neighborhoods with a few convenient eateries to the north and south, the area has potential, says Lori Zito, director of operations for Choices Café, which opened half a block east of Biscayne Boulevard earlier this year.
"We're a family-owned business without a huge budget to jump into those areas that are already developed," she adds.
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