Michelle Bernstein's Seagrape: A Florida Brasserie Helmed by Michelin-Starred Chef de Cuisine Steven Rojas

Categories: First Bites

All photos by Carla Torres
Remember the Mad Men episode where Don Draper travels to California and tries on this other life -- one filled with banana leaf lawn chairs and retro vintage pool homes? Walk into Seagrape, Michelle Bernstein's restaurant at the newly renovated Thompson Hotel, and you'll feel like you're in California of that era.

But then a patterned pathway leads you through the lobby and into the 250-seat "Floridian Brasserie," where a green marble horseshoe-shaped bar provides Seagrape's first and lasting impression. Walk past it and into the retro tropical dining room separated by geometric space dividers. Relax on one of the celeste-colored booths, or sink into one of the bright yellow mod chairs. You might not want to open the mangrove-textured menu, but if you don't, you'll be missing out on all the locally inspired cuisine that Seagrape proffers. Think local catch ceviche, heirloom tomato with whipped burrata, and housemade garganelli.

See also: Michelle Bernstein's Seagrape and Crown Room at Thompson Miami Beach Now Open

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Brasserie Central in the Gables: Literal Garlic Bread, French Onion Soup, and Steak Tartare

Categories: First Bites

All photos by Carla Torres
Brasserie Central: oozing in Frenchness
Walk into Pascal Oudin's Brasserie Central and you just might feel like you're in Paris rather than in Merrick Park. The intimate eatery exudes the warmth and charm of the traditional French Bistro, especially if you sit at the communal table or snag a minute two-top in the back corner. The low ceiling in just this area and a bird's eye view of the entire restaurant makes it the best seat in the house.

The only problem is you'll have to pace yourself with ordering from the vast menu because your table won't fit more than two plates at once. That's more of a reason to take your time - order up a glass of wine, some charcuterie, pate, and then really dive into the traditional French fare. There's lots of it.

See also: Pascal Oudin's Brasserie Central Opens Today

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Novecento and IT Espresso Lounge Open in Midtown: Party Brunch Coming Soon

All photos by Carla Torres
Veal bolognese
Novecento, the popular Argentine bistro-style steakhouse with locations in Brickell, Key Biscayne, and Aventura, now has another neighborhood to add to its count. Novecento Midtown opened at the end of November, and with it a place just next door by the name of IT Espresso Lounge.

The group behind Novecento has partnered with Alejandro Ferllen, the creative mind behind Euro hotspot Segafredo. Both locales proffer food, but IT Espresso Lounge is a fresh alternative to the traditional coffee break. It includes mixologist-designed cocktails, artisanal coffee, and bottle service behind a 1959 Fiat outfitted as a DJ booth. Short Order was invited to sample Novecento Midtown and its unique menu offerings.

See also: Novecento's Hector Rolotti Dead at 47, Body Found in India

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American Social Opens in Brickell: Self-Serve Craft Beer, Burgers, and Sports

Photos by Carla Torres
Craft beer haven.
Every guy dreams of having a man cave, the kind of place equipped with self-serve craft beer, 25 TVs to properly watch sports games simultaneously without having to lift a finger to change the channel, comfortable seating with plush American flag pillows, and burgers. Lots of them. Sounds like the American dream, huh? It's close, and it's all happening at American Social.

After what seems like ages of anticipation, Fort Lauderdale's popular American comfort gastropub/bar/weekend lounge has opened on the ground floor of the Neo Vertika building (where Waxy's used to be). You know the space -- all 10,000 square feet of it. And now you'll become even more familiar because AmSo (that's what American Social likes to be called) is the kind of place you never want to leave. Not when you've got a gargantuan booth with built-in taps that fits eight people. It's like your home away from home.

See also: American Social: Fort Lauderdale Gastropub to Open Brickell Location

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Michael Mina's Stripsteak: Instant Bacon, Parmesan Foam Duck Cavatelli, and Salted Caramel Maple Bread Pudding

Categories: First Bites

Photos by Carla Torres
Raw meat.
First came Bourbon Steak, the debonair steakhouse at Turnberry Isle. Then Michael Mina 74, a swank gastronomic stand-in for the underground space at the Fountainbleau once occupied by Arkadia. And now with Stripsteak just feet away from MM 74, celebrity chef Michael Mina has hit his Miami trifecta.

Heading up the kitchen at the contemporary steakhouse is chef de cuisine Derrick Roberts who comes to Miami from the Big Apple, where he was chef de cuisine at the Marriott Marquis Times Square. Prior to that, Roberts spent time in the kitchens of Tribeca Grill, the Michelin-starred Arstiderna in Sweden, and Umami in Copenhagen, which Food & Wine named one of the best new restaurants to open worldwide. Now Roberts brings his vast culinary expertise to Stripsteak where he's whipping up items like "instant bacon" and searing ahi tuna alongside foie gras. Short Order was invited to get a taste of Michael Mina's newest Miami endeavor.

See also: Michael Mina's Stripsteak Opens on Thursday

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Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Company: Triple Decker Media Noche and Guava Pound Cake

Categories: First Bites

Photos by Carla Torres
Try fitting this media noche in your mouth.
Imagine a sub shop where a media noche is a triple-decker packed with porchetta and a reuben is smeared with truffle thousand island dressing. If you're thinking this is only a place that can exist in your gourmand dreams, think again because it's exactly the premise behind Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Co.

Miami-born Alberto Cabrera has an affinity for sandwiches, which he's merged with his Cuban heritage. The result is a sandwichery like no other. Sure, you can get the same media noche croquettes found on the menu at his inaugural restaurant, Bread + Butter, but that's where similarities start and end. The Elena Ruz and pan con bistec have been elevated and the Cuban reuben has been made into a reubencito.

See also: Little Bread Cuban Sandwich Company by Alberto Cabrera Opens Tuesday

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Midtown Oyster Bar: Bivalves, Wynwood Brewing Mussels, and Key Largo Amberjack Pate

Categories: First Bites

All photos by Jose de las Casas
Oyster tower
It's typical for Miami restaurants to be delayed in their opening, especially when said restaurant is an oyster bar that has traps as light fixtures and empty oyster shells affixed to the walls. The restaurant at hand is Midtown Oyster Bar and it was supposed to debut in October, but doors remained shut till a few weeks ago when it opened just in time for Basel.

Brought to the Midtown complex by the Graspa Group, MOB (has a nice ring to it, eh?) is just doors down from the group's beloved Italian concept, Salumeria 104. Before making his way down to the Magic City, Salumeria 104 chef and co-owner Angelo Masarin lived in New England and took a few notes from their seafood and oyster culture, which he's now recreating at MOB by way of clam "chowda" and fish and chips.

See also: Midtown Oyster Bar to Open This Month

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Cleo Brings Affordable, Eclectic Mediterranean Cuisine to South Beach

Categories: First Bites

Photo by Carla Torres
Get your noodle (with clams) on at Cleo
If you're trekking the beach for Basel revelry and looking for a bite to eat or a few cocktails to sip, you might want to stop into The Redbury where Cleo has recently opened. The trendy Hollywood outfit has suited up to bring Middle Eastern cuisine to South Beach's busy Collins Avenue.

At its helm, executive chef Danny Elmaleh is overseeing operations of the three Cleo's (second is at at SLS in Las Vegas), bringing his Moroccan and Japanese heritage to play with Mediterranean influences. Think Jerusalem hummus, moussakah, and spinach ricotta dumplings.

See also: Cleo Opens Friday in SoBe: Chef Danny Elmaleh on His Mediterranean Concept

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Siena Tavern: Try The Twitterific Meatball and Bomboloni

Categories: First Bites

All photos by Laine Doss
That's one media savvy meatball.
You might know that Siena Tavern, the Chicago Italian eatery that opened in South Beach last month, has an in-house celebrity.

No, it's not chef/partner Fabio Viviani (although the Top Chef alum, who recently published his second book, does have star wattage).

It's actually a meatball. What some people might blow off as merely an appetizer, actually has her own Twitter account (@SienaMeatball).

See also: Siena Tavern Opens November 10: Numbered Bar Lab Cocktails, Exclusive Wynwood Brew

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eCafe in Doral: Islas Canarias Croqueta Sandwiches and Nutella Croissants

Photos by Carla Torres
Go ham with this sandwich.
I have a personal bias against Doral. Maybe it's the fact that I lived there for 12 years or that my parents made the move at a time when the most exciting dining options were Hooters and Tony Roma's. Today, however, Doral is Venezuelan foodie heaven, with arepa and cachapa offerings everywhere you turn.

But take your time to peruse the back streets (or escape the horrendous traffic) and you might find something you weren't bargaining for: an Islas Canarias croqueta sandwich sharing baguette space with salami and provolone. The place is eCafe, and the astounding creation is the Go H.A.M.

See also: Jeremiah Bullfrog Pops Up at Two Locations During Art Basel

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