Miami Beach's Columbus Cafe "Worst in America": $45 Happy-Hour Mojito, Gray Meat

Photos by Laine Doss
Hawking happy hour.
A lot of dubious honors have been bestowed upon Miami, but yesterday we received a new designation: having the worst restaurant in America.

The Daily Meal, in compiling its annual list of 101 best restaurants, also named the worst eateries in the nation. The introduction states that the bottom dwellers were chosen for their consistently terrible internet reviews that seemed to show a lack of good service, sanitation, and/or decent grub.

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Praying for Better Brickell Restaurants

What's in store for the ever-expanding Brickell neighborhood?

It's enticing to bring out-of-town friends to Brickell and show them Miami's progress as an action-packed metropolis. They can walk to one of three Publix stores or buy cigarettes, Red Bull, or whatever stimulant tickles their fancy at the shiny new 7-Eleven. Yet when the time comes to grab a meal, someone quickly realizes what's most prevalent: PF Chang'sRosa Mexicano, chain sushi restaurants, and enough Irish pubs to earn the neighborhood the tongue-in-cheek nickname "Little Dublin."

As the walkability and convenience of living in Brickell improves, we often find ourselves getting in the car and heading into greater Miami for something to eat.

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The Meal at Romney's Boca Fundraiser: Golden Opulence Sundae and More

Categories: Overrated Eats
This dessert was (probably) one of the cheapest courses of the night at $1,000 a pop. Bargain!

There's been a ton of talk going on recently about the video of Mitt Romney's fundraiser in Boca Raton that was leaked to Mother Jones magazine. Yes, we're talking about the one where he called 47 percent of Americans freeloaders.

We found out that the private fundraiser had a price tag of $50,000 per person. That's a helluva dinner party ticket, right? We get it. He's the governor. He's running for president of the United States. He needs stacks of cash to help him campaign.

But $50,000 seems absurd. We figured that the absurd people who paid this absurd price to get into said absurd Florida function probably also had an absurd meal to boot.

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At-Home Molecular Gastronomy Kit: Honey Caviar, Fruit Spaghetti, and Mojito Shots

It didn't really work out for us.
One of the coolest things about our office is that PR reps practically break down our door with new stuff they want to send to us.

Like, molecular gastronomy kits, for example.

The kit, called, Molecular CUISINE R-Evolution arrived and we thought to ourselves, "let's give it a shot." We tried three recipes that came with the kit (which didn't work) and one that we pulled off willy nilly.

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Yes Pasta! in North Miami: Good Online Reviews But Oily Pasta

Categories: Overrated Eats
Photo by Marguerite Gil
Half plate of very oily, angel hair noodles.
My friend Janet picks the eating places where we meet and shmooze a couple of times of month. She's usually good at it. She goes online, checks out the menu; parking, prices and then we enjoy a happy lunch together at her favorites picks.

The place she chose this week was located next to Publix and close to Costco in North Miami. Yes Pasta! Trattoria Italiana was clean, modern and empty. We stayed almost two hours and not one single client ventured into the place.

Next door at T.G.I. Friday's, it was packed. Several other eateries close by had clients too. This North Miami mall has had its share of renters these past few years including the very successful Paul Bakery. But Paul is gone and today many of the storefronts are empty.

Our un-noticeable waiter came by, gave us some very nice elaborate looking menus and left. I ordered a $5 beer, she had bottled water. The specials included pasta al salmone e vodka (pasta with smoke salmon in a vodka pink sauce) for $15.90.

Constolette di agnello con risotto ai funghi (lamb ribs with wild mushroom risotto) was priced at $25.90 and constolette di vitello al vino rosso (veal loin chop with red wine sauce served with vegetables) was $26.90.

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El Carajo: Almost As Expensive As Sra. Martinez!

Categories: Overrated Eats

All photos by Laine Doss
Keep walking past the pumps, the gum and the condoms to find the restaurant.
​Few Miamians probably know that "e
l carajo," translates to the crow's nest of a Spanish Gallion. Almost everyone knows, however, that it is slang for almost anything too far away or crappy (as in "vete para carajo" or "go to hell").

That pretty much summed up my experience at El Carajo, the tapas restaurant hidden in the back of the BP gas station on US 1 and SW 17th Avenue.

I've been here before to buy gas and wine (they have a pretty decent wine selection...for a gas station), but never to dine. I just never got around to it.

Well, I finally did the other night. Like a speakeasy from prohibition, El Carajo is tucked away, past the cashier selling condoms and international phone cards. Decorated like a wine cellar (with a good selection of wines by the bottle),  the place charmed me slightly. I've traveled around Central America and have eaten some of my favorite meals from gas stations hiding kitchens filled with good smells and cold beer.


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Miami's Best Pizza? Time for a Name Change.

Categories: Overrated Eats
miami's best pizza.jpg
Miami's Best Pizza, a 40-year mainstay on South Dixie Highway near University of Miami, is always packed. There're children with noses smudged up against a glass partition watching cooks spin dough in the air, children playing on video game machines that line the walls, children huddled by their parents on the picnic-style benches that comprise the dining area. And sprinkled around are college kids and mom-types waiting for take-out orders beneath giant faux-brick arches.

Naturally, one would expect such a jam-packed place with a name like "Miami's Best Pizza" to serve life-changing slices of heaven. Does this old school neighborhood joint match these expectations?

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Sardinia Enoteca is Overrated

Categories: Overrated Eats
dining room.jpg
Among the hundreds of mediocre Italian restaurants in this town, there has always been one that people claim to be a cut above the rest -- Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante on Purdy Avenue in South Beach. Actually, this is the one Italian restaurant that locals rant and rave about. Do a search in Yelp, Open Table or Urban Spoon, and be prepared for a tsunami of stellar reviews -- 4 stars, 5 stars, "Very Good," "Outstanding." Even our very own Lee Klein wrote a beaming review about Sardinia when it opened.

Granted, Sardinia is attractive. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows wrap around the space, a sexy wooden wine rack adorns the center of the dining room, and the wood-burning hearth is inviting. Clusters of large format wine bottles as well as Italian products like olive oils, vinegars, and saba are scattered through the dining room and along the bar.

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Overrated Eats: Smith & Wollensky

Categories: Overrated Eats
There are good things to say about Smith & Wollensky, for sure, starting with its incredible location, location, location and the fact that its bartenders are known to be quite generous with a pour. And we think it's cool they are offering wine enthusiasts the chance to swirl and spit up to 10 featured daily domestic and international wines for only $10 with a lunch entrée during National Wine Week, September 27 through October 1. But here's the bottom line: The drinks and views may be nice, and perhaps they have a decent salad or seafood dish or two, but S&W claims to be a steakhouse and, frankly, the steak isn't "America's premier," as the website claims.

The chain has been around since 1977 and it has eight freakin' locations, from Vegas to Boston, so why the heck can't they put out a better piece of meat?

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Overrated Eats: Versailles

Categories: Overrated Eats
Photo by Bobak Ha'Eri/CC 3.0
Versailles' opulent setting.
Frommer's "highly recommends" Versailles, touting it as "a glorified diner," where Cuban exiles meet over a cafécito. Travelers on TripAdvisor have awarded it four stars, hail it as the best Cuban food in town. But is it really?

Anyone who visits Miami is automatically pointed toward Versailles as the place to get a great Cuban meal. But if you think about it, that isn't always the case. We aren't saying the food is inedible -- it's solid -- but does it really deserve to be king of all Cuban eateries?

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