The Biscayne Times

Mar 27th
North Miami PDF Print E-mail

Restaurant listings for the BT Dining Guide are written Pamela Robin Brandt ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ). Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, but please call ahead to confirm information. Icons ($$$) represent estimates for a typical meal without wine, tax, or tip. Hyphenated icons ($-$$$) indicate a significant range in prices between lunch and dinner menus, or among individual items on those menus.
$= $10 and under
$$= $20
$$$= $30
$$$$= $40
$$$$$= $50 and over

Alaska Coffee Roasting Co.
13130 Biscayne Blvd.
When people speak of the West Coast as the USA’s quality coffeehouse pioneer territory, they’re thinking Seattle -- and then south through coastal California. North to Alaska? Not so much. But owner Michael Gesser did indeed open this hip place’s parent in Fairbanks back in 1993, after years of traveling through every coffeegrowing country in the world. Brews like signature smooth yet exotic Ethiopian Yirgacheffe don’t even need cream or sugar, much less frappe frou-frou. All beans are houseroasted. There’s solid food, too: brick-oven pizzas, salads, sandwiches, and pastries. $-$$

Bagel Bar East
1990 NE 123rd St.
Crusty outside (even without toasting) and substantially chewy inside, the bagels here are the sort homesick ex-New Yorkers always moan are impossible to find in Miami. For those who prefer puffed-up, pillowy bagels? Forget it. Have a nice onion pocket. There’s also a full menu of authentic Jewish deli specialties, including especially delicious, custom-cut -- not pre-sliced -- nova or lox. Super size sandwiches easily serve two, and they’ll even improvise a real NJ Sloppy Joe (two meats, Swiss, coleslaw, and Russian dressing on rye) if you ask nice. $$

Bagels & Co.
11064 Biscayne Blvd.
While this place is often referred to as Guns & Bagels, one can’t actually buy a gun here. The nickname refers to its location next to a firearms shop. But there’s a lot of other stuff aside from bagels here, including a full range of sandwiches and wraps. Breakfast time is busy time, with banana-walnut pancakes especially popular. But what’s most important is that this is one of the area’s few sources of the real, New York-style water bagel: crunchy outside, challengingly chewy inside. $

Bulldog Barbecue/Bulldog Burger
15400 Biscayne Blvd.
These adjacent restaurants are really one place with two dining areas, since they connect and diners can order from either menu. They also share a BBQ/burger master: Top Chef contender Howie Kleinberg, whose indoor electric smoker produces mild-tasting ’cue ranging from the expected pulled pork, ribs, brisket, and chicken to more unusual items like hot-smoked salmon. As for burgers, many feature unique ingredients such as mayo flavored like red-eye gravy, with strong coffee, or the bun of the infamous Luther: a sweet-glazed mock (holeless) Krispy Kreme donut. Costs are comparatively high, but such is the price of fame. $$-$$$

Caminito Way
1960 NE 123rd St.,
Open since 1999, this bakery-café is particularly known for its European-influenced homemade Argentine pastries. So come early to pick from the widest variety of savory empanadas (plumply stuffed and admirably delicate -- no leaden crusts here) or sweet facturas (Argentina’s most popular breakfast items). They sell out fast. What some might not know is that despite its small size, Caminito’s also crafts tasty big food: elaborate salads; hefty baguette sandwiches, like choripan sausage with chimichurri; pastas; major meat or poultry entrées. For lighter lunches, try tartas (quiches), also perfect party food. $-$$

Cane á Sucre
899 NE 125th St.
From the Vega brothers (who pioneered the Design and MiMo districts with, respectively, the original Cane A Sucre and UVA 69), this charming artisanal sandwich bar is the perfect breakfast/lunch stop before or after ingesting visual arts at nearby MOMA. Actually, creations like El Fig (fig confit, gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, and honey on an authentically French crisp-crusted fresh-baked baguette) are art in their own right. Inventive, substantial salads, sides, daily soups, and homemade sweets (including mouthwateringly buttery croissants) complete the menu. $-$$

Captain Jim’s Seafood
12950 W. Dixie Hwy.
Under new ownership, this market/restaurant was garnering critical acclaim even when eat-in dining was confined to a few Formica tables in front of the fish counter, owing to the freshness of its seafood, much of it from Capt. Jim Hanson’s own fishing boats, which supply many top restaurants. Now there’s a casual but pleasantly nautical side dining room with booths. Whether it’s garlicky scampi, smoked-fish dip, grilled yellowtail or hog or mutton snapper, perfectly tenderized cracked conch or conch fritters, everything is deftly prepared and bargain-priced. $$

Casa Mia Trattoria
1950 NE 123rd St.
Tucked away, off to the side on the approach to the Broad Causeway and the beaches, this charming indoor/outdoor trattoria seems to attract mostly neighborhood regulars. But even newcomers feel like regulars after a few minutes, thanks to the staff’s Italian ebullience. Menu offerings are mostly classic comfort foods with some contemporary items as well. Housemade pastas are good enough that low-carb dieters should take a break, especially for the tender gnocchi with pesto or better yet, delicate fagottini -- “beggar’s purses” stuffed with pears and cheese. $$

15400 Biscayne Blvd.
Diners can get some Tex-Mex dishes here, if they must. But the specialty is Mayan-rooted Yucatan cuisine. So why blow bucks on burritos when one can sample Caribbean Mexico’s most typical dish: cochinita pibil? Chéen’s authentically succulent version of the pickle-onion-topped marinated pork dish is earthily aromatic from achiote, tangy from bitter oranges, and meltingly tender from slow cooking in a banana leaf wrap. To accompany, try a lime/soy/chili-spiced michelada, also authentically Mexican, and possibly the best thing that ever happened to dark beer. $$-$$$

Chef Creole
13105 W. Dixie Hwy.
(See Miami listing)

Evio’s Pizza & Grill
12600 Biscayne Blvd.
Family-owned and operated, this indoor/outdoor pizzeria is also family-friendly, right down to the size of its NY-style pies (sold whole or by the slice), which range from large to roughly the diameter of a ferris wheel. And toppings, ranging from meat-lovers to veggie-loaded, are applied with awe-inspiring abundance. Since tastes do vary, the menu also includes a cornucopia of other crowd-pleasers: burgers (including turkey with a unique mustard-spiked cranberry sauce), entrée-size salads, burritos or quesadillas, wings, hot or cold subs, and succulent self-basted lamb/beef gyros with tzatziki. $·

Fish Fish
13488 Biscayne Blvd.
Originally, owners Rebecca Nachlas and Melvyn Franks had a simple concept: a fish market, selling Miami’s freshest seafood (both regional and coldwater, and never, except for some shrimp, frozen). Finding expansive digs triggered growth of the idea into full restolounge, where happy hour, with discounted bar bites like conch fritters with chipotle remoulade, runs all day. For dinner, whole crisp-coated daily catches are excellent, but we can rarely resist fish and chips, featuring not the usual cheapo fish but day-boat coldwater cod, the Rolls Royce of the chippie world. $$-$$$$

1821 NE 123rd St.
Festooned with eye-poppingly colored panels and giraffes -- subtler but everywhere -- this first North American branch of a wildly popular, 30-year-old Brazilian fast/casual chain is the flagship of a planned 4000 U.S. Giraffas. Given that the steaks, especially the tender, flavorful picanha, rival those at the most upscale rodizio joints -- and beat the sword-wielding grandstanders for custom cooking (because staff asks your preference) -- we’d bet on giraffe domination. Overstuffed grilled sandwiches, salads, even tasty veggie options are all here, too. The cheese bread is a must. $$

Happy Sushi & Thai
2224 NE 123rd St.
Grab a booth at this cozy eatery, which serves all the expected Thai and sushi bar standards, including weekday lunch specials. But there are also delightful surprises, like grilled kawahagi (triggerfish) with seasoned Japanese mayonnaise. This intensely savory/sweet “Japanese home cooking” treat satisfies the same yen as beef jerky, except without pulling out your teeth. Accompanied by a bowl of rice, it’s a superb lunch. For raw-fish fans, spicy, creamy salmon tartare (accompanied by hiyashi wakame seaweed) is a winner. $$-$$$

Here Comes the Sun
2188 NE 123rd St.
At this friendly natural foods establishment, one of Miami’s first, there’s a full stock of vitamins and nutritional supplements. But the place’s hearty soups, large variety of entrées (including fresh fish and chicken as well as vegetarian selections), lighter bites like miso burgers with secret “sun sauce” (which would probably make old sneakers taste good), and daily specials are a tastier way to get healthy. An under-ten-buck early-bird dinner is popular with the former long-hair, now blue-hair, crowd. Frozen yogurt, fresh juices, and smoothies complete the menu. $-$$

Il Piccolo Café
2112 NE 123rd St.
Talk about a neighborhood institution. The owners of this longtime Italian eatery remember frequent visits from Miami native Michelle Bernstein and her parents -- when the celeb chef was a kid. The “piccolo” space has since expanded, but the place is still child-friendly, and portions are still prodigious. Most dishes evoke nostalgia, including our favorite white wine/lemon sauce-drenched veal piccata with capers and artichokes. There are surprises not found at old school red-sauce joints, too, like lunchtime’s surprisingly tasty Cuban sandwich. $$

Jefe’s Soul Shack
12581 Biscayne Blvd.
This first brick-and-mortar location of wildly popular Jefe’s Original Fish Taco & Burger food truck serves all the same authentic soft corn tortilla-wrapped tacos -- including Ensenada-style fish (crisp-battered with shaved cabbage, pico de gallo, and housemade Mexican crema; no Tex/Mex-type cheese, etc.) -- that many aficionados feel are Miami’s best and most budget-friendly street food. Also the same: lettuce/tomato/pickle/secret sauce-garnished burgers, available “Miami-style” (with extra everything, plus succulent griddled onions), and fried caper-sprinkled fries. New items include ingeniously topped Mexican-fusion burgers, and several elaborate salads. $-$$

KC Healthy Cooking
11900 Biscayne Blvd. #103
Hidden inside an office building across from Home Depot, this family-friendly spot has no fancy features -- such as a sign outside. But walk through the corporate lobby and you’ll find truly heartfelt, health-conscious, homemade dishes, some surprisingly sophisticated. There’s no red meat on the globally influenced menu, but there are poultry and fish, along with many vegetarian or vegan choices: organic pumpkin soup, zingy Thai curried veggie soup, an elegantly layered, molded tuna/avocado/quinoa “cupcake,” a real Bundt cake -- vegan (no dairy) but remarkably tasty. $$

King’s Chef
476 NE 125th St.
While authentic Chinese fine dining fare is best eaten fresh from the wok, Chinese take-out is almost a separate genre with its own standards -- prime being how its tantalizing scent fills the inside of your car. Even basic bargain-priced Szechuan beef combination platters from this humble establishment do that so well, you’ll find yourself taking the long way home. There are surprises one wouldn’t expect, too, including a wide variety of tasty tofu dishes -- spicy ma po, General Tso-style, honey garlic, many more -- and other savory vegetarian treats. $-$$·

Le Griot de Madame John
975 NE 125th St.
When Madame moved her base of operations from her Little Haiti home to a real restaurant (though a very informal one, and still mostly take-out), she began offering numerous traditional Haitian dishes, including jerked beef or goat tassot and an impressive poisson gros sel (a whole fish rubbed with salt before poaching with various veggies and spices). But the dish that still packs the place is the griot: marinated pork chunks simmered and then fried till they’re moistly tender inside, crisp and intensely flavored outside. $

Little Havana
12727 Biscayne Blvd.
In addition to white-tablecoth ambiance, this place features live Latin entertainment and dancing, making it a good choice when diners want a night out, not just a meal. It’s also a good choice for diners who don’t speak Spanish, but don’t worry about authenticity. Classic Cuban home-style dishes like mojo-marinated lechon asado, topped with onions, and juicy ropa vieja are translated on the menu, not the plate, and fancier creations like pork filet in tangy tamarind sauce seem universal crowd-pleasers. $$$

Mama Jennie’s
11720 NE 2nd Ave.
For more than 35 years this beloved red-sauce joint has been drawing students and other starvation-budget diners with prodigious portions of lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs (the latter savory yet light-textured), veal marsala topped with a mountain of mushrooms, and other Italian-American belly-busters. All pasta or meat entrées come with oil-drenched garlic rolls and either soup (hearty minestrone) or a salad (mixed greens, tomatoes, cukes, brined olives, and pickled peppers) that’s a dinner in itself. Rustic roadhouse ambiance, notably the red leatherette booths, add to Mama’s charm. $-$$

Pastry Is Art
12591 Biscayne Blvd.
Given owner Jenny Rissone’s background as the Eden Roc’s executive pastry chef, it’s not surprising that her cakes and other sweet treats (like creamy one-bite truffle “lollipops”) look as flawlessly sophisticated as they taste -- perfect adult party fare. What the bakery’s name doesn’t reveal is that it’s also a breakfast and lunch café, with unusual baking-oriented fare: a signature sandwich of chicken, brie, and caramelized peaches and pecans on housemade bread; quiches; pot pies; even a baked-to-order Grand Marnier soufflé. The pecan sticky buns are irresistible. $$

Petit Rouge
12409 Biscayne Blvd.
From the mid-1990s (with Neal’s Restaurant and later with Il Migliore), local chef Neal Cooper’s neighborhood-oriented Italian eateries have been crowd-pleasers. While this cute 32-seat charmer is French, it’s no exception, avoiding pretense and winning fans with both classic and nouvelle bistro fare: frisée salad with lardons, poached egg, and bacon vinaigrette; truite Grenobloise (trout with lemon/caper sauce); consommé with black truffles and foie gras, covered by a buttery puff pastry dome; perfect pommes frites, and equally perfect apple or lemon tarts for dessert. $$$

Piccolo Pizza
2104 NE 123rd St.
Pizzas at this spin-off from family-owned Il Piccolo impress even NYC visitors, thanks to recipes proprietor Hubert Benmoussa learned from an authentic Neapolitan pizzaolo. Other favorites here include subs on homemade baguettes and, surprising for a pizzeria, delightfully custardy quiche (Benmoussa is part French). But it would be unthinkable to miss the pies, especially our favorite Italia: subtly sweet tomato sauce, fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, onions, plus mixed greens and uncooked prosciutto on top -- both pizza and salad. There are also nicely priced catering trays of finger subs, quiche squares, pizza bites, more. $-$$

Rice House of Kabob
14480 Biscayne Blvd.
Since 2006, South Beach’s original Rice House has been serving up mountainous platters of basmati rice and Greek salad topped with Persian-style marinated/char-grilled meat, poultry, seafood, or veggie kabobs -- for very little money. This branch of what is now a growing chain has the same menu (which also features wraps, for lighter eaters) and the same policy of custom-cooking kabobs, so expect fresh, not fast, food. Sides of must-o-keyar and must-o-mooseer (thick yogurt dips with herbed cukes or shallots) are must-haves. $$

14730 Biscayne Blvd.
Two things distinguish the griddled patties of this Denver-based chain, touted as “the nation’s fastest-growing ‘better burger’ restaurant,” from other better burgers: a nod to local tastes (like toppings of fried chorizo and potato fritas), and the smashing technique, producing an appealing thickly crusted exterior. Got burger overkill? Substitute chicken, or have a salad. An added draw: unusual veggie sides, which go beyond regular and sweet potato fries to crisp onion strings, “veggie frites” (carrots, string beans), and an Old South fish-camp classic: fried pickles. $-$$

Steve’s Pizza
12101 Biscayne Blvd.
At the end of a debauched night of excess, some paper-thin designer pizza with wisps of smoked salmon (or similar fluff) doesn’t do the trick. Open till 3:00 or 4:00 a.m., Steve’s has, since 1974, been serving the kind of comforting, retro pizzas people crave at that hour. As in Brooklyn, tomato sauce is sweet, with strong oregano flavor. Mozzarella is applied with abandon. Toppings are stuff that give strength: pepperoni, sausage, meatballs, onions, and peppers. $

Tiny Thai House
12953 Biscayne Blvd.
The space is tiny. The menu, which features Thai specialties but includes sushi plus Japanese appetizers and entrées, is not. Despite the huge selection of sushi/Thai restaurant standards, though, don’t overlook items harder to find in America, like “floating noodle” soup, a popular street food from Thailand’s boat-based market stalls; similar in savor to Vietnamese pho, the dish contains beef, bean sprouts, and noodles heaped in umami-rich beef broth. Among the nicely priced sushi selections, the Mylo roll (tuna, salmon, crab, avocado, and cuke, topped with tempura fish and eel sauce) is a tasty pick. Don’t miss sticky rice with mango for dessert. $$

Tunky Tunky
11052 Biscayne Blvd.
In the long-vacant space formerly occupied by Biscayne Boulevard fine-dining pioneer North 110, Juan Carlos Collazos and his sister/chef Elvira now keep the street cool with a newer Miami craze, Peruvian food. You’ll find the expected mix of marinated raw seafood or fish ceviches/tiraditos and cooked favorites, including Chifa (Chinese-Peruvian fusion) lomo salteado, plus a few surprises: rediscovered ancient Andean Indian stews like carapulcra de cerdo (pork and dried potato soup); original inventions like tiraditos sauced with pisco or olive cream; a karaoke bar. $$

Vega’s Burger Bar

1699 NE 123rd St.
Casual-chic burger bars, everywhere in South Beach, are still rare farther north. One reason this easy-to-miss venue is a must-not-miss for North Miami locals. The hefty half-pounders on fresh brioche buns include a scrumptious patty with Gruyere, mushrooms, and onion marmalade. The Fireman is a jalapeño/chipotle scorcher. There are even turkey and veggie variations. Other draws are hand-cut fries, beer-battered onion rings, a top-drawer beer list, budget-priced combo specials, conversation-friendly acoustics, and a South Beach rarity: free parking. $-$$ 

Venezia Pizza and Café
13452 Biscayne Blvd.
No frozen pizza crusts or watery mozzarella here. No imported designer ingredients either. The pies are New York-style, but the dough is made fresh daily, and the cheese is Grande (from Wisconsin, considered America’s finest pizza topper). Also on the menu are Italian-American pastas, a large selection of hot an cold subs, simple salads, and a few new protein adds – grilled chicken breast, fried fish, or a steak. $-$$

Wong’s Chinese Restaurant
12420 Biscayne Blvd.
The menu reads like a textbook on how to please everyone, with food ranging from traditional Chinese to Chinese-American to just plain American. Appetizers include honey garlic chicken wings or Buffalo wings. A crab-claw starter comes with choice of pork fried rice or French fries. Seafood lovers can get shrimp chop suey, or salty pepper shrimp (authentically shell-on). And New Yorkers will find a number of dishes that are mainstays of Manhattan Szechuan menus but not common in Miami: cold sesame noodles, Hunan chicken, twice-cooked pork. $$


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