By: Mary Jo Almeida-Shore
CRAVE restaurant in the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables is known for its gorgeous 9,000 square-foot space, which includes an expansive dining room, sprawling outdoor terrace, vibrant atmosphere and terrific food. CRAVE’s fresh and innovative cuisine and impeccable wine selection compliment the chic, yet casual ambience with an extensive menu at a value-driven price point, with items ranging from a full sushi bar and Certified Angus Beef steaks to fresh seafood, pastas, salads and fire-baked pizzas that are continually re-mastered using the freshest seasonal ingredients.
One of the not-so-hidden secrets to Crave’s success is Hell’s Kitchen alum, Executive Chef Joshua Wahler whose resume includes work at Gramercy Tavern, Spice Market and Nobu and the (sadly) now defunct, Symcha’s. Wahler’s passion, expertise and love of food are reflected in every dish- which he excitedly describes as if he were talking about a work of art. He is so charismatic and fun to be around that we repeatedly asked him to join our table. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him hosting a show on The Food Network.
Wahler creatively incorporates fine ingredients to create dishes such as a giant house made meatball, stuffed with mozzarella cheese, which must turn out perfect (without any oozing cheese) for it to make it to the table. Other standouts include: the Red Miso shrimp, grilled Ceviche, and Kogi beef tacos. The cashew crusted Mahi swimming in coconut curry and the perfect sliders were other favorites.
The restaurant offers private and semi-private dining rooms, and a large adjacent outdoor patio that includes a full bar, outdoor dining and a lounge area, all of which are available for private parties, corporate meetings and other affairs; the restaurant is also available for buy outs.
CRAVE offers an early and a late $4 happy hour: Sunday – Friday from 3 – 6 p.m. and Sunday –Wednesday from 10 p.m. – 12 a.m. Customers have raved about this being the best happy hour in the city in conjunction with the only outside bar in the Gables. On Friday and Saturday, patrons can enjoy music and entertainment from 9:30 p.m. to close. CRAVE has four Minnesota locations, with additional locations in Coral Gables and Orlando, Fla., and Omaha, Neb. At each location, patrons enjoy a familiar yet unforgettable dining experience. For more information, and to stay updated on the latest values and menu offerings, visit www.CRAVEamerica.com.
Location: 4250 Salzedo Street
Telephone: (305) 444-4595
This upscale dining destination offers more than just an excellent meal—it’s a culinario experience inspired by the city it venerates. Chef Marco Stabile, the owner of Ora d’Aria in Florence, worked with Toscana Divino’s Chef Julian Baker to create dishes that bring Italian cuisine into a modern light, each enhanced with ingredients sourced fresh from Italy. Dishes are given a dose of brio, whether the signature 42-ounce Florentina Porterhouse (carved masterfully table side) or a bowl of risotto, which will make you weak in the knees.
A seasoned sommelier gladly provides wine suggestions from the mostly Tuscan wine list, as a resident mixologist incorporates fresh herbs and stimulating flavor cocktail components. Should you be celebrating a special occasion and need a last minute gift, peruse the surrounding display of glassware, steak knives with hand-carved handles, sculptures and beautifully crafted handbags bearing the names of the artisans who created them- and secretly purchase one on the spot! By bringing the wares of The Consortium 100% Italiano to light in the midst of an epicurean experience like no other in Miami, Toscano Divino is mai visto—something never before seen.
Location: 900 South Miami Avenue
Telephone: (305) 371-2767
In a hidden corner just south of Fifth Street on South Beach, French traditions meet the vibrancy of modern Miami at La Gloutonnerie, which offers French fare worthy of the name, which means “gluttony.” Exhilarating flavors of nouveau cuisine mingle with the rustic comforts of French home cooking, while guests can dine in a comfortable, casual atmosphere. With the first and original location being in Mexico City, the owners and staff have extensive experience in creating the perfect ambiance combined with the most delectable dishes.
The masterful chefs use quality ingredients and time-tested techniques to create culinary brilliance. In addition to the extensive raw bar, the top-notch starters are the Wagyu Carpaccio- tenderloin, arugula and truffle mayo and the Coquille Saint Jacques- lobster and scallop gratin. The Risotto Montecatini is delicious and the grilled New York strip, which is large enough to share, rivals that of neighboring Prime 112 and RED, the Steakhouse. The goat cheese mash will justify the extra hours in the gym.
Location: 81 Washington Avenue, Miami Beach, FL 33139
The Meatball Joint
Chef Bernie Matz knows a thing or two about the restaurant biz. The mastermind behind Lincoln Road mainstay, Books & Books Café and Bernie’s Latin American Café (the best Latin food on the Beach) has expanded his restaurant repertoire into the field of meatballs. Enter: the Meatball Joint- a sleek, stylish yet casual restaurant that offers tasty meatballs and sides along friendly service and delicious desserts.
First, you pick your type of ball (beef, turkey, veggie-typically eggplant, or daily special). Then you choose how you want it: solo-on (its own), on spaghetti, mashed between grilled Focaccia, or on a slider with a challah bun. Next, pick your sauce- the fire-roasted marinara is a favorite and pick your sides- sweet potato waffle fries and roasted corn polenta are delicious and there are also a few healthy veggie choices. You can also select from a variety of beers and wines. The meatballs are so full of flavor- the sauce almost seems unnecessary. Save room for dessert – don’t miss the build-your-own ice cream sandwich- made with home-made cookies.
Location: 1570 Alton Road
Telephone: (305) 695-9441
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