Lunch is an oasis, a respite from the insanity of the everyday. Its magic is felt in the deep calm washing over you during and after your meal. Europeans know how to do it. Many of them close up shop in the afternoon and then head to their favorite spot for a sizable repast and a carafe or two of wine.
So abandon the self-destructive habit of eating a mediocre, solitary lunch. Is there anything sadder than a dry turkey sandwich?
There’s no shortage of excellent lunches in Miami. You need only stop at Edge Steak & Bar for a sampling of Aaron Brooks’ lunch break, a $24, three-course affair that changes weekly. Nearby, at Niven Patel’s Ghee Indian Kitchen in the Design District, chef Pushkar Marathe dishes out a spectacular tiffin, a kind of Indian bento box, with a fragrant combination of rice, vegetables, pickles, and optional meat for $18.
But if such prices are too steep for you, try these choices for solid lunches that cost $10 or less.
Courtesy of Proper Sausages
1. The Cubanish at Proper Sausages. Freddy Kaufmann doesn’t compromise. Hence, this Miami Shores butcher shop is the obsession of home and professional cooks alike. From the bounty of house-made sausages and bacon to the eggs, duck fat, and even spices, the shop carries everything to fill the discerning cook’s pantry. Yet at lunchtime, it’s all about the chalkboard list of sandwiches held to a higher standard. The highlight is the sausage and peppers ($9), with your choice of any of Kaufmann’s sausages, from the handmade chorizo to the classic with garlic and sage, tucked into a fluffy Portuguese bun. While you’re eating it, take note of everything else on the board, like the BLT ($9), the fried chicken turkey burger ($10), and the barbecued tongue ($10). 9722 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores; 786-334-5734; propersausages.com.
Photo by Alexandra Rincon
2. Goat roti at L.C. Roti Shop. It’s amazing that after you visit this iconic Trinidadian spot only a few times, its gregarious matriarch remembers your name and order. Be sure to lock in the goat roti ($10). First, watch in awe as a lump of dough is stretched, pulled, and grilled until it’s thin and burnished. Then comes a heap of fragrant curried potatoes in a thick pale-yellow sauce with an intoxicating fragrance that fills the room. The chunks of tender goat are supple with the fatty richness of bacon and a sweet gaminess found in few creatures. Dab it with a few hits of L.C.’s house pepper sauce, and spend your meal trying to fend off the urge to order a round of the fried, spiced dough balls called pholourie. 19505 NW Second Ave., Miami Gardens; 305-651-8924.
3. Fried chicken sandwich at La Pollita. Tacos are the speciality of this pintsize operation that recently relocated from Edgewater to the Design District, but the fried chicken sandwich ($10) should not be missed. It’s a simple creation: an über-juicy, crackly, fried chicken thigh on a puffy sesame bun with piquant slaw, avocado, and a hot-sauce aioli. Get it while you can. La Pollita’s owners, Alex Meyer and Luci Giangrandi, who have done time in the kitchens of Eleven Madison Park and the Los Angeles standout Animal, are surely planning something bigger. 160 NE 41st St., Miami; lapollitaeats.com.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
4. Pan con lechón at the Butcher Shop. Down in Palmetto Bay, a pagoda of pig has been lorded over by Angel Torres for nearly four decades. Though fixings for any craving can be found in its steamer tables, it’s the pan con lechón ($2.99 small, $5.99 large) that keeps patrons returning. Torres’ customers chew through about 200 pounds of mojo-braised pig studded with onions and crisp skin daily. But all of that seems insignificant when you learn this place bakes its own bread. It creates a sandwich that, when pressed, crisps into an impossibly thin crust. The interior holds its juice, propped up by a shot of doctored mojo sauce he calls “mojito,” which is also available in a squirt bottle on the counter where you sit and devour. 14235 S. Dixie Hwy., Palmetto Bay; 305-253-9525.
5. Margherita pizza at Stanzione 87. Neapolitan pizzas today have an unshakable grip on Miami, and for good reason. When made by a dedicated pizzaiolo, a traditional pie, held to the exacting standards codified by the European Union, is a thing of beauty. There’s the puffy, oven-pocked crust and, in this Brickell spot’s case, handmade mozzarella on a margherita pie ($9.35). If you ever find yourself overwhelmed by the bourgeois glitz of Brickell City Centre or the exorbitant prices of the nearby SLS properties, make a beeline for Ashley and Franco Stanzione’s welcoming place and get your head and belly right for a fair price. 87 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-360-1852; stanzione87.com.
Courtesy of Florida Historic Golf Trail
6. Cheeseburger at Burger Bob’s. With the closure of North Miami Beach’s Ham & Eggery and the Coral Gables location of S&S Diner, a decent meal from a good old greasy spoon is becoming ever rarer. But don’t worry: Longtime Gables diner Burger Bob’s is still going strong no matter how crazy and ritzy the City Beautiful becomes. Revel in the bustling lunchtime crowd, the red vinyl-upholstered chairs and stools, and the stream of grease dribbling down your chin as you devour that cheeseburger ($5.25). 2001 Granada Blvd., Coral Gables; 305-567-3100.
7. Barbecued pork and roast duck at King Palace Chinese Bar-B-Q. A grand formality of traditional Chinese restaurants mandates that ingredients be shown to the customer upfront. And that’s just what you’ll find at this mustard-yellow temple of meat. Diners are welcomed by glistening auburn ducks hanging in a row and crackly slabs of pork belly dangling in a window that offers a glimpse into the kitchen. At lunchtime, all of that juicy, umami-filled goodness can be yours atop a heap of rice and a few strands of greens for a mere $8.95. 330 NE 167th St., North Miami Beach; 305-949-2339.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
8. Sabich at Etzel Itzik Deli. Those in the know say this diner that specializes in Israeli cuisine is the closest thing you’ll get to Tel Aviv in Miami. If you’re not convinced, show up at lunchtime and watch hairy-knuckled men chat and drink Turkish coffee well into the afternoon. While you’re at it, order a sabich. This vegetarian wonderland of brown egg, hummus, tahini, pickled green mango, scallions, and Israeli pickles comes packed into a fluffy pita for a mere $7.95. If it’s not filling enough, don’t worry: Each meal here begins with a free bounty of mezze that includes carrot salad, chickpea salad, various creamy and tangy slaws, pasta salad, and beets. 18757 W. Dixie Hwy., Miami; 305-937-1546; etzelitzik.com.
Taquiza’s blue corn quesadilla with squash blossoms and chihuahua cheese.
Photo courtesy of Steve Santana
9. Quesadilla at Taquiza. Forget those greasy, gummy cheese-filled quesadillas from mediocre Mexican spots. Done? Good. Now prepare yourself for Steve Santana’s version, filled with chihuahua cheese, squash blossoms, and refried beans ($7). What makes it all work is the tortilla, made from landrace corn brought in from Mexico and nixtamalized in-house to create the one-of-a-kind masa, or corn dough, that launched a citywide taco revolution. Though the price for three tacos tops $10, this steal is a traditional Mexican delight that will leave you happy without breaking the bank. 7450 Ocean Ter., Miami Beach; 305-748-6099; taquizatacos.com.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
10. Completa at Mesa BBQ. Since 1995, this open-air Hialeah spot has been the place to go for a platter of ribs or the whole damn pig. The piercing thwacks of knife hitting cutting board fill the restaurant as workers carve mountains of meat. Mesa’s $9 completas are legendary thanks to generous portions of grilled pork chunks, loin, or rib with a choice of moros, white rice, potato, yuca, or sweet plantains. On your way out, grab a smoked pork chop ($3.50). It has all the char and salt of slow-cooked ham plus the tenderness and juiciness of chicharrones. Order one to go so you can make a sandwich the following day. 1125 W. 29th St., Hialeah; 305-863-2009; mesabbq.com.
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