With the large amount of restaurants in Miami, it can be a bit overwhelming for newcomers who are trying to find the best place to eat. Online review sites aren’t the most trustworthy, because of little loopholes and things like that. As a result, I’m going to share my experiences with my favorite restaurants, but from a food critic’s perspective. It has come to my attention that there are three key characteristics of a good restaurant.
The first restaurant I’d like to mention is one of Miami’s hidden gems that a lot of people don’t know about. That’s probably for the best, because traffic tends to get out of control in Miami. Esevagonte is known, to the customers who know about them, for their amazing ropa vieja pizza. You’ll find Esevagonte in West Miami, somewhat close to Lake Mahar. You might need to take a taxi, with the dense tourist population barring you from most pedestrian areas. Now, for the three characteristics. First up is the food. A restaurant without food would just be a random building with people in it.
Fortunately, Esevagonte definitely does not disappoint. They offer a wide selection of items on the menu, ranging from burgers to salads to pizzas. Like I mentioned earlier, their popular ropa vieja pizza is to die for. The second most important aspect of a restaurant is the cleanliness. I have never sat down in a restaurant and thought that the one thing my table needs is a little less sanitation. Cleanliness is important for chefs and customers, as the chefs rely on customers for a living and don’t want their restaurant to be put out of business for a health violation.
Esevagonte was very clean overall, giving it a good atmosphere. Finally, the third important characteristic is service. How are you supposed to eat your food if you can’t receive it, let alone order it? I’m glad to say that Esevagonte has very good service on top of everything else. Just an overall great restaurant that a lot of people haven’t heard about. If you want to learn more, just read all of their positive reviews online. Maybe you’ll even find mine in there?
Next up comes some great Cuban food. For anyone expecting to empty their entire wallet while eating dinner, look elsewhere. Tinta y Cafe offers great prices, especially for the high caliber of food that they offer. I’m not a huge pork guy, but their El Patria Cuban sandwich really struck a chord with me. Tinta y Cafe is found in Coral Gables, near Miami. Again, here come the three characteristics. Food is great, and affordable. I considered going back for thirds, but that was more of a weight issue than a wallet issue for me. The food is also very filling, so if you bring your kids they could probably share a dish and not be hungry afterwards.
Get the El Patria Cuban sandwich, and split it with your partner. You will not be disappointed. Second, there’s the service. I always love a good friendly waiter, but it’s a special treat when the owner comes out to make sure your meal is going well. Tinta y Cafe lives up to the already high expectations of a Miami restaurant, and then some. Don’t think I forgot about the cleanliness part. No dirty tables, dishes, or silverware. The chairs didn’t even have any dirt on them, underneath or anywhere. That’s pretty cool. Last time I was there, I decided that I wanted to peek behind the kitchen and watch the chefs go to work. I thought I’d try to trip up the owner and spot something dirty behind the scenes, but it was all spick and span.
A lot of people don’t realize this, but most Cuban food involves some form of frying or deep frying. One result of this is having your exhaust hoods get dirty significantly faster than usual, because of the large amount of grease involved. Sadly (for me), their kitchen hoods were clean as well. Tinta y Cafe definitely doesn’t skimp when picking out which Miami hood cleaning business to work with. Read all the amazing online reviews before heading over, so you know exactly what to pick out on the menu. They have a wide selection of Cuban food, so it might not be as simple as you think.
El Mencey fill the role of Spanish food, if you’re more in the mood for a different type of Latin food. El Mencey is also a wine bar, so they have a large variety of fancy drinks to choose from on top of serving a lot of different great entrees. My two absolute favorite items to order are the queso asado and croquettas de bacalao. You haven’t lived until you’ve eaten queso asado at El Mencey in Miami. El Mencey is found in West Miami as well, which seems to be kind of a hot spot in the city for finding great, affordable food.
For the last time in this review, I’ll bring up the three important characteristics again. El Mencey’s food is killer. It has all the charm and quality of a high-end restaurant/bar in Miami without being too snobby or pricey. I already told you guys what my favorite dishes are, but honestly I really want to reiterate how good they are. You can’t find good croquettas de bacalao anywhere else in Miami. Even if you manage to find it somewhere else, I guarantee it won’t taste as good. The service at this restaurant is top notch as well.
If you thought the decor gave this place a professional look and feel, wait until you see how the waiters respond to stress. Here’s a hint: they don’t. I’ve eaten at far too many “high quality” restaurants where the waiters react emotionally to situations with tough customers. That’s no way to manage a restaurant, and should absolutely be frowned upon. After you order, make sure to leave your thoughts in the mountain of positive reviews online. Very well done, El Mencey!