Monday, March 1, 2010

Midtown Winners

I'm frequently in the downtown Miami area for work.  Over the years I normally hated being down there around lunch time because of the limited and/or inconvenient dining options. ($$$ too)  Times are changing though thanks to the Design District and now the Midtown area.

The first stop is Morgans Restaurant.  It's technically considered in Wynwood but it's only a block south of Midtown so it qualifies.  It's located in a renovated 1930's house and has a nice outside patio plus a convenient parking lot.  Morgans has been open for breakfast and lunch for a couple of months now and recently started serving dinner.  Their website describes it as modern home style comfort food and that is exactly right.  My initial visit was in mid-January and I left very impressed. I started with lentil soup which tasted fresh and well, homemade. It was a generous portion size too.  I followed that with the slow roasted and twice marinated pulled pork sandwich.  The pork was very tender, tasty and I left happy.

I returned for a second visit a couple of weeks ago and had another nice meal.  This time I opted for the "voluptuous" grilled cheese.  It contains white cheddar, gruyere and brie served on sourdough.  Name makes sense...

Morgans is a refreshing new addition to the Miami dining scene and a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown.  The staff is very friendly and the service is good.  I've heard good reports about their brunch so it may become a destination spot on the weekends especially while the weather is nice and you can take advantage of the patio.

Morgans Restaurant on Urbanspoon

28 NE 29th Street
Miami, FL 33137

Stop #2 on the midtown tour is Sakaya Kitchen.  Sakaya IS located in the midtown shops next door to Five Guys.  Sakaya is a very casual spot specializing in Korean type fare. Richard Hales is chef/owner who spent time as chef over at The Mandarin Oriental in Miami.. The menu is written on the wall (chalkboard) and orders are placed at the counter. Service was efficient and food arrived quickly making it a perfect lunch spot for the business crowd.

On my visit I tried the Ika Geso Age (calamari) which was nicely fried and served in ssamjang sauce.  It was a good sized portion and reasonably priced at $6.95.  It featured nice pieces of calamari and a great tasting sauce.  This was a nice start.  I followed that up with 2 solid pork buns.  These aren't the closed Chinese dim sum style pork buns you may be familiar with.  These are served on a clamshell style bun with pickles and ssamjang sauce.  These were delicious.  I'm looking forward to heading back soon and trying the Korean style chicken wings, the short ribs, fresh egg noodles with ginger and more of those pork buns. This place looks like a real winner.  Check it out.

Sakaya Kitchen on Urbanspoon
3401 N Miami Ave
Miami, FL 33127

Sakaya Kitchen

 The last on our "midtown" is Mandolin Aegean Bistro.  Mandolin is a new spot just north of the Design District in Buena Vista.  Like Morgans, it is located in a renovated house and features an outdoor patio that I'm sure some would call charming.  I was there for lunch and I did not feel transported back to Mykonos or Santorini. I felt transported to a small backyard patio in Buena Vista.  The inside area is very small and I suspect weekend crowds result in an uncomfortable wait.  That said, there was only one other table the day I stopped by for lunch so that could be the way to go.  It appears that there is one menu for lunch and dinner.  It features several mezes (small plates) as well as salads, sandwiches, mains and some sides.  

The sandwiches/entrees didn't excite me so I opted to go the small plate route. I ordered the grilled octopus, Turkish chorizo and  kopoglu.  The grilled octopus was excellent. One of the best I've had in the area and will give Michael's a run for the money.  The chorizo was okay but nothing special.  The kopoglu contains potato, eggplant and zucchini, with tomato garlic yogurt.  Okay, I'm not sure what I was thinking on this one.  It was as described, yogurt with potato, zucchini and eggplant.  Pass. 

This place was more expensive than Morgans and Sakaya and too much for a weekday lunch. My meal was close to $30.00 and I really needed a third dish because the octopus and chorizo were on the small side and not very filling.  

This may fall into the over hype trap primarily because locals are yearning for neighborhood type spots.  Nothing wrong with that... I get it.  I'll go back for lunch when I'm craving octopus but doubt I will make it to dinner anytime soon. 

Mandolin Aegean Bistro on Urbanspoon
4312 NE 2nd Ave
Miami, FL 33137


Keri said...

Sounds like an awesome trip. Great blogging here. I love octopus and most everything else!

paula said...

I haven't tried Sakaya yet but love both Morgan's and Mandolin. At Morgan's we loved the meatloaf sandwich and the bread pudding is to die for.

The Chowfather said...

The meatloaf sandwich is up next