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  • Debbie Lee
  • "Where to stay and what to do during Art Basel"

Debbie Lee

San Francisco, California

Where to stay and what to do during Art Basel

Does anyone have any suggestions for where to stay during Art Basel this December in Miami?  Would also love some things-to-do and restaurant recommendations as well.  Thanks! :)

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  • Elliott Lowen

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    I think you will have a wonderful time at Art Basel Miami during the first week in December. Of course, it is best to book as early as possible. For Miami, I have success with Roomorama, 9Flats, and Wimdu. A quick check is there are still good deals available.

    Since you have experience in the SF bay area, Miami, like many of our very own tourist traps, is a city laden with restaurants with big prices but little value. There are many stylish places, the kind where $30 tuna tartares and $30 chicken breasts are the norm. Sadly, Asian restaurants in Miami tend to be highly "americanized", such as sushi rolls with fried shrimp, doused in sweetened cloying soy syrup, and slathered with mayo.

    Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with an expensive restaurant -- as long as high prices are supported by delectable cuisine - like Coi, Flour and Water, Chez Pannise, Gary Danko, and Foreign Cinema to name a few. But in Miami, there is a lot of hype.

    I've listed 10 restaurants that give you authentic cuisine found in Miami that is a bit different than anywhere else. There are hamburgers, ceviche, fried fish, Cuban fritas, Pizza, and salami sandwiches.

    10. El Mago De Las Fritas
    A Cuban frita is delicious and simple. It is, after all, just a hamburger. At El Mago de las Fritas, the Cuban hamburger is made up of a patty mixed with fresh-ground spiced sausage, layered with thin fried potatoes, and all plunked between two slabs of soft white bread. At $4.50, the hamburger is remarkably affordable. It is also delicious. Make it a double for $6.50. Make it "al caballo" with a fried egg for an extra buck. Or double it up with a fried egg ($7.50). Take a bite outta that sandwich and consider whether El Mago makes a helluva frita. Yes, it does. It's also one of the most affordable bites around.

    9. Maoz Vegetarian
    Maoz Vegetarian is a chain of falafel restaurants, but its location can not be beat for beach side dining. Prices include unlimited fresh toppings from a salad bar: red cabbage, tabouli, roasted cauliflower, and more. The fare is entirely vegetarian and Kosher. Much of it is also vegan and gluten-free. The falafel joint is located on Washington Avenue, just a few steps from Lincoln Road -- and a short walk from many overpriced spots. Maoz Vegetarian is healthful, good falafel.

    8. Buena Vista Deli
    If your perfect first meal of the day involves homemade jelly, fresh breads, madeleines (85 cents), chocolate croissants ($2.50), and chocolate eclairs ($3.95), this neighborhood spot delivers a remarkable French breakfast. In the later hours of the day, Buena Vista Deli also serves casual dinner and lunch -- all under $9. Buena Vista has great sandwiches, salads, and sweets. Flavors are fresh, pastries are flaky, and salads are complex. It's a favorite spot for a tasty lunch or an even better French-style breakfast.

    7. Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán, 542 SW 12th Ave
    There are many taquerias across Miami, but few are as unique and authentic as Andres Tovar's Con Sabor a México Carnitas Estilo Michoacán. This cash-only teeny Little Havana shop offers $1.75 carnitas tacos and $2 beef tripe tacos. And if you think carnitas mean slow-cooked pork, you are wrong. Tovar's tacos campechanos are filled with pork shoulder and sprinkled with crisp chicharrón ($1.75). Toppings include chopped onion, cilantro, and house made salsas.

    6. My Ceviche
    The octopus burrito at My Ceviche is among the greatest burritos in town. It is stuffed with tender braised octopus, coconut-jasmine rice, cilantro, pickled red onion, queso fresco, corn, and rich Mexican crema ($9.95). The restaurant also has ceviches, stone crabs, tacos (one for $3.50), salads, and more.

    5. Harry's Pizzeria
    There are many things to love about Harry's Pizzeria. It is inexpensive. Pizzas are sharable and are all priced below $15. Pies are creative. There is rock shrimp pizza, topped with grilled lemon, manchego cheese, and scallions ($15). There are also craft beers, good wines, and Hedy Goldsmith's desserts. But you can get much more than just pizza at Harry's. Order the polenta fries with house-made spicy ketchup ($6). Try the meatballs -- three tender balls smothered in a rich tomato sauce and topped with cheese ($7). Order salad, soup, or perhaps homemade focaccia. Finish it all off with panna cotta ($6).

    4. La Sandwicherie
    You will find some of the best sandwiches around. There's saucisson sec (French salami, $7.50), prosciutto and fresh mozzarella ($9.05), or plain mozzarella and avocado ($7.40). There's a choice of bread: French, wheat, or croissant. But, as any Miamian knows, at La Sandwicherie, it's all about the house-made vinaigrette and the toppings -- lettuce, tomatoes, green and hot peppers, black onions, onions, cucumbers, and cornichons. So keep a bottle of dressing nearby. Each bite tastes better with an extra squirt.

    3. Josh's Deli
    Joshua Marcus does a lot from scratch at his Surfside restaurant, Josh's Deli. He cures salmon, smokes pastrami, bakes bagels, and makes amazing matzo ball soup. He's also the man behind the counter every single day. Marcus keeps prices low; sandwiches are all under $14, and breakfast items (including his white chocolate chip pancakes) are almost all below $10. But good cooking is not the only reason why he's on this list. Marcus mans the kitchen daily. So sit by his counter, order coffee, read the paper, and chat. Watch the stream of regulars greet the deli's owner with hugs and kisses. That's when you'll comprehend why Josh's is among the best inexpensive restaurants. It's because he has one of the most laid-back, familiar neighborhood spots in town.

    2. Yakko-San
    Yakko-San started as an unassuming, late-night 65-seater on West Dixie Highway more than 11 years ago. Just two years ago, the izakaya (drinks and small bites) joint moved into its bigger space on 163rd Street. Despite the move, the restaurant continues to be open late, prices are still reasonable, and the food is absolutely delicious. At Yakko-San, the menu is extensive; it lists more than 100 items. There is crispy pork onion salad -- deep-fried pork chunks paired with sliced cherry tomatoes and radishes, all doused in a secret homemade soy-based sauce ($7.50). There is sashimi and nigiri. There is hamachi jalapeño with thinly sliced yellowtail, yuzu, ponzu, and flecks of cilantro ($11.50). There is also tempura, rice dishes, noodles, and more. (Check out the specials board.) Yakko-San is an unpretentious small-bites concepts with great grub. And it comes in below $20 per person.

    1. La Camaronera
    There's more than just fried fish at the cash-only West Flagler seafood shack called La Camaronera. Sure, you can order the family-owned restaurant's fabled pan con minuta -- a simple white bun split by a golden-fried fresh snapper fillet, layered with ketchup and chopped onions, for five bucks. Or you can order the fried oysters ($9), fried fish roe ($7), conch fritters ($9), and shrimp empanadas ($4). But at this 40-year-old fish-fry joint, you should also consider the ceviches, the fish fillet with yellow rice ($15), or perhaps even newer additions such as shrimp tacos ($9). Still, this bill of fare isn't what makes La Camaronera the best inexpensive restaurant in town. In a city where few restaurants come and stay, La Camaronera proffers more than delectable seafood. It's become a Miami classic for affordable, fresh cuisine from the sea.

    Comments (2)

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    • Debbie L.

      Debbie L.

      Wow, thanks so much, Elliot! These spots sound amazing! · (0 likelikes)

    • Deepti A.

      Deepti A.

      That's some amazing details of good places to eat. Thank you :) · (0 likelikes)

    Mentioned in this answer:

    1. El Mago De Las Fritas (restaurant)
    2. Maoz Vegetarian (attraction)
    3. Buena Vista Deli (restaurant)
    4. 542 SW 12th Ave (address)
    5. My Ceviche (restaurant)
    6. Harry's Pizzeria (restaurant)
    7. La Sandwicherie (restaurant)
    8. Josh's Deli (restaurant)
    9. Yakko-San (restaurant)
    10. La Camaronera (restaurant)

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