North Beach sizzles with dozens of new dining destinations to tempt tourists off the sand and into some great ethnic eateries. Wend your way westbound on 71st Street until you see the beautifully restored fountain that is the centerpiece of this thriving commercial district and then choose what kind of cuisine suits your fancy. We like the French, the Thai, the Latin and Greek Grills and the fast and funky Do-It-Yourself sushi bar where everything you eat arrives by boat!
On Saturday mornings, a small farmer’s market at the west side of the fountain serves as a meeting place for local shoppers who buy produce, small houseplants and crafts. Late night, the sidewalks are often filled with fans of Dolce Vita (954 Normandy Drive), a Latin gelato shop that creates it’s own tropical flavors on site. As the fall season kicks off and our weather turns cooler, we invite you to check out all of the busy sidewalk cafes that circle this picturesque fountain in Normandy Isle.
Las Vacas Gordas
One of the most popular sidewalk cafes has just completed an extensive renovation, doubling it’s indoor and outdoor seating capacity. Las Vacas Gordas Argentine Steakhouse sizzles all night long with wait times at the door getting critical before they took over their neighbor’s storefront. Service can be spotty on busy nights but everyone’s buzzing about the traditional South American style grilled meats which include the tender churrasco skirt steak, crisp mollejas sweetbreads, chorizo and morcillas sausages. Starters of flaky, filled empanada pastries and melted provoleta provolone cheese are perfect with a cold Quilmes Argentinean beer. At full capacity, Las Vacas Gordas feels like an impromptu street party with loud music, conversations in Spanish, Portuguese and English and a bustling and boisterous clientele. If you want to dine where the locals and ex-pats mix and mingle, this lively spot is your best bet.
Las Vacas Gordas
933 Normandy Dr.
Miami Beach, FL 33141
Just across the street but half a world away, Tamarind Thai offers guests a quiet refuge from the steamy streets with white linen table cloths and tiny flickering candles. Much more of a date spot with a far shorter wait at the door, the chef’s daily specials should be your first priority at dinner time. Chef Vatcharin Bhumichitr owns a number of acclaimed Thai restaurants in London and worked with his art school classmate here in Miami Beach to create one of the more upscale Asian eateries in town. Curry dishes are a strong point though it’s important to let your server know how spicy you prefer your food. Vegetarians will thrill to the spiced pumpkin curry when it is available. Laap Gai, a cold minced chicken salad makes a great starter to share on a hot night. What distinguishes the Tamarind menu is a thoughtful pairing of traditional Thai dishes with more innovative offerings that may be unfamiliar to the casual diner. We suggest you pick at least one new dish on your next visit to expand your knowledge of Thai cuisine. Upscale, friendly and full of unexpected flavors, Tamarind Thai is a sophisticated spot for adventurous foodies.
946 Normandy Dr
Miami Beach, FL 33141
Lemon Twist French Bistro
Local diners were sad to see the Lemon Twist Restaurant close it’s doors after the owners spent a small fortune making the storefront space feel elegant and cozy with one of the best little bars on the Beach. Managing to create an air of sophistication on a street filled with a mom and pop video shop and a crowded laundromat, the Twist simply opened a few years too soon for the neighborhood. Flash forward to Fall 2009 and the popular Normandy Isle spot is reborn as a classic French bistro with new owner Alain Suissa creating a cozy, insider’s vibe that should definitely lure back the locals. He’s made a number of new design choices inside adding banquette seating and a pressed tin ceiling over the bar, but outside the name remains the same. Bringing in a classically trained chef from Lyon France, the restaurant soothes with lace curtains, soft lighting and hearty traditional bistro fare. We’re hopeful that with Lemon Twist, love can be lovelier the second time around!
Lemon Twist Restaurant
908 71st St
North Miami Beach, FL 33141
Katana Sushi Cafe
Just next door to the brand new Lemon Twist, eager diners cool their heels in front of the only sushi-go-round left on Miami Beach. We were sad to see the popular grab-and-go concept close it’s doors on Lincoln Mall a few years ago, but we remain fans of Katana which presents individual portions of sushi and sashimi on wooden boats driven by a stream of water rushing through the bar in an endless loop. Small, dark and often very crowded, Katana keeps prices low, preparations simple and guests moving through their meals at a rapid pace. The name of the game here is turnover so the sushi is as fresh as the place is crowded. Guests sit at the bar, grab price-coded plates off the boats and create their own sushi sampler. Once they’ve had their fill, a waiter stacks and tallies the colorful empty dishes and presents the check. A small kitchen prepares cooked foods like tempura-battered entrees and decadent desserts. Arrive just after the restaurant opens at 6pm or skip the dinner rush if want to avoid a long wait. The restaurant can not seat large parties and does not take reservations. Katana offers a fun, fast, casual approach to Japanese food for diners on the go.
Katana Sushi Cafe
920 71 Street
What makes North Beach so appealing for adventuresome diners is the quick access to a number of reasonable ethnic eateries all within yards of the Normandy Fountain. The relaxed atmosphere, sidewalk seating and free parking after 6pm appeals to families, folks with small dogs and plenty of locals who enhance the friendly, multi-cultural, neighborhood vibe. We consider Normandy Isle the perfect antidote to the trendy South Beach scene.
Check it out!
Some of the restaurants mentioned in this article also offer take out or delivery. Call for hours and information. From Collins Avenue, drive westbound for 1.5 miles until you see the Normandy Fountain. Street parking is free after 6pm. The Farmer’s Market takes place every Saturday morning at the base of the fountain between Normandy Drive and 71 Street.
Dolce Vita Gelato, 954 Normandy Drive 305-865-2523
Las Vacas Gordas Argentinean Steakhouse, 933 Normandy Drive 305-867-1717
Tamarind Thai Restaurant, 946 Normandy Drive 305-861-6222
Lemon Twist French Bistro, 908 71 Street 305-865-6465
Katana Japanese Restaurant, 920 71 Street 305-864-0037