Why Come Here? Some of South Beach’s best upscale food, relaxed atmosphere, pool and ocean views
Right Amount for 2: 1-2 apps, 2 entrees
I never would have come across Florida Cookery had it not been for a recommendation from Miami blogger Food For Thought who is a big fan of Chef Kris Wessel from his previous restaurant, Red Light. I’m very glad I did though as this may be the best spot on South Beach for great food without pretension or (much of) a scene.
Florida Cookery is located in the James Hotel, although “hidden” may be the better term here. There are no signs once you walk into the hotel and you have to walk all the way to the back then up two flights of stairs to find it. Once you do though, you’re rewarded with a cool, sleek modern space overlooking the pool with the crashing waves of the Atlantic in the distance. Add in friendly and attentive service and music and patron noise at the right level and you have one of South Beach’s most pleasant hotel dining experiences. The only issue with the location is perhaps the world’s longest walk to the bathroom (which is outside the restaurant, down a flight of stairs and a long hallway.) So if you’re decked out in traditional South Beach attire with the 8-inch stilettos, you may want to pee before you go.
The menu is fresh and local, with a nod to the diverse heritage of Florida cooking (think pecan-dusted grouper w/ grits, gator empanadas, creole oxtail). Yes,probably half the restaurants in South Beach make this claim. But while most charge the same amount ($15 apps, $25+ entrees), few do it this well. It’s also one of the rare restaurants where I would have been happy eating anything on the menu. And on a recent Saturday night, it was inexplicably only about half-full. So get in before the secret gets out.
Here are my thoughts on what we ordered. You can find more photos on DishEnvy.
Oxtail, Oyster & Alligator Empanadas (1 of each) If you’re into empanadas (who isn’t?) these are a solid way to start your meal. The oyster was a little strange, but the lemon cayenne sauce makes everything better.
Kris’ Biscayne Blvd Shrimp Grilled and covered in a spicy tangy sauce somewhat reminiscent of Worcestershire that you’ll want to lick out of the bowl. Fortunately it comes with baguettes to soak it up so you won’t have to.
Key Lime & Tomato Mahi Mahi The tomato and lime combined for a dish I found a little heavy on the acid. You do get a nice cut of mahi mahi, but there are too many great options here to settle for this.