Comfort faves for the cooler months

Miami may seem like the type of place where nouvelle cuisine is all the rage, and restaurants serving stick-to-your-ribs comfort food are hard to find, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are American diners, Latin American restaurants, and Irish Pubs where stew, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, pot pie and more are the stars of the menu.

When I think of something hearty and satisfying a rich stew comes to mind, and that’s pretty much what a potaje is in a Latin American restaurant. The ingredients may vary a little but it’s basically, a stew. What I love about these, especially at a Cuban restaurant, is that they differ daily and it’s fun to go only to find out your favorite’s being served. Also, this dish always reminds me of my childhood and the fantastic potajes that my Mom made, especially my favorite, chicharos (split pea).

A couple of my favorite spots to get these stews are Sergio’s Restaurant and La Carreta, which I’ve been going to for years. They’re consistently good, and their food tastes almost as good as my Mom’s. They’ve got split pea at La Carreta on Saturdays and on Tuesdays they’ve got another one of my favorites ajiaco, which has small rounds of corn on the cob and tons of vegetables. What I especially love about these stews is their meat ratio, they all have large chunks of either beef, ham, or Spanish chorizo. That’s what makes these “eat like a meal,” as Chunky Soup puts it. At Sergio’s they have incredible red bean (or frijoles colorados) stew and when they’ve got it, the lentil soup (which again is more like a stew), is also a must try. There are several locations for each restaurant but somehow they manage to not skimp on quality or taste. Visit sergios.com and lacarreta.com to find their locations. For Sergio’s I recommend visiting the one on 32nd Avenue and Coral Way (the original) and for La Carreta the one on 36th Avenue and Southwest 8th Street.

Crossing over the pond and jumping from Cuba to Europe, some of the most comforting “fare over there” has to be Irish pub food and in Miami, Irish pubs are everywhere. One of the latest ones to open that I truly enjoyed is the Brickell Irish Pub – this place is Irish all the way, from the decor and ambiance to the food and the many craft beers. They’ve got lunch, dinner, and late-night menus to comfort any grumbling tummies. Guinness and Short Rib pie features beef short ribs braised in stout served with carrots, potatoes, and peas. And what would an Irish¬†meal be without cod, combined with smoked salmon in the delicious Irish fish cakes, or on its own, amber, beer battered, and fried until golden brown, served with shoestring fries and homemade remoulade sauce. Hungry yet?

And how could I possibly write a comfort food article without mentioning a diner, so here it is. The S&S Diner is it, with two locations, one in the heart of Downtown Miami at 1757 NE 2nd Avenue and, the other in the heart of South Miami at 4000 South Red Road in the historic Allen’s Drug Store. Both places are not only great for grabbing typical diner fare like corned beef sandwiches, burgers, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes, and chicken pot pie, but the nostalgia is addicting. At NE 2nd Avenue customers sit around an 18-seat horseshoe shaped counter and must pay in cash. There’s a lot of standing around waiting for a counter seat, but it’s worth it for the experience–and the food of course. And in South Miami, it’s a step back in time to the 1950s malt-shop era. The vintage Allen’s Drugs sign and off-center entrance on the corner make it that much more classic.

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