Our second stop on our search for the best happy hour in Miami led us to Tongue & Cheek in Miami Beach, where Chef Jamie DeRosa showed us a more stylish (and affordable) side of comfort food and drinks.
The Vibe: Tonue & Cheek isn’t your chic Miami Beach lounge. You won’t see elegant ladies in form-fitting dresses or power brokers in tailored suits. It feels a lot like a familiar neighborhood hangout, but with a casually sophisticated and eclectic look that doesn’t just apply to the decor – even the bar snacks, which feature simple and familiar dishes like sliders, nachos and chicharrones, are styled beautifully. Chef Jamie DeRosa likes to refer to the atmosphere as “laid back and no-fuss,” just like the food.
Prices/Deals: Happy hour is from 4 p.m. to close seven days a week (at the bar and lounge area only), so you never feel rushed to get in that last drink order. The menu features $5 chicken wings and nine diverse bar snack offerings priced at $8. Craft beers are $5 on tap and $6 in a bottle or can. The true gems on the menu though, aside from the food of course (and bartender Carol), are T&C’s handcrafted cocktails. At $8 a drink, you can sample your way across unique and flavorful creations with names so witty, you can’t help but smile as you go down the list. During our visit, bartender Carol whipped these up for us:
My Name Is Buck – (below) Bourbon, Lime, Mint, Ginger Beer. Spicy, citrusy and robust.
50 Shades of Ochre – (below) Bourbon, Mixed Berries, 5-spice, Lime. Flavor as smooth and velvety as its color, with a lovely burst of dark sweetness.
Mexican Stand-Off – (below) Blanco Tequila, Mezcal, Agave, Pineapple, Lime. Wonderfully refreshing, with a rim of smoky heat. Chef Jamie says he can drink one in five seconds – we recommend going slowly with your first.
Olivia Loves Fitz – (below) Gin, Lemon, Angosturs Bitters, Juniper. Light and delicate, this pink refresher tastes like spring breezes and flowers.
Cucumfortably Numb – (below) Vodka, Cucumber, Dill, Lemon. As refreshing as a detox juicer, with that little something extra.
One doesn’t visit a Jamie DeRosa restaurant and skip out on the food. Here’s what we tasted:
Beef Cheek Sliders – Cheddar Pimento Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Brioche. A little tricky to wrap your mouth around, but the definition of bite-sized goodness.
Nachos – Braised Short Rib, Bacon Fat Black Beans, Creme Fraiche, Pico de Gallo. Served in a bowl and surprisingly not messy.
Lettuce Wraps – Crispy Pig Ears, Florida Oranges, Spring Onion and Salted Peanuts. A little too sweet and heavy to eat as a full lettuce wrap, but perfect to nibble on with a group of friends.
“Poutine” – Braised Brisket, Cheddar, Pastrami Spiced Fries. A lot like loaded fries on steroids. If you like crispy things, stick to the Pig Ear lettuce wraps and Chicharrones – this one is for the meat, cheese and potato lovers.
The Scene: Miami Beach’s exclusive and local-driven SoFi area can be a tough location if you’re in the restaurant ‘biz. Summers are usually dead, and even with a happy hour this lucrative (4 p.m. to close? seriously?) the restaurant was far from buzzing. That said, the crowd definitely feels very local and that’s just how DeRosa intended it. “We really wanted to insert ourselves into the fabric of the community,” he told us. “We cater to the locals, we want them to feel at home here.” So at home, in fact, that patrons can even call and reserve a specific seat at the bar during sporting events, which T&C shows on its collection of 260″ TVs, or stop by Saturday and Sunday between 11 a.m. and noon for free coffee. The staff is welcoming and familiar in the way that makes you leave feeling as though you’ve made new friends, and the patrons all know the city’s best kept secrets in the way that only long-time locals do.