Breaking down Eats & Beats in Miami's Design District

Photo: Tomas Loewy

For a first-time event, Eats & Beats Miami kept its promise: our “foodie expectations” were satisfied. Impressive, venturing into what is arguably the best food weekend in South Florida – the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.

A throng of local restaurants, from Rusty Pelican to Ralph Pagano’s Naked Taco, packed into the four-floor space at The Moore Building in the Design District on Saturday night (Feb. 22). Kitty Carmichael, DJ Mr. Sandman and DJ Michelle Pooch dropped the beats, too.

Still, there was some room for improvement. Here’s how we saw it.

The Very Good

The food!
Our palate had a field day with samples from more than 25 eateries, which included BBQ, Mexican and Peruvian cuisine, to name a few. We enjoyed Bongos Cuban Café’s bacon-wrapped plantain with guava cream cheese sauce, Meat Market’s jalapeno corn bread pudding, topped with braised short rib marmalade, pickled Fresno chili and Frisee salad, as well as City Hall the Restaurant’s BBQ brisket sliders.

Easy parking
The benefits of having a satellite event away from South Beach is, well, just that. Parking in the Design District area was relatively easy, and free, as we were able to snag a public street spot like many others.

An alert staff
Whether it was a discarded water bottle or a table in need of cleaning, the event staff had areas spic and span throughout the night. Crews emptied and replaced filled garbage cans and assisted with keeping the floors walkable. Between the drinks and the array of food, you would be surprised as to what can stick to the floor!

The Good

Ticket prices
The affordability of Eats & Beats was an attention getter. Tickets started at $99, maxing out at $250 for a VIP ticket. There was also a $60 general admission Groupon offer that more than 300 people purchased.

The beats
From Michael Jackson to Pitbull, the music appealed to multiple demographics at Eats & Beats. Kitty Carmichael would sing “Billie Jean,” then fuse something with Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.” Later on, DJ Mr. Sandman spun the Latin hits, turning the first floor into a temporary salsa club.

The Bad

Lack of personal space
The atmosphere at Eats & Beats was uncomfortably hot. All four floors of The Moore Building were over-crowded, the air conditioning vents were spotty and there were not enough high-top eating tables or garbage cans. Heck, even the “VIP area,” which was a sitting area with an open bar, was crowded, too. While lines for the actual food samples were short, maneuvering from one floor to the other without bumping into someone was near impossible. Perhaps a new venue is in order for 2015 (like a tent in Midtown left over from a President’s Weekend art fair)?

A late and disorganized start
VIP guests had the privilege of entering Eats & Beats an hour early, but security kept both the VIP’s and the general admission folks outside about an hour longer than expected. When we were let in at 7:30 p.m. (GA waited until 8:30 p.m.), some restaurants were still setting up their tables. There were also conflicted addresses on some tickets that had attendees scrambling between locations. The lack of event signs did not help with that either. (We later learned that the massive traffic jams from Miami Beach over the causeways toward the Design District due to several auto accidents didn’t make things any easier.)

Running out of food 
Less than three hours into Eats & Beats, some eateries were already out of food. For example, the fourth floor, which consisted of desserts, had more than half of the sweet makers without samples. There were smaller instances of this on the latter floors, but we were disappointed in the consistency of food samples. A five-hour event should not run out of food halfway through.