Miami nights. The thought conjures visions of sultry, starlit exchanges. Pulsing nightclubs where the skimpily dressed rub against the hard-bodied. Afterparties and hotel lobbies and — why stop there when you can go for a stroll on the beach? You could go until the sun beats you down.
Just don’t get hungry. By midnight, most South Florida restaurants are done. Even on South Beach. And when it looks like a place is still happening, it’s likely the bar is pouring but the kitchen is cold.
There’s always the 24-hour Taco Bell or pizza joint, but that’s only cool if it’s 3 in the morning and you have the sensibilities of a 10th-grader. There are Calle Ocho’s sister Cuban standbys, Versailles (at 35th Ave.) and La Carreta (36th Ave.), both open until 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and later (3:30 and 5 a.m., respectively) Fridays and Saturdays. But beware the buzz kill that comes from realizing those well-dressed, wee-hours diners at the next table are mourners fresh from a neighboring Cuban funeral home.
Whatever you’re doing up at that hour, we figure you could use a few late-night dining suggestions. No, this isn’t a comprehensive list. And yes, we’d love it if you’d post your favorite after-midnight eateries below.
After glamming it up on South Beach, there’s one sure-fire route back to reality. Find yourself a bar stool at this open-air sandwich and smoothie counter, residing pretty much in an alley off 14th Street.
The French bread and croissants are fresh (what more can you ask?) and the stuffings are bountiful: turkey, salami, roast beef, pâté, camembert, tomatoes, green or hot peppers, black olives, onions, cucumbers and cornichons, to name a few. Most sandwiches are $6 or $7 and salads top out at $8 — a happy surprise after all those $20 cocktails.
Not done partying? Grab your order and stroll across the street to the landmark Club Deuce, a rough-and-tumble bar where just about anything goes.
229 14th St., Miami Beach (between Washington and Collins); 10 a.m.-5 a.m. daily; 305-532-8934.
Here’s all you need to know about this Japanese standout tucked in an unglamorous North Miami Beach strip mall: Show up at 1 or 2 in the morning and you’ll find the tables crowded with staff from (mostly Asian) restaurants that have closed for the night. Even local star chefs like Michelle Bernstein and Allen Susser have been known to drop by after punching out.
There is no sushi (that’s next door at Hiro’s Sushi Express), but a wide selection of Japanese tapas, some more Fear Factor than others. You can sample crab brains and fish sperm sacks here. But there’s no need to be a daredevil.
The long menu features everything from the not-for-everybody natto (fermented soy beans) to familiar rice and noodle dishes, but focus your attention on the blackboard. It changes daily and boasts a creative selection of small plates, from the freshest sashimi to steamed fish to sautéed baby octopus. Recent standouts: delicate chrysanthemum tempura ($4) and thin-sliced hamachi with jalapeños ($17).
17040 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami Beach; 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6 p.m.-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday; 305-947-0064.
MONTES DE OCA ORIGINAL PIZZA CUBANA
Don’t come here expecting to find frills — or someone to shed light on what a Cuban pizza is and how it differs from the other kind. Basically, you’re dealing with thick, bready crust.
A plantain pizza? We didn’t get it, either, but apparently it’s a big seller. So is the chorizo pizza. Ask for the bambinas, individual-size pies. Or forget the pizza altogether and go for the much worthier frita, or Cuban burger, a spicy beef and chorizo patty topped with shoestring potatoes and chopped onion. Wash it down with a batido de leche malteada (malt) and marvel at how much money you still have in your pocket.
Perhaps the best bargain here is breakfast. Two eggs, bacon or ham, french fries, Cuban toast and café con leche for $3.49. Served any time.
5241 SW Eighth St., Miami; open 24 hours; 305-567-0306.