There are plenty of good things going on at the American Noodle Bar, a fun, cheap, quick and easy new spot on a still-up-and-coming stretch of Biscayne Boulevard owned by chef Michael Bloise, who made his reputation at South Beach’s Wish at The Hotel.The American part of the equation is mostly great – super domestic drink selection, hot soundtrack of R&B, rap and rock, friendly counter staff and a gritty, seat-of-your pants vibe. And we adore the banh mi, the sub-style Vietnamese sandwich that’s a late-to-the-table local craze. Everybody in town seems to be making them, but the Vietnamese-Italian Bloise turns out the best I’ve sampled in Miami. The bread is light, crusty, full of holes and perfect against the rich filling of smoky, shredded, not-too-sweet barbecued pork slathered with avocado butter and pickly red onions. What didn’t do it for us is the namesake dish. Noodle bars took off around the rest of the county half a dozen years ago, so it’s about time we had one to call our own. And at $7, the noodle bowls here – like everything on the menu – are a bargain. But the thick, lo mein-style noodles were bland and sometimes tough. The broths – including my favorites, duck and roasted shallot – are intense and delicious. There simply isn’t enough of it in the bowls, nor is it served as hot as it should be. The noodle bowls would also benefit from a more generous hand with the add-ons. (The best I sampled were the pork meatballs and pulled duck meat.) I’d also love to taste more fresh herbs and crunchy vegetables. The setup in a small space on the ground floor of a vintage Boulevard motel is quirky. Seating options are an oversized wooden table crowded with low wooden stools and a wall-side counter with higher stools plus outdoor tables and chairs. Guests line up at the register to order from a series of blackboards that line the walls, choosing broths and add-ons. Dishes come out in cardboard to-go containers whether you are taking out or eating in. You might want to order snacks to nibble while you wait. We loved the slim-sliced, molasses-colored short ribs with a tender, tangy-sweet bite. Olive-sized hush puppies stuffed with bits of edamame in a tender corn meal puff are addictive if overly salted. The fair foods – a foot-long corn dog and greasy cheeseburger dumplings – are more gimmicky than tasty. The all-American selection of offbeat sakes, domestic brews and well-chosen wines deserves a salute. And we’d come back anytime for the house-made vanilla-strawberry soda and natural raspberry-lemon tea – especially at $2 a pop. Desserts, too, are charming. The carrot cake is one of the lightest and moistest ever, filled with bright threads of carrot and a gooey cream-cheese frosting with a few caramelized pecans on top for crunch. A snowball-like baked Alaska – merengue over a sliver of chocolate cake and a slathering of chocolate-flecked vanilla ice cream – is a winner, too, as is a tiny yuzu lime pie. This isn’t yet the noodle bar we’ve been waiting for, but with some tweaking, it could be.
If you go
Place: American Noodle Bar
Address: 6730 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Rating:★ ★ 1/2 (Good)
Contact: 305-396-3269, www.americannoodebar.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday
Prices: Noodle bowls $7, salads and sandwiches $4-$7, desserts $3
FYI: Reservations not accepted. Free parking on north side of building. Corkage fee $8. AX, MC, VS.