Downtown Miami is a bonanza for the culinarily curious and budget-conscious. Sure, getting there — and especially parking —can be a pain for those of us who don’t work in the area or have some other reason for going. And I’ve got a good one: Martini 28. Despite the name, there are no cocktails here. And the 28? It’s a personal thing between the ambitious young owners, Martin and Charo Villacorta, a husband-wife team from Lima who are as hospitable a couple as I’ve met in all my years of dining out.
The menu changes daily, with some 100 dishes in rotation. While not every one is exceptional, the enthusiastic service and amazingly low prices are. My tab for a satisfying and delicious three-course lunch ($32 with tax and tip) was less than I’d paid for a single subpar entrée at a South Beach steakhouse. You can order ala carte, but the $9.99 prix-fixe lunch with a dozen choices is the way to go. At dinner — for now served only twice a week — the price is only $2 more.
Ambience: 2-year-old Martini 28 is tucked inside a retail ghost town called “The Village.” Here, tucked into what feels like an ancient European courtyard, is a surprisingly modern spot with seating inside and out. The dining room is lined with cozy white vinyl booths and lighted with low-slung drum chandeliers. Sparkly black tables are flecked in gold, and the ceiling is painted matte black. The music ranges from opera to You Make Me Feel Brand New.
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