Don’t you hate going to the Arsht Center in Miami for a concert or play? I mean I love the theater, but the 40 minutes plus drive is ridiculous, and if you hit a traffic jam add another 30-40 minutes to the trip. If you allow time for bad traffic, you know you’ll unexpectedly sail down 95. Then you’re there an hour (or more) before the show. Then there’s the parking situation. Do valet at the Arsht for $25 and wait 30 minutes for your car after the show, or park on the street where the meters are exorbitantly priced (if you can even find a space)?
We head down to the Arsht two to three times a month and, in order to preserve our sanity (and marriage), my husband and I figured out the only way to resolve these issues is to drive down to the theater early, find reasonable parking near a restaurant in the area and then have dinner before the show. We recently discovered a new spot that we love; it’s inexpensive, there’s plenty of reasonable parking in the area and it’s a short walk to the theater.
The Daily Creative Co.
2001 Biscayne Blvd.
The Daily offers up tasty dining options in a casual setting, with quick, efficient service and friendly staff. How quick? It will probably take you longer to make up your mind as you order from the mind-boggling number of options on the giant menu posted above the counter, than it will to get your food delivered to your table. While The Daily is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., breakfast is only served until 11 a.m. weekdays, 2 p.m. weekends. That narrows your options, but only somewhat as you still need to decide between one of those options and the vast array of sandwiches, wraps, soups and salads.
Sandwich options include the standard, meats and cheeses - solo or in combinations, but there are also creative combinations such as; the Biscayne Times Tuna, which combines tuna salad, hummus, cucumbers, arugula, roasted peppers and sprouts on multigrain bread. The Enquirer Pork Belly BLT is served on a toasted Kaiser roll with house-made pork belly subbing for bacon, arugula for standard lettuce, along with a good slab of tomato topped off with a special sauce. Salad selections include the usual suspects, as well as a few exclusive to The Daily. The Biltmore Cajun shrimp tops an iceberg/romaine mix with Cajun shrimp, roasted corn, avocado, black beans, roasted peppers and tortilla strips in a soothing buttermilk ranch dressing. I love the Ocean Drive sesame chicken salad with juicy grilled chicken, crispy wontons, cilantro, red peppers, carrots, toasted almonds and a tangy Asian vinaigrette over an iceberg/romaine mix. If you’ve got room for dessert (I never have) you might want to check out some of the delicious looking pastries on display.
The Daily is about a five to six block walk up Biscayne from the Arsht and meters in the area allow you to park for five hours for only $8.
Bin No. 18
1800 Biscayne Blvd
Of course, The Daily isn’t the only dining option near the Arsht. Biscayne Boulevard is lined with restaurants just north and south of the theater, however, many of them close right after the dinner hour. That’s a bummer if you got held up and want dinner after the show or are just in the mood for a late evening snack. Bin No. 18 solves that problem. Although it’s located in the storefront of an apartment building, once inside you’d swear you were in a European tavern.
Savory options run the gamut from small shared plates to salads and entrees. The burrata caprese "Laboratorio" turns up the volume on the classic dish by adding tomato confit, speck ham and olive tapenade to the classic ingredients. Octopus with olives is the perfect antipasto to share, as is the Fig "Brule," which features sangria infused fruit served with walnuts, blue cheese and caramelized onions. Charcuterie plates are available in a variety of sizes and are accompanied by artichoke and truffle mousse, fig-port jam and marinated olives.
For an entrée check out the churrasco al funghi; a prime Angus skirt steak with a porcini mushroom cream sauce, served with sweet potato pave and organic greens tossed with crumbled blue cheese. Another winning entrée is the bowl of steamed jumbo mussels with a choice of basil/chardonnay broth or spicy tomato arrabiata. The mussel dish is also available in a smaller portion as an appetizer.
The wine list features an amazing number of options by the glass; most priced less than $10. Dessert options are limited to a killer chocolate soufflé and, of course a cheese board, if you’re feeling particularly European.
Books & Books Cafe
1300 Biscayne Blvd.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in convenient dining, the Café at Books and Books, is located right inside the Arsht. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating (weather permitting), table service and a full bar. It’s open for lunch and pre-show dining daily.
As with all Books & Books’ cafes, the food is surprisingly sophisticated and well prepared. The menu features a strategic selection of appetizers, sandwiches, entrees and desserts. A special theater menu is served from 11 a.m. until show time for matinee performances and 5 p.m. until show time for evening performances. The upper level bar is one of my favorite spaces to hang out before the show. As my bookworm hubby browses in the store, I sit in the intimate bar enjoying an appetizer and a glass of wine (or two, since it’s happy hour every day from 4 p.m. until closing), the bartenders are, without exception, only exceeded in their friendliness by their amazing good looks. And that seems as good a place as any to stop.