What Everybody Ought to Know About Eating Healthy in Miami Beach
Earlier this year, correspondent Matt Meltzer wrote the 411 on cheap eats for Spring Breakers. This week, I’m taking a look at healthy eating, some cheap and some a little fancier, but all good and good for you (see: map).
When I started my walkabout searching for health food restaurants, I asked myself an obvious question: just what exactly is health food anyway? Surely, there’s more to it than a plate of brown rice or a bowl of hummus!
So I’m going to define health food here as food that is served as fresh and wholesome as possible, with the highest nutritional value, whether it cater to vegans, vegetarians or omnivores. Of course, some restaurants that serve healthy fare are not considered health food establishments – who’s to say that an Italian bistro doesn’t also serve fresh and wholesome food? Don’t be surprised to find a few unusual choices in this review.
Tucked among clubs and tourist shops—stretching from Española Way to 12th Avenue—are a handful of health-conscious establishments that cater both to the hardcore health nut and the late night party animal.
Fernandez Fruit Market (1407 Washington Avenue) is the Club Deuce of health food. Not only does it look dilapidated, it also welcomes some of South Beach’s most colorful characters. But maybe they’re in the know: who cares about looks when you can get fresh produce and the cheapest, fresh squeezed juices in town? And just in case you’ve been spending some time at the Deuce, do your kidneys a favor and try some cool coconut water for $1.75.
Just down the road a finer atmosphere awaits at Juice and Java (1346 Washington Avenue). The menu – which unfolds to a 2’ x 2’ bible of healthy offerings – offers crepes, soups, appetizers, wraps, pizzas, quesadillas, platters, pasta, salads and of course, over 25 fresh specialty juices. The locale is small but with take-out and delivery option, South Beach locals and visitors have no excuse to not eat healthy.
A few storefronts away, Athens Juice Bar (1214 Washington Avenue) reigns supreme as the juice goddess since 1995. As you enter, the scent of fresh squeezed oranges is intoxicating. Athens specializes in juices, tropical fruit salads and healthy snacks.
Other options close by include The Smoothie Shop (229 Washington Avenue), which offers a buy 10 get 1 free card. And for late-night club-goers, Pita Pit (1321 Washington Avenue) stays open until 3 a.m. Monday through Wednesday and Sunday, 5 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. After shaking your booty, satisfy your munchies with a healthy Mediterranean pita instead of a greasy pizza.
On the quieter corner of Ocean Drive, Ocean Drive Fusion (1501 Ocean Drive) serves natural, organic dishes and Indian cuisine with soybean meat substitutes. Ocean Juice (1451 Ocean Drive, Suite 102) offers low-fat or fat-free smoothies, salads and sandwiches. Front Porch Café (1418 Ocean Drive) doesn’t market itself as a health food restaurant, but serves some of the best salads in town as well as vegetarian sandwiches and pasta dishes.
Alton Road and West Avenue
By far, the mother of all health food hot spots on South Beach is Wild Oats (1020 Alton Road). Part of a national supermarket chain, Wild Oats isn’t a restaurant, but you can eat-in or take out. Juice, sushi, salad and sandwich bars complement a hot and cold meal deli that includes soups, salads and entrées. Wild Oat’s bakery also offers fresh breads, cookies and muffins. In a hurry for breakfast? Grab a cup of fresh-brewed organic coffee and microwave a Wild Oats vegetarian burrito on the spot. Locals tip: if you eat in, don’t bother buying bottled water—a huge jug of bottled water serves customers for free in the seating area.
Just up the road is a much smaller operation, Apple a Day (1534 Alton Road). This market offers fresh-squeezed juices, sandwiches, salads and soups. Apple a Day also has a great selection of health supplements and pre-packaged health drinks at discounted prices. Apple a Day is my personal favorite, by the way: on my shopping list are always organic tomatoes, low-glycemic index bread, “hangover juice” (celery, apple, ginger and lemon isn’t just for hangovers, mind you) and the veggie wrap with hummus and avocado.
Epicure (1656 Alton Road) isn’t exactly a health food market, but grab-and-go sliced fruit, crudités, salads and homemade whole grain baguettes and granola cereal put them on the list. Locals tip: Epicure has FREE PARKING for its customers on the West Avenue lot.
And of course, for an even quicker fix just a couple of blocks south, there’s always Smoothie King (1525 Alton Road), which is part of a national chain serving smoothies and juices to order.
If you blink, you might miss Go-Go (926 Alton Road), which is located next to a non-descript laundromat, set back from Alton Road. But don’t blink, because you don’t want to miss this fast food version of salads, soups and specialty pies. A Superfoods Salad includes baby spinach, quinoa, broccoli, tomatoes, edamame, chickpeas, golden raisins, and toasted pumpkin seeds with carrot ginger dressing on the side. Go-Go specializes in a more delicate version of the Argentinean empanada. The delicious, flaky pastries are baked to order with your choice of vegetarian or other fillings. I enjoyed one pie, a mini-salad and a glass of unsweetened melon-infused green tea for just about $10 and while I was eating I almost said “amazing” outloud like Rachael Ray!
Just around the corner, The Gourmet Carrot (959 West Avenue) serves health food in a proper restaurant setting. The owners have been serving healthy eats in Miami since 1994, with the most recent incarnation opening on West Avenue in 2005. The Gourmet Carrot is certified kosher and serves only soy as dairy, as well as homemade vegan soups, in addition to dozens of sandwiches, salads, entrées, juices, smoothies and even wheatgrass. Locals tip: the tree-lined sidewalk café and cozy indoors dining space, coupled with a wine list, make this restaurant a perfect spot for a health-conscious dinner date.
Pasha’s (900 Lincoln Road) may be the biggest hit yet: fresh, made to order, fast and cheap, this Middle Eastern-style franchise eatery is Lincoln Road’s healthiest and least expensive alternative for nosh morning, noon and night. Someday, Pasha’s should have a sign that says “Over five million low-fat grilled chicken pitas with yogurt sauce served.”
I asked two vegan friends of mine to recommend their favorite restaurants and surprisingly, they both mentioned two restaurants you’d never label as health food. Angela Fischetti tells me that Nexxt Café (700 Lincoln Road) “is very accommodating to both vegans and raw vegans.” With its extensive menu, Nexxt does indeed have something for everyone: I usually need to get through my first cocktail before I’ve even decided what to order and I’ve been noshing there for years. As I mentioned above, this is one of those restaurants where huge portions are a little embarrasing ... but if it’s all healthy and you’re getting your money’s worth, who cares? Besides, perched just south of the Euclid Avenue Oval —it’s not a square plaza or a circle, but an oval—Nexxt is one of the best people-watching spots on Lincoln, so you could argue that your meal ticket even includes free entertainment!
Further west on Lincoln, Sushi Doraku (1104 Lincoln Road) is Miami Vegan’s favorite. “The prices are good for South Beach. The food is very fresh and delicious,” says Inga. “My favorite dishes are Tofu Lettuce Wraps, Agedashi Tofu, Wild Mushroom Sauté and the Avocado Roll with Kimchee.”
Arthur Godfrey Road
Oasis (976 Arthur Godfrey Road) is my new favorite eats, even though they’ve been around since 1997, with a brief hiatus that took place around my move to Mid Beach. This restaurant’s close proximity to my home makes the prospect of never cooking again dangerously tempting! Cozy indoors and café style outdoors, the restaurant is indeed an oasis on the corner of busy Arthur Godfrey and Alton Road, offering healthy food at reasonable prices, as well as juices, smoothies and even an eclectic beer selection.
As for the food, it’s worth having a salad just for the dressing alone; Ginger-Miso, Beet-Tahini and Green Goddess are my favorites. Entrées include comfort food with a twist, such as Turkey-Arugula Meatloaf with Tomato Chutney, served with short grain brown rice and a choice of sautéed greens (collards or spinach) or black beans. All sandwiches come with a choice of salad or for a little extra, their signature sweet potato fries. Meat-free dishes include a Curried Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry, a huge Spinach and Portobello Quesadilla and more. Oasis also serves thin crust, whole-wheat personal-size pizzas and for those who want it all, a Middle Eastern Sampler (hummus, babaganush, falafel, tahini, grape leaves, Israeli chopped salad and olives) that is as generous as a shared appetizer as it is a meal.
Whew! I’ve probably only just skimmed the surface of health food options on the beach. If you know of any restaurants I haven’t mentioned, please contribute to comments. In the meantime ... bon appetit and healthy eating!
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