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The Icy, Pricey Ice Box Cafe—A Review & Pictures

February 24, 2009 By Doug in Miami: Food & Restaurant News  | 22 Comments


Ever on the look-out for quality eats on South Beach, my travels took me this time to the Ice Box Cafe at 1657 Lincoln Road, just around the corner from Lincoln Road.  I arrived around 3:45 pm on a Saturday afternoon.


From the look of things, it promised to be a pleasant experience: it was a high-ceilinged establishment with stark white walls and prominent front windows that allowed the afternoon sunlight to filter through at just the right intensity.  It was filled to about half-capacity and had a buzzing atmosphere.  The food on neighboring tables looked appetizing, the decor was minimalist and elegant, and right on the front window was an endorsement from Oprah: “The Best Cake in America.” It looked like it was going to be the perfect place to grab a late lunch.  Unfortunately, however, looks can be deceiving and Oprah can’t be trusted.


I stepped inside, noticing a sign nearby that said “please wait to be seated.” So I did.  I stood there for several minutes, as servers brushed by, to and fro, averting eye contact.  There was nary a host to be seen.  Understanding the value of patience, I waited for someone to approach me, taking the opportunity to snap a few photos in the meantime.  They would have to notice me eventually, right? Wrong.  About 10 minutes later, I went up to the counter, and was able to get the attention of one of the servers, Jackie, a tall, corpulent blonde with a certain South American-German kind of vibe.  I asked if there was a particular place one was supposed to stand to be seated, because I’d been standing there waiting for about 10 minutes.  I don’t know if I’d broken a cardinal rule by pointing this out, or if the 18% pre-included tip just makes them feel less inspired; there were no apologies, no explanations, just a terse “Do you want to sit inside or outside?

“It doesn’t matter,” I smiled.  I wanted to show her that I was flexible and that I really wasn’t such a difficult guy.

“You can sit anywhere you want,” she said nonchalantly.

So, I took a seat inside, toward the back.  And I waited even longer.  It wasn’t that they were being unfriendly to everybody.  There were some apparent regulars that the servers stopped to make conversation with, patting the heads of their exotic children.  Maybe I just looked like an expendable tourist from Omaha with my camera.


After about five minutes, someone dropped off a menu, with a couple of printed out pages of some rather pricey selections.  Sparkling wine was $10 a glass; champagne was $15.  Knowing Miami Beach’s difficulty with the concept of refillable iced tea, I opted for a pitcher of iced green tea with mint for $5, which turned out to be surprisingly flavorless.  I would have crushed the mint leaves into the tea, but they were impossible to reach without getting your arm stuck in the pitcher.


A while later, Jackie bellowed to me that she would be there “right away”—and then promptly disappeared.  Fortunately, someone happened by a while later and took my order.  Apparently, the waiters here share their stations.

The lunch menu items were mostly of the sandwich and salad variety, along with a little Mexican breakfast corner and some omelets.  Feeling a little hungry, I ordered the $15 Kobe burger, which came with arugula salad on the side.  The prices seemed a little high for a cafe, even one with stark white walls and exposed ductwork, but hey….it’s South Beach.

The food, what there was of it, took another 20 minutes to arrive.  Jackie brought it over and said, “Your Kahhhbay?” It consisted of a burger so small that it would make Clara Peller scream “Where’s the beef?”.  According to the staff, it was 8 ounces, though some of it had undoubtedly evaporated during the cooking process; moreover, it looked as though it had been grilled on an outdoor barbecue.  Nonetheless, I have to admit it was tasty enough once you penetrated the charred exterior—and it was thick, kind of like a flattened meatball.  Other than the melted Gouda cheese and some crushed red peppers, there was nothing on the burger, nor was anything offered, aside from catsup.


Usually in restaurants offering menu items in the $20 range, a server stops by your table a few minutes into your meal to ask you how everything is.  This wasn’t the case at the Ice Box Cafe, where the service was leaving me frigid.

After I finished, a bus person cleared away my plate and I waited again for several minutes.  Jackie attended to some nearby tables and quickly made eye contact with me, but then just as quickly looked away.

Finally she came by and said, “Do you want the check? Or do you want dessert?”

I said I’d like dessert and she asked me what I wanted.  I told her I would need to see a dessert menu.  She explained that they didn’t have one, that the customers usually walked over to the display case by the counter and selected what they wanted.  So I did.  Only about half the cakes were actually labeled.  But, recognizing my favorite, carrot cake, I chose that one.

At this point, I decided to tell Jackie that I was writing a review of their restaurant and gave her my card.  Her demeanor changed instantly.

“One suggestion,” she said.  “If you want to eat here, don’t come at this time of day, because it’s our shift change.” Apparently, the shift on Saturday changes at 4 pm, though for some reason it was getting on to 5 and Jackie was still here.

I asked if there was a host, and she said that he didn’t work Saturdays.

The dessert arrived much faster than my meal had.  Jackie even offered some lemon syrup for my tea, although I hadn’t mentioned how flavorless it was.

The cake turned out to be as flavorless as the tea; the frosting, rather than the traditional creamed cheese, was something similar to Cool Whip, while the cake itself was rather dry and bland.  I was starting to lose confidence in Oprah’s culinary taste.  Fortunately, Jackie, without any prompting, comped my $6 dessert because I’d had to wait.  Jackie’s final disappearing act came on the check, which listed only Annette as my server and Erika as the cashier.


Total damage for my burger and drink, including tax and pre-included 18% tip: $25.40. 

You need to shave your head, wear black and leave the camera at home before venturing out to some of the local haunts.  Otherwise, you might as well be wearing an “I’m with stupid” t-shirt.

See more pictures of Ice Box Cafe.

Related Categories: Dining Miami: Food & Restaurant News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

See more articles by Doug.

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22 Comments on

"The Icy, Pricey Ice Box Cafe—A Review & Pictures"

Gus says:

Doug, sorry you got the cold sholder.

The customer service on Lincoln Road is notoriously bad.

Hat Tip to Jackie for giving us the Tip Of The Day:

“If you want to eat here, don’t come at this time of day, because it’s our shift change.”

The servers and kitchen staff stop caring, at the end of the shift.

Most likely, Jackie had been working since 10am, and she might even have been pulling a double shift.

I know you’re trying to do the right thing, but I would have given them your card when you were waiting at the door.

The burger looked small. Could you have substituted the salad for fries?

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 5:49 AM

Rick says:

Me and my girlfriend had a wonderful dinner there on Valentine’s Day. Decent service and a great meal at a fair price.


Posted on 02/24/2009 at 6:31 AM

Doug says:

Rick, I’m glad your experience was better than mine.

Gus, I’m not sure about the fries, and I’m perfectly fine with salads, given a decent-sized burger!

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 9:28 AM

Gus says:

Rick, you used the word “killer” to describe the experience.

Forum discussion at Miami Beach 411 Forums

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 5:46 PM

Rick says:

Wonderful=killer, Gus.


Posted on 02/24/2009 at 7:49 PM

Carlos Miller says:

She should have said, “If you want to eat here, tell us beforehand that you are writing a review.”

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 9:02 PM

Doug says:

ha ha. Yeah! That wouldn’t change anything.

I used to be a secret shopper, and this place lacked the standards of Tony Roma’s.

If they’re pulling doubles and want to get out, then you’d think the service would be really fast…

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 9:43 PM

Carlos Miller says:

I waited table for four years and I can’t stand the arrogant and aloof service you get on South Beach.

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 9:45 PM

SuperBee says:

Icebox - eh. Best for Brunch, where the EggBox is tasty.

The worst meal I ever had there was dinner one night, with a waiter who was really banking on his automatic 18% tip. I had some sort of wild mushroom pasta… avec lots of dirt in the mushrooms. It was horrendous.

And yet… I return. But never for anything with mushrooms. Never for anything with mushrooms… never…

Posted on 02/24/2009 at 10:14 PM

Tere says:

I’ve only been there once, and don’t plan on going back. Indifferent, incompetent service, though the food was pretty good. The cakes (plural, my friends and I ordered like 8 slices to see if Oprah knew what the H she was talking about) were mediocre, far from the best of anything anywhere. And in my cheap-o opinion, for a “cafe” that is as plain nondescript as this one, it was too pricey.

Overall: booooooo.

Posted on 02/27/2009 at 1:32 PM

bryan sereny says:

Guys you just have to go back and try the “pan cake”. That’s what Opera was referring to. They are OUT OF THIS WORLD!!!

Posted on 02/27/2009 at 1:42 PM

Bill Hernandez says:

Gus, the service there is terrible. But there are some items that are good. I am in complete agreement that it is overpriced for no good reason.

Posted on 02/27/2009 at 3:12 PM

Mel says:

Based on my last experience there, I agree with your review. And, they have the extreme of the extremes when it comes to the service. The women working there are like a bad pill; however, the men working there are very nice. I don’t mind paying for good quality and for good service, but they have gone done hill!

Posted on 02/27/2009 at 4:03 PM

James Echols says:

In general, unlike many people, I find service on South Beach to be just fine. I usually do not mind hanging out at my dining place for a while and enjoying an unhurried eating experience. I am aware of where not to go if I am in a hurry, so I only go to those places if I have plenty of time to hang out. I know where to go if I am in a hurry, too.

However, even I dislike the Ice Box. I admit to never having eaten there, so I cannot comment on the food. I did *try* to eat there. But I waited so long for a server that I left after only ordering tea, and that is a looooooong time for me.

The establishment never looks inviting, more like the ice box it is named after. The staff always looks off-putting. And much of the time when we go by it is mostly empty. And, as you said, it is overpriced for a cafe.

Posted on 02/28/2009 at 11:22 AM

Zoe says:

Best cake in America?! I think not. I’ve been there because the cakes *looked* appealing while strolling by, but when we actually tasted it, it tasted like it had been in the fridge for a week. Stale and dry. I would take a Pepperidge farm cake or a Mischa’s cupcake over Icebox *any day*. Complete waste of our time that day and the only advantage is, I now know better - next time I have friends in town asking for any dining tips, I will be sure to steer them away from the Icebox.

Posted on 03/05/2009 at 11:42 AM

Mario says:

Wow!! Even after Doug told them he was doing a review, they couldn’t get their act together.  Place sounds overrated.

Posted on 03/07/2009 at 12:55 AM

Sungal says:

I went there with my neighbor tonight for dinner. He got the recommendation from a local woman, and we both thought it was a casual, inexpensive place. Casual yes, inexpensive no. We got an order of bruscetta, which was amazingly good..fresh baguette lightly toasted with freah tomatos, garlic..yum!

He got a steak, which was served over roasted potatos, eggplant, peppers, and other veggies, along with a chimmichurro sauce, which he loved.

I ordered the chicken milano, which was lightly breaded checken breast over sauted spinach, with heart of palm, basil, and tomato. Delicious!

Unfortunately, we were stuffed and didn’t order dessert, which seemed to be their specialty. I did look into the “icebox” and see a really good looking chocolate hazelnut moose cake, and a chocolate ganache..

Next time I’ll be back for dessert, but I thought dinner was amazing.

It’s a very low key place, so don’t expect your date to be impressed upon arrival..

Posted on 03/07/2009 at 3:54 AM

sungal says:

I agree with Doug that the service could be better..our server could have checked on us and possibly shared why Oprah thought it was the best cake…was she there? which cake was her fav?

There was also a list of items that you could pick up for dinner designed for families, starting at $45 per week..various meatloaves, mashed sweet potaos..I would’ve liked more info on the concerpt, but there was no one to ask.

On the dinner menu there were also “recession specials”, which is nice for a restaurant to do.

If you don’t mind very relaxed service, and a no-frills ambiance, in a trade for deliciouis, home cooked food with generous portions, it’s definately worth a visit.

Posted on 03/07/2009 at 4:43 PM

elizabeth says:

It’s South Beach people the service sucks everywhere.

Posted on 03/11/2009 at 7:13 PM

buster says:

no excuses, not all places in South beach have bad service and atitude. This is not exceptable so you guys have to stop with the excuses… this is not the 80’s any more.. and there is no reason to go somewhere and be treated badly for a 25 dollar sandwitch even if there is a shift change that is called bad managment.

Posted on 03/15/2009 at 1:35 PM

Doug says:

I’m with you, Buster! If we just shrug bad service off as, “That’s just South Beach”, then businesses will just stop trying.  If a business is going to be successful anywhere these days, more than ever, it must create good feedback from its customers with great service and a quality product.

Posted on 03/15/2009 at 5:26 PM

Toasty says:

I totally agree with Buster!  That’s how Miami gets a bad reputation!

Posted on 03/28/2011 at 12:00 PM

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