Sunday, November 14, 2010

Miami Lunch

Thursday was another of those occasions when we found ourselves, my wife, the dog and I, in Miami for the day. I had worked the night before so my wife took the wheel and drove while I slept in the passenger seat and Cheyenne slept on the back seat. A symphony of snoring my wife said when she woke me up for a coffee and sandwich at Starbuck's on Key Largo. I got to relax in style up the Turnpike, reading the paper which I had picked up out of our driveway, eating and drinking as we went. Then we were in the Big City, the place with elevated railways and everything modern.After a visit to the rheumatologist we were both ready for lunch and my wife, who was full of injected cortisone and punctured like a pin cushion by attempts to draw blood, was able to think on her feet and came up with a new-to-us plan for lunch.We plunged into the heart of the heartless city and parked the car in an underground lot underneath a recent development around the corner from the Doctor's office.We have frequently passed a barbecue joint on Highway One, known around here as South Dixie Highway, and this my wife said, was going to be the day. We walked through the empty development. There were some coffee shops at ground level with people sitting out on the sidewalks in the winter sun, but this place missed the development boom of South Florida by a year or two.Citibank is now open to loan you back the money they were bailed out with. Or not. I am thinking of declaring myself to be a bank so I too can borrow money at a quarter percent and loan it back to taxpayers at better than 4%, and by this miracle of ingenuity award myself a nice fat annual bonus, also at taxpayers' expense. Besides all that banks are also being allowed to get do- overs when they are caught trying to use fraudulent documents to foreclose on homeowners. Luckily not every criminal gets a Mulligan!
Seen from the rear Shorty's doesn't look that great. There again we could say that of ourselves too I guess.This part of the world has it's share of Key West type street people. After hurricanes when street people in Key West are evacuated along with other car less residents to the Miami shelter set aside for Keys' residents, the Citizen newspaper is full of comments about leaving them there. I don't think Miami really wants our residentially challenged people as they have plenty of their own.
Because we still have jobs we figured we could knock off a couple of lunch specials at $6.50 each.Shorty's is all decked out in the usual hokey barbecue theme as though license plates and rodeo equipment really would make you feel as though you were in West Texas. It is not the down home barbecue joint we thought it was from the street.It turns out the restaurant at 9200 South Dixie Highway is just the flagship of a chain of five Shorty's that go almost all the way to Jupiter up the coast. This place has been around since 1951 so they must be doing something right.Silly me, I was quite surprised to see Spanish advertising in the stiff plastic menu. There is nothing down home about the slick advertising covering every square inch of space on the multi page menu. Shorty's caters to everyone and the relatively inexpensive meal makes it a place to go for large families. The genuinely friendly waitress was a surprise when we realised what a cattle market this place is. They seat you "family style" which isn't really family style as neighbors and strangers don't make eye contact- this is Miami after all, not small town West Texas.The children on either side of us were remarkably well behaved, which was another pleasant surprise for me. I'd rather be gnawed to death by dogs than have to engage in conversation with a small child. Perhaps the waitress grinned at us engagingly because we spoke the same language. The abuela who sat opposite it us had not a lick of English and ordering was done by her grand daughter.Samuel Adams made a refreshing appetizer to wash down the real appetizer which was fried green tomatoes. They were crisp and slightly tart and utterly delicious such that I forgot to photograph them until we were reduced to sharing the last disk:We got a plate of beef ribs each and the meat was perfectly done. The fries and Texas Toast were undistinguished, the coleslaw was okay and with tomatoes to start and a small pitcher of beer our bill rose up to $27. Giddy heights indeed.It was a little extravagant but we rarely eat barbecue in Key West now that Mad Dawgz has died, so it was worth the taste. And the taste was good, not exceptional but reliably well done in a mass produced sort of way.The thing is though that Miami offers a huge variety of cuisine, from Haitian to Indian to Jamaican and all the diaspora of South Americans who call Miami home. We've eaten Spanish and Argentine and there is lots more to try, so it's unlikely that barbecue will hold our attention. When we were hungry in this part of town we used to eat at a fascinating Asian fusion place called Origins which we loved. They had several Asian cuisines in a Bento Box and it was a real away-from-Key-West treat. But they've gone... so we tried Shorty's and we're glad we did. One more bucket off the list of Miami eateries to try.Decidedly not the worst possible choice of places to eat in southern Miami but not the most interesting or adventurous either. And impressively enough they have an actual real woodpile in back. Real barbecue if that's what you crave.Back we went through the development in search of a customer base, to the car deep underground where it was cool for the dog sitting in the back.My wife had a couple of beef ribs for Cheyenne who went to work with a primal will. "She won't even remember that it was me that gave them to her," my wife grumbled as the dog looked up at me with pure adoration in her eyes.Full of meat and potatoes we got into the traffic that never seems to diminish in this crazy town. It was three o'clock on a Thursday afternoon and south 62nd Street looked like the starting grid at LeMans.
We took surface streets to the Suzuki shop where I like to buy motorcycle gloves from time to time. We saw this place on Red Road at Bird Road and my wife said sagely "We're going to have to try that place sometime." I took a picture to remind myself but that woman is amazing. She has a mind like a steel trap and someday in the next few months when I look around hopelessly trying to think of where to eat she will steer us here, unfailingly, an old fashioned drug store. Very cool.
They like to put up signs on medians in Miami advertising all manner of crap. In this case they had Mixed Matrial Arts on offer. I wondered if "Matrial" was descended through a line of women?
Darkness finally started to fall while we were inside the Kendall Costco and by the time we came out with 419 dollars-worth of stuff Cheyenne was well past her dinner time. I put the bowl in the flower bed to stop it spinning around on the asphalt and she dug in.
I rather prefer my sunsets from the deck of my house but even in this urban hell the setting of the sun has a certain effect.
With the trunk full and my wife ready to play Scrabble on her iPhone, Cheyenne took her place on the back seat for that last cruise of the day, back down Highway One.We keep thinking that we should do more tourist stuff when we go to the Big City, but our trips tend to be utilitarian, sparked by something as mundane as a doctor's visit and ending up purely as a shopping trip.It works for us but it tires Cheyenne out. Sometimes a girl needs to stretch out on the floor, not on her bed, for reasons known only to herself.Not that she would stay home given the choice. Taking walks in Miami between shop visits is an adventure she wouldn't do without.