When selecting a restaurant space in Miami, operators have plenty of options. There’s artsy Wynwood, Brickell, the sleek “Manhattan of the South,” Coral Gables, a historical neighborhood known for its young chefs, and Little Havana, a multicultural melting pot — and that’s not even touching on all of Miami's neighborhoods or even South Beach. However, as these areas increase in popularity, rent prices continue to increase.
That’s how Wynwood became the food scene it is today. Restaurant owners started to expand further from the center of the city to get more bang for their buck. For the same reason, 79th Street is quickly becoming an area with new concepts popping up between the few repair shops and bait shops on the street.
Between 79th Street's restaurants successfully driving locals to this new culinary scene, and the construction of the residential towers nearby in Bayfront, 79th Street could be the next wildly popular dining district.
Restaurants Paving the Way
Alfredo Patino, owner of Tap 79 and Firito Taco — both on NE 79th Street — and Bin No. 18 in downtown Miami’s Edgewood neighborhood, which borders the Arts District, experienced the Wynwood food transformation firsthand. Bin No. 18 was one of the first in the area 10 years ago. “I saw the potential in what the area could offer and knew there were plans to develop,” says Patino. “Eight years later, the area has completely changed and is now a very desirable location. I see the same vision for the 79th Street causeway.”
His two other concepts, Tap 79 and Firito Taco, are right next to one another on 79th Street. He felt it was time to bring more good food to this area and provide a place for locals to visit after work. “I have been living here for a bit on the island right next to 79th Street and I always saw that gap of needing good eats restaurants,” says Patino. “So, we decided to open here. I come with a good name and we have good operators.”
Brew, Burgers and Brie
Although Tap 79 and Firito Taco are right next to each other, they are drastically different. Tap 79 is a gastrobar concept offering elevated pub grub food like the Brie Fundido (French brie baked in a crockpot with fresh garlic-infused honey) and Short-Rib & Polenta (Coca-Cola slow braised short-rib with creamed corn polenta, Maytag blue, and roasted Portobello). Tap 79's menu also offers an array of artisan cheese and cured meat plates, burgers, and craft beers.
Not Your Average Taco Joint (With a Side of Bocce)
Firito Taco is a small Mexican restaurant with a lower price point (the most expensive item on the menu is $10). The menu offers tacos, including the El Camaron (two tacos filled with crunchy shrimp, pineapple salsa, and salsa verde), along with limited sections of quesadillas, salads, and desserts. Firito offers unique sodas and juices, like the Jamaica Punch with cinnamon, Toasted Almond Horchata, and a few beer selections.
Besides the fact that both restaurants have Coca-Cola braised short-rib on the menu, Patino says that the secret recipe to both restaurants’ success is the quality of the ingredients used at each restaurant. Like most trendy concepts today, both encourage a social and communal dining experience. Tap 79 has an outdoor patio and a bar at the center of the interior space. Firito Taco has counter seating inside with long tables on the patio outside and a bocce ball court.
Schnitzel Haus: German Influence in Miami
Right next to Patino’s concepts is Schnitzel Haus, an authentic German casual dining restaurant with an extensive Bavarian themed menu featuring dishes such as the Bratwurst dinner (two veal pork sausages with sauerkraut), a variety of schnitzel dishes, soups, appetizers, and desserts, like the apple fritters (beer batter fried apples with cinnamon sugar, dipped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce).
With German music playing, diners have plenty to take in while eating here. The restaurant is highly ornamented with German themed décor, including a cuckoo clock, silk flowers and plants, and crystal ball lighting that dances throughout the restaurant.
The restaurant’s biergarten in the back, which hosts live music on weekends, adds an extended social component to Schnitzel Haus.
The Future of 79th Street
There are some other restaurants on the street that are known as local gems, including the busy Mina’s Mediterraneo, a Middle Eastern eatery, and Japanese Market, known for its sushi. “It’s the best sushi from here to Washington, D.C.,” says Patino.
What’s next for this neighborhood? Patino’s group is planning to open a brewery more south and is expanding in the 79th Street area with more concepts. “We are going to start a brewpub on 79th street and we are planning to do a French restaurant very soon, either simultaneously or right after that concept comes in fruition,” says Patino.