The choreographed heels of Spanish dancers click in time to flamenco music during live performances punctuated by the clatter of patrons sharing steaming portions of seafood paella, pitchers of sangria, and tapas. High-top black tables hold small plates of gambas al ajillo—shrimp sautéed with garlic and virgin olive oil—and golden empanadas gallegas, turnovers stuffed with tuna or chicken. On walls painted crimson like a rebellious bull’s guitar, Spanish flags hang near paintings of whirling flamenco dancers. The adjacent full bar is stacked with wooden racks of red wine and softly lit with twinkling chandeliers.
The hearty Italian dishes and seafood of Cafe Volare earned praise from the Miami Herald this year for its “wonderful” desserts and dishes such as the “light and elegant” spinach and Parmesan ravioli. Chef Manolo Guerra often prepares whatever dishes customers request, and customizes dishes such as raviole penne and grilled salmon. Desserts range from succulent apple tart to a tiramisu made with Colombian coffee, amaretto, and Sambuca.
After stints at Miami Beach's Smith & Wollensky and The Post House in Manhattan, chef Bob Mignola recently took over the helm of Lola's on Harrison. While he stays busy crafting specials that showcase his talents, he also knows that some staples need no improvement. Take, for instance, the Coca-Cola barbecue beef ribs, just as zesty, smoky, sticky, and sweet as when they debuted in 2007. Or take the crab cakes, still made from jumbo lump-crab meat and served with herbed tartar sauce.
Under Mignola, the rest of Lola's menu ranges from pan-seared rainbow trout with roasted marcona almonds to herb-roasted free-range chicken doused in chicken jus to add an unexpected note of chicken flavor. Bartenders supply a generous selection of cocktails, craft beers, and boutique wines. The New York Times called Lola's on Harrison an ideal pick "if you want to dine in sophisticated style"—that is, amidst art deco flourishes, amethyst walls, exposed brick, and windows framing an outdoor seating area.
At La Barraca Bar, guests bond over shareable small plates of authentic, artfully presented Spanish and Basque fare. Hot and cold tapas adorn the menu, which sings sea chanteys of grilled mediterranean octopus dusted with spanish-smoked paprika ($9.75), queso manchego imported from La Mancha ($7.75), and cuts of Angus filet mignon with mushrooms ($9.75). For heartier appetites, couples can share heaping bowlfuls of freshly made paellas, including the paella del monte, a traditional Valencia recipe that stirs chicken, rabbit, and snails into rice infused with saffron broth ($17.95/person). Selections from the dessert menu provide a sweet finish akin to running through the licorice ribbon at the end of the Candy Land marathon. Sweet-tooth satiators can sample a traditional serving of old-style crème-caramel flan ($5) or seal meals with a slice of house-made Galician-style chocolate cake ($6).
The owners of Heat Restaurant and Lounge set out to add even more character to the already colorful canvas that is the Hollywood district. Heat does just that with its Southern-inspired spread of Cajun eats inside a chic, modish lounge. Chefs whip up seafood specialties, bourbon baby back ribs, and stuffed burgers that, much like piñatas made in Wisconsin, burst with various types of melting cheese. A wide spectrum of music— from hip-hop to reggae to jazz—helps the lounge transform into a club scene later in the evening, complete with hookah and plenty of dancing.
The Big Easy Bar and Grille has been showered with praise from local newspapers for its atmosphere, entertainment, and American fare infused with Cajun spices. New Orleans melodies add their spice to meals during live jazz and blues sets staged Wednesday–Sunday against a neon-lit backdrop of exposed brick. On Sunday afternoons, bands serenade brunchers, who may take their midday repast onto the outdoor patio. When the tunes die down inside, flat-screen TVs pick up the slack, and sports announcers pepper the latest games with their spice-themed metaphors.