La Bodeguita de Vero curates a diverse menu of traditional Cuban meals and specialty drinks, served up family style. Stuffed tostones ($7.50) jump-start digestive engines by delivering sizzling jolts of shredded beef, ropa vieja, or beef in salsa criolla. Placate growling stomachs with savory fillets of grilled salmon sidled next to boiled veggies ($13), or tooth-wrestle the fricase de cerdo–tender cuts of pork simmering alongside potatoes in a special Cuban sauce ($13.50). Sandwiches ($6+) volunteer to occupy restless jazz hands with meaty stacks of steak, fish, and chicken. To offset piquant mouthfuls, diners can corral energy-packed gulps of cortadito ($1.50) or a Cuban mango milkshake ($3.50).
Every day, Vittorio's Pizzeria & Restaurant's proficient pie twirlers construct pizzas, hot sandwiches, and Italian specialties from scratch. The restaurant's modern, mostly horse-and-buggy-free interior harbors a kitchen from which emerge calzones and strombolis overflowing with molten cheese. The culinary team hand tosses the fresh dough that forms the foundation of each pizza, including nine specialty pies, in addition to preparing spaghetti and chicken parmigiana swimming in pools of marinara. The staff also delivers bottled beer and pours glasses of imported wine, cooling tongues better than the unity of a flagpole, a midwestern December, and a school principal's mandate to discipline his hecklers.
As the sun dips below North Lake, strings of lights bordering Taverna Opa’s patio flicker on, casting a warm glow on the water below. The crepuscular calm lasts only a few moments at Taverna Opa: once night falls, live DJs take to the stage, furnishing belly dancers with a throbbing beat by which to shimmy and undulate. Waiters often lock arms and break into traditional zorba dancing. And, if the night reaches a fever pitch, patrons may smash their plates and toss their napkins in the air. This raucous atmosphere has earned Taverna Opa the spotlight in a slew of media publications. But though revelry is paramount, Taverna Opa doesn’t shirk cuisine: chefs marinate fresh seafood and lamb in fresh herbs and roast them on a wood-fired grill, and bartenders pour Greek wines well-suited for the succulent meats or postmeal Trojan horse christenings.
From a young age, chef Wesley Campbell would watch, rapt, as his parents made jerk chicken and pork, steamed fish, and fried chicken at their restaurant in Jamaica. Realizing that this was his calling, he began his career as a prep chef at the age of 16 at the five-star Half Moon resort in Jamaica, where he was quickly promoted to head chef. By age 20, Wesley was offered the executive-chef position––which he turned down. His real aspirations were to start a restaurant in America.
In the time since, chef Wesley has been nominated to represent his country in the International Culinary Olympics competition, and traveled to the United States to hone his skills at four Washington, DC, restaurants. Today, he blends Jamaican, American, and continental preparations into the menu at Mo-Bay Grill, whose dynamic flavor profiles have earned the eatery four palms from Florida Today.
In its dining room, decor details such as palm-tree wall murals and wooden wind chimes evoke “an afternoon by a tiki hut on the beach of Montego Bay,” according to a 2006 review in Hometown News. As island music swoons over the speakers, servers ferry in authentic Jamaican dishes such as baked jerk chicken, apple-glazed pork chops, and hearty stews of oxtail, vegetables, and beef. Afterward, guests can dunk forks into desserts such as banana-rum cheesecake, which gives meals cheesy finishes without quizzing servers about their favorite knock-knock jokes.:m]]
Overlooking the Indian River, the tiki-thatched roof of The Original Tiki Bar and Restaurant houses an expansive menu of fresh seafood, certified Angus burgers, and hearty sandwiches brimming with Caribbean flavors. The lightly fried Bahamian-conch fritters ($8.99) beckon utensils to vote the dullest knife off the table before juicy rib-eye steak arrives, resting atop a bed of mixed greens, pillowed by roasted peppers, onions and soft blue cheese in the steak salad ($14.99). The cuban sandwich makes roasted pork and smoked ham hobnob with swiss cheese, pickles, mayo and mustard within the tight confines of hot-pressed cuban bread ($8.99), and the mahi-mahi sandwich ($13.99) tops a kaiser roll with a blackened, grilled, or fried fillet swimming in tangy tartar sauce that recites Barbados’s national anthem twice before each bite. The Tiki Treasure plate ($19.99) buries sautéed lobster and shrimp in a heaping mound of diced tomatoes, mushrooms, scallions, and linguine, setting the trove off to sea aboard a garlic-bread raft. Diners can cool off their overworked mouths with a frozen concoction, such as piña colada or strawberry daiquiri, from the bar’s extensive drink menu.
Archie Summerlin, part-time poet and self-proclaimed hell-raiser, opened Archie's Seabreeze in 1947 to supply beer to soldiers stationed on South Beach, and his loyal crew continues to serve up pub favorites and cold brews from its vast menu. Like an amorous sea cow's song luring fishermen to the sea, the conch fritters ($7.99), soft shell crab sandwich with fries and slaw ($10.99), and the 8-ounce bacon cheeseburger ($8.99) beckon food-laden fingers to mouths. Domestic and imported bottles ($2.75+), and draft beers such as the Florida-brewed Key West Ale ($3.25) wet whistles as quickly as a referee in a water park.