Welcome to NoBri
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A bit north on Third Avenue is a banal, almost institutional building, but inside is a pocket of sleek white, purple and glossed concrete that’s home to CVI.CHE 105 (105 NE Third Ave., 305-577-3454; ceviche105.com). Probably the most modern-looking spot in NoBri, it was opened last year by chef Juan Chipoco, who accents his traditional Peruvian cuisine with a modernity that matches the setting. The place has been such a hit that this past February they broke through the back wall and expanded to three times the original size.
So there’s plenty of international fare, but what about Americana? Head to Sparky’s Roadside Barbecue (204 NE First St., 305- 377-2877; sparkysroadsidebarbecue.com), a roomy Southern luncheonette (sea-foam-green tables, bull skulls on the walls) featuring “low and slow” St. Louis-style barbecue, using a hickory and applewood rotisserie smoker. I know people get serious about their barbecue here, but this is some of the best in the county. And a couple of blocks west, First & First Southern Baking Company (109 NE First Ave., 305-577-6446), run by two brothers from West Virginia, pulls people in off the street with the scent of confections and the sight of mandarinorange-, mojito- and Jack Daniel’s-flavored pound cakes.
These smaller operations are easy to miss, as they’ve taken over mid-block storefronts you’re sadly conditioned to ignore, but in the last few years, there’s been some development with a little more backing. Chophouse Miami (300 S. Biscayne Blvd., 305-938-9000; chophousemiami.com) has a river-view veranda with an unpretentious late-day drinking ambience; the leisurely pace of passing boat traffic is as much a palliative as the booze. Meanwhile, Il Gabbiano (335 S. Biscayne Blvd., 305-373-0063; ilgabbianomiami.com), in the One Miami building, offers as formal a dining experience as you’re likely to find in Miami, with servers in white jackets and a back patio that arcs around the bottom corner of downtown, giving you 180-degree views of Biscayne Bay all the way across to Virginia Key.
Chef John Critchley opened Area 31 (Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Blvd. Way, 305-424-5234; area31restaurant.com) in December of 2008 and earned accolades as one of Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2009. The sustainability concept for which the place is named will make you feel better about your gluttony, but the Blade Runner-esque views of Icon, Brickell Avenue and the Miami River are perhaps a more honest reason to hit this place.
While NoBri had “arrived” before Zuma (PICTURED RIGHT) anointed the area, there was something major about the internationally famous restaurant opening its doors. Though it’s based on an informal Japanese dining style called izakaya, which German chef Rainer Becker grew fond of during his stint in Japan, this place takes itself very seriously. Don’t look for the personal warmth of Fratelli Milano, but do expect meticulously prepared food from a three-pronged attack of kitchen, sushi bar and rustic robata grill. You can pull up in your boat before an audience on the riverside patio.
PHOTOGRAPH BY HAMID KOOTVAL (PASTA)