Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A dose of fresh at Miami Juice.

When the pilot announces that we are making our final descent into Miami International, I can already taste the first few bites of my MJ salad and green tea with mint leaves soon TBD (to be devoured). My mind takes me right to Miami Juice... and my body soon follows. To know Miami Juice is to love it I think. But to the uninformed, Miami Juice looks like an everyday, run of the mill, strip mall lunch joint. You know the kind that dot Ocean Drive or Collins, from Hollywood to South Beach. It's non-descript, no frills, casual, and is in Sunny Isles, just a 10 minute drive north of Bal Harbor on Collins. But thanks to its super-fresh and healthy middle-eastern inspired cuisine, it's so much more than that. In fact, it looks like someone opened a grocery store and then tried to squeeze a restaurant into it. Some of the seating will actually nuzzle you right up (or in) to an aisle, where you can practically shop for granola bars and salad dressings while you eat.

From 11 to 3, the place is packed with produce and eager lunching customers, the soundtrack is the beat of whirring of blenders making juice & smoothies, and I'm always digging it. As I approach the door from the overcrowded parking lot, I walk by crates of oranges outside, and once inside I navigate around boxes of avocados, bananas, and other fruits to get to my seat. My mouth begins to water, the food being dropped at tables around me looks like the purest slice of the garden of eden. A look behind the counter reveals every variety of fresh vegetable and fruit, waiting to be transformed - but just barely changed from its off the tree natural state - into something special. The old school (slightly more heavy duty than mine) manual Orange-X juicers pump out fresh juice all day long. They seem to be standing the test of time. 

The (daily) eating experience at Miami Juice is reason enough for a springtime Florida getaway. The menu can seem long and complex at first. But it's basically the same 15 ingredients, creatively switched around to create big variety. The portions are huge, and great for sharing, I like to order as a team and sample a few things at the table in order not to miss out on something delicious. The ingredients are all ripened to absolute perfection. How many melt in your mouth ripe avocadoes can one place churn out every day? It's mad. Don't let your initial look through the notebook-style menu deter you, because anything you order will be delicious and fresh. Here are the specials of the house that rock my world:

Falafel platter with Tuna scoop and salad. The falafel balls are piping hot, little and crispy, and perfectly moist inside. Mix that up with some homemade hummus, house salad, and a scoop of tuna - and there you have it. delicious.

Fruit Salad- a variety of every fruit you can imagine (no melon bowl with soft grapes and sweet syrup here). These fruits taste like they were picked off the tree 30 seconds ago, but actually were cut 15 seconds before being delivered to your table. Topped with nuts, coconut & honey- it's too good to be called just fruit. It’s heaven.

MJ's salad. A chopped salad with purple cabbage, lettuce, avocado, tomato, carrot, and feta, with your choice of topping - grilled chicken, tuna, "Bonitas" (amazing) salmon, grilled snapper- and a few (hundred) more. All amazing and healthy choices, this salad was the first thing that brought me back to Miami Juice begging for more.

And finally, last but not least, my absolute favourite discovery, that I made only on my most recent trip to Florida (after a few years of eating the MJ goodness!). "Issac's Special". Named after one of the owners (as most of the specialty dishes are), Issac's special is essentially a greek salad with avocado, served over a flat bread spiced with za'atar, sumac and other mediterranean spices. I add rosemary grilled chicken on top. The taste of the chicken, feta, spices, avocado, olives, tomato, and onion... all spread over the spiced crispy toasted flatbread is an explosion for my senses. Tastes and textures too good to be true. Soft avocado, wet and juicy tomato, crunchy onion, salty feta- and then throw the thin and spicy crunch of the bread into the mix- You get it. I am in a state of euphoria every bite of the way. 

Who is responsible for this gift to mankind? Miami Juice was opened by Issac & Bonita, an Israeli couple who moved to Florida, and dreamt of providing the local residents with fresh and healthy foods. And do they ever. Issac (a big Israeli dude with salt and pepper hair) is one of the most hands on owners of any establishment I have ever seen. He's there everyday, walking around, wiping tables, moving chairs, tending to his army of staff who are working hard to pump out fresh and amazing plates and juices every moment of the day. The rush never seems to fully quiet down there. Issac sometimes works the blenders, carries the boxes of produce, and once in a while has a 30 second chat with a customer. He is welcoming and real, and gives off a calm and steady energy. I have never been there when the tall, muscular Issac isn't towering over the tables, keeping a watchful eye on every movement in the restaurant, and making sure the experience is consistent and right. 

After a physically tough week of cooking, I had arrived in Florida with my back feeling broken - and when I was catching up with Issac, telling him about my pain, he replied "you think it's easy what you do?", sympathizing with me. He directed me to get a pair of MBTs, the orthopedic-moon-shoe looking footwear he always wears in the restaurant. If you've never seen MBTs, let me tell you right now, they won't look good with your outfit. But I was desperate because my old school Connie All Stars were not doing the trick supporting my body over long hours in the kitchen. So Issac gave me directions to the nearest retailer and sent me on my way. As Jon, Eric and I were discussing this new footwear discovery and how it would help my back, a customer sitting right next to me whipped around and told me abut his physiotherapist. "The best in Florida" he said. Then he got on his cell phone and made me an appointment on the spot. He even made me take his number, to call him and tell him how good the therapy was afterwards. That's the kind of community vibe that is happening at Miami Juice, love it! 

The man behind the miracle, Issac

My new MBT's

The crowd at Miami Juice is all kinds of casual. If you're lucky to find a spot in the lot out front, it will likely be between a luxury SUV and convertible sports car. People are double parked and jockeying their cars around mid-way through lunch, and it's not rare to see someone come hollering that they are blocked in the lot. It's yoga moms, Florida blondes, business lunches, families, locals, tourists, lovers and haters - Miami Juice can be a very potent drama cocktail. Tables turning over, some are placed just inches next to one another, which can make for great eavesdropping (my specialty). 

My table was once 2 inches next to a couple working out the details of their messy divorce, dividing homes (share weeks at the home in Telluride, or just buy another one, toughie), working out custody schedules, him begging for her back - heartbreaking stuff  all happening as I had to lean in periodically to borrow their salt, and use their coffee condiments. After watching this guy spill his heart out all over his eggwhite omelette, I joked to my mom and aunt as he paid his bill- "someone's gotta tell this guy not to sweat it, he'll be getting laid by a super hot, young thing pretty soon"- and my aunt look up at me and said "do it". And in the true Miami Juice spirit of community, I popped out of my seat (heart slightly pounding out of my chest), followed the thirty something soon-to-be-divorcé into the parking lot, and told him straight up, that he's a cutie, and that I see hot sweethearts all over him in his horizon, and to forget about all this sh*t. Turned that frown right upside down, oh yeah. Awesome.

And about the physiotherapy recommendation... let me just say that it was the best physio experience I ever had anywhere. This guy rocks. I am a new person: Stretching the Dr. Yoav way, and wearing my new MBT's (that I ordered online and had shipped right to my hotel in Florida) and feeling better than ever. So thanks Miami Juice! 

Miami Juice 
16210 Collins Ave (Near Poinciana Dr)
(305) 945-0444
Open Monday through Saturday, 8am-8:30pm 
(great for a quick evening bite too)
Take-out available

**Stay tuned, Miami Juice is moving to a new location up the street in the coming months. I drove by the new spot last week, and it looks virtually ready to go, so MJ fans shouldn't have to miss out on their daily fix for more then a day or two when the move actually happens. Can't wait to see the new digs.

1 comment:

  1. i love this post :) will definitely visit this place next time im down there!

    danielle, its a shame you don't blog more often, your writing is really well and entertaining! you just made my mouth water and my mind dream about Miami Beach :)