Elwood Miami’s answer to a British pub
Welcome back delusional readers to the Pot and Pan Handler’s fake news edition Elwood. Today we’re visiting the heart of the city that cocaine built, looking for a Cubano, we get sidetracked twice, & find ourselves in Elwood’s listening to stirred excrement from a dude who is more mustache than man. Then we retreat from nature & seek shelter in cured meats. Like most stories worth telling we’ll start where good stories start… at the beginning.
After a couple hours of rocketing through the air in a cigar tube filled with people whom it would seem are all dying of a terminal coughing disease we land in Miami. There’s one thing on my mind, El Cubanos, the grand poohbah of regional sandwiches. The Cubano is Miami’s answer to Chicago’s Italian Beef or Philly’s Cheese Steak. Picture this; roasted pork loin & or shoulder, ham, Swiss cheese, tart pickles & mustard all griddled on airy Cuban bread. Yeah, right, it is perfect. After we check in we’ll pick one up at my favorite little Cuban joint the Havana coffee & Tea Company.
The Havana Coffee & Tea Company is closed. Our minds are having a hard time wrapping around the fact that something we traveled 800 miles for is unavailable. Having no plan b we wander aimlessly until something interesting presents itself as the 30th rule of travel states. Once you’ve been reduced to doing nothing, you’re now in proper travel form as the pedestrian ritual of ordering a pint has now become something to do. When traveling it’s always good to have goals, luckily a kitschy English style pub rests right here on the corner. We pass the union Jack and head into the Elwood Pub.
Is that a molestache or is there a snake on your face?
Inside the Elwood it’s suitably dark as per the rules of English Pubs the world over, thus making it easier to shove all the dirt & dust into unseen corners. It’s the English Pub’s way. The walls are adorned with the kind of stuff Americans think Brits would hang on the walls. For some unknown reason there’s a disco ball in Elwood’s, like a standing invitation to bring disco back. We try not to let that bother us.
Soon out of the gloom a figure looms, my first thought is that this is Slender Man, trying to contain my terror, I wait. When he pours out of the gloom, we see he’s not a terrifying fictional character, just a millennial douchenozzle with a two foot mustache. Greased, manipulated, rubbed with saffron & gold flakes, his molestache reaches a stunning foot away from his face ON EACH SIDE. Ram rod straight until the very end where it flows into a graceful, architectural, stomach churning curl. Dressed at the height of steampunk fashion, he looks like an old timey bartender straight down to the sleeve garters.
How do you like your excrement, shaken or stirred?
After acquiring pints for your humble narrators, the bartender noticing we’ve been here for more than 10 minutes and neither of us has tried to booty call an attractive cousin, he’s decided we’re tourists. He asks where we are from and what we’ll be doing in town. We relate our home state & add that though we don’t have solid plans yet, we will be dining at the Federal Miami, at some point.
Contempt is suddenly evident on his face. Don’t believe everything you see on TV he said menacingly. Incorrectly assuming the reason we were going was because they were on Bravo’s America’s Best New Restaurant the previous year. Truth be told we planned on going there because we’ve been there before & the Federal has those delectable, flaky, buttery biscuits you only find south of the Mason Dixon Line. Plus a delightful duck confit, served in a jar, conveniently called duck in a jar. Yet steampunk molestache, delights in publicly crying foul, declaring that Elwood’s pub however unlikely, has far superior food.
We’re up to the challenge. We’ve got a week to eat at the Federal and if this place has food half as good as the bartender alluded to we’ll have an amazing meal indeed. Calling themselves a gastropub, Elwood’s risk offending every other English style pub everywhere. We’re on board. It is easy to assume that an English pub would do a good fish & chips. The menu is small with a sensible amount of bar food, nothing unassuming or fancy, we figure they probably do a good beer battered chicken strip. Secondly what bar can’t do a decent bowl of chili? That question would soon be answered, not this one.
On the 9th ring of hell, sarcastically called Rochester, MN there’s a little bar that does insanely good beer battered chicken strips. These are delightfully breaded crispy, on the outside, light & airy in the interior and juicy chicken that defies the humble name of chicken strips. Elwood’s are the opposite of that. A drab batter reluctantly clings moistly to the flavorless, dry chicken strips. Splattered with a halfhearted neon red splash of tomato sauce that is reminiscent of ketchup that masquerades as a hot sauce.
The chili arrives with little fanfare. We arrange for the arrival of another pint to wash the taste of spongy chicken out of our mouths. Elwood’s answer to chili does not disappoint. After the chicken strips, edible food seems to be a stretch, here at Elwood’s the Gastropub. The chili is a three bean affair, like someone who might’ve heard of chili before, has deemed himself allergic & believes that chili is a dish where you put in every ingredient you don’t know what else to do with and stir. Is that a freakin’ chunk of zucchini in there? Soon we order a pint to wash out the taste of three bean, vegetable orgy in light chili sauce out of our mouths.
Bastille my heart
We settle up & do something we rarely doing right after eating, find a place to eat. Like a dog climbing out of a lake aggressively shaking the water out of its fur. We’ll need to do the mental equivalent to get the taste of Elwood’s bad pub food out of our mouths. A patented Florida rain made our decision for us. Walking by Café Bastille, the sky opens up & torrential down pours commence, chasing us inside the closest shelter.
Café Bastille is everything that Elwood’s is not. Instead of dark & dinghy, it’s modern, linear & bright with the requisite amount of trendy industrial glass & steel. We’re greeted amicably by a waiter, gracious that the rain brought someone else in and acts as if we are possibly the last people on earth. He presents with a world class wine list, which we ignore & frustrate him to no end by ordering beer.
Meats the cure
We choose to order an assiette de charcuterie or assorted cured meats & cheeses, apple compote and toasted baguette. You can never go wrong with French cured meats & cheeses. An unctuous, fatty Rosette De Lyons is similar to salami. The thinly sliced, prosciutto, salty deliciousness is slightly reminiscent of ham. Pate De’ Maison or Pate of the house is a tasty pate of presumably pork, with a welcome fattiness. Café Bastille’s charcuterie also contained some salty & briny olives, two triangles of a happily fresh milk cheese, rinded, & runny with just a hint of the requisite smell of feet. Sweet compote of tart apple compote rounds out the balance with lightly dressed greens as a palate cleanser. Don’t forget the ubiquitous French baguette as a vehicle for everything else. This meal is perfect.
We decide to quit while we’re ahead. Now that the quaint Café Bastille has washed the subpar food of the Elwood out of our mind, everything is perfect. The Miami restaurant scene is a fickle, bitch. There’s good food everywhere. The Elwood learned a Cuban flavored Miami lesson; they’re not open anymore. Nor is the Federal, Café Bastille lives on. So do the Chefs responsible for the Federal, now running Miami’s Cajun/Vietnamese fusion spot Phuc Yea. Included for your ignoring pleasure; http://cafebastilledowntown.com/ here’s a link. And another… http://www.phucyea.com/
Coming soon; we’re back in the Windy City, & we’re doing Italian beefs, Chicago dawgs, goats, pigs, Italian pizza, Chicago pizza, carnitas, tacos and a side of Podcast, when we finally cross paths with @theBenRandall from the In the Weeds Podcast. We hope to see you there.
The Pot & Pan Handler are rare restaurant escapees that travel the nation armed only with a rusty spatula in a Quixotic mission to find good eats and tell a story. With varying degrees of success.