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Stupefying Meals at Macaluso's; Tasty Texas at Q, Nifty Nantucket at Fin

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Victoria Pesce Elliott says that "in transient Miami Beach, where reputations are made more on flash than tradition, it's refreshing to see a quirky place like Macaluso's make it." Although "the storefront on a hard-to-reach corner of Alton Road should have doomed the place," 11 years later, Macaluso's is still around thanks to "good, old-fashioned garlic, onions and peppers and plenty of attitude." Accepting canned peas as "comforting," VPE says "upgrading to fresh ones would seem inauthentic."

What worked: "The meatballs--oh, those meatballs," "sweet, tangy, rich and dark" red sauce, and more. What didn't? 'Too much garlic. Too much salt. Too much oil," "No half portions. No substitutions. No exceptions. No written menu," and the fact that "customers have been shown the door for asking for salad dressing on the side." That said and three stars later, "A meal at Macaluso's is not just satisfying, it is stupefying. Prices are high for what my parents would call "cucina povera'' (food of the poor), but for an overall experience of lusty, full-flavored New York Italian, you cannot do better than this" []

Lee Klein does a twofer this week at Q and Fin--"Texas next door to Nantucket, so to speak." Over at Fin, "main plates of grouper, halibut, and striped bass were fresh, adeptly prepared, and accompanied by simple yet flavorful sides." The predinner bread slices, however, "were dried out." Manhattan-style chowder was "thin, spicy, tasty Old Bay-and-fresh-thyme-bolstered tomato broth with onion, celery, diced potato, and little pieces of Florida's own Sebastian Inlet clams." A disappointing starter of spicy shrimp curry" had a sauce that "tasted like thinned banana puree." Grouper fillets "were subtly, scrumptiously infused with smoky flavor," striped bass was "hefty" and "juicy," and halibut was "beautifully bronzed."

Next door at Q, "fried green tomatoes . . . will start you off just right." A Q Tasty Plate trio offered "meaty, juicy, and assertively rubbed [ribs] with dry spices," and "especially noteworthy chicken." The Texas-style brisket "was likewise braised without losing bite." North Carolina pulled pork "possessed a vivid vinegar tang and a bit of heat." Slaw was "standard at best," corn bread was "dry, crumbly" and "tasted as though made the day before." Pit beans "were delectably campfire flavored." Overall, Klein was "grateful [chef/owner Jonathan] Eismann resisted chef-ing up the barbecue via fussy mango glazes or lemongrass infusions, yet at the same time, we wouldn't mind seeing him produce the sort of coleslaw that Shorty's never could."

Bottom line: "Q American Barbeque's fare is fresh, brimming with authentic flavors, and priced at family-friendly levels (all starters under $10, entrées under $25, desserts just $6). Each of Eismann's latest ventures succeeds at what it tries to be. If you're looking for bar scene and barbecue, Q is for you. Those who prefer a romantic Nantucket interlude: Fin." [MNT]

Macaluso's & Co.

1747 Alton Road, Miami Beach, FL Visit Website

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