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Friends of Eater Weigh in on Their Biggest Dining Surprise of 2019

What surprised them the most?

Esotico’s octopus hot dog
James Woodley Photography/Esotico

As we put a cap on 2019, Eater surveyed a group of friends, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them nine questions: from top standbys to top newcomers, from best meals to restaurants they’ve broken up with. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2019. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Responses do not necessarily reflect the views of Eater and Eater Miami.

Amber Love Bond (Eater Miami contributor): Really good fresh, simple pasta is definitely having a moment. Even though I mastered the art of cacio e pepe at home long ago, I’m surprised at how often I will happily pay to eat it all over the city.

Jenny Starr Perez (Indulge Miami): InRamen. The first surprise was how delicious the food actually was. The second was that I schlepped to Sunset Place to eat dinner.

Giovanny Gutierrez (Chat Chow TV/Eater Miami photographer): I actually ended up at Brava one evening and was blown away by what Kilgore and chef Ian are serving (still dreaming about the Chicken ‘Piccata’) - an exemplary meal in Miami. Also, did anyone try the Octopus Hot Dog from Esotico?

Curt “Big Daddy” Hollingsworth (Thrillist Miami): The rise of “virtual kitchens.” I like delivered food about as much as I like driving on the Palmetto in a 5pm thunderstorm but for some reason it seems like people now prefer getting cold, hastily-plated food at restaurant prices and now we’ve got, like, dozens of “restaurants” that exist nowhere but the Internet. Maybe I’m just old, but if I wanna eat at home, I’ll just microwave a Totino’s like god intended.

Becky Randel (Freelance restaurant writer): Papi Steak. I expected it to be a lot of hype (like most celeb-related openings), but the food was truly unique and delicious, and the atmosphere felt like Rat-Pack-Vegas.

David Rosendorf (Food For Thought): That I finally kind of got one of these “headline predictions” right. Last year, my headline prediction was “50 Food Halls [that were supposed to open last year] Open in Miami” in January, followed by “25 Food Halls Close in Miami” in August. And sure enough, we’ve had a wave of food hall openings (Time Out, Lincoln Eatery, The Citadel, Central Fare) - and a wave of closings (Wynwood Yard, Jackson Food Hall, La Centrale). But maybe even more surprising to me is that they’ve replaced La Centrale - one of two Italian-themed food halls in Brickell City Centre - with ... wait for it ... another Italian-themed food hall.

Stacy Moya (Eater Miami Contributor): The Local Craft in Coral Gables. I had not been since chef Phillip Bryant left and was pleasantly surprised to see that the flavor was still there plus some nifty cocktails, too.

Virginia Gil (Time Out Miami): The closing of several dining stalwarts (and some splashy newcomers) came as a surprise—including Sushisamba, Soyka and No Name Chinese to name a few.

Alona Martinez (Eater Miami Contributor): Mocktails become a thing

Sara Liss ( That places still serve real meat.

Jennifer Agress (Freelance restaurant writer): Boia De, definitely. I knew anything with Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer at the helm would be good, but the fact that they went from a taco truck to a laid-back Italian spot with fine-dining chopsand absolutely excelled at bothwas fun to see. Another happy surprise was seeing Chef Adrienne takeover the old Red Fish Grill! As a native Miamian who loves both the original restaurant and Chef Adrienne, I’m so stoked to see how she brings it back to life.


Olee Fowler (Eater Miami): The way Downtown Miami has evolved over the past year. I would have never imagined a year ago that it would be my go-to neighborhood for going out on the town, but, hey a year later, and it’s become my spot.