seafood paella
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Recently, a couple members of the Hungry Crew joined me in checking out one of Miami’s seafood hotspots, Rincon Escondido Tapas, located at 2697 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33137. Rincon serves traditional Spanish and Argentinean cuisine in a tapas style and has quite the reputation for their seafood paella.

THE RESTAURANT

Rincon has the classic “hole-in-the-wall” appeal. Everyone knows that hole-in-the-wall restaurants have the best eats. Outside, there is seating on a raised concrete patio. Inside, Rincon is cozy, with small tables clustered about that can be rearranged depending on the size of your party. It also had an eclectic décor. Rincon is perfect for casual dining, no reservation is necessary, unless you want to order Rincon’s most popular dish: the paella. It’s a good idea to call ahead if you want to order that dish. All of their food is made to order and the paella – which comes with either chicken or seafood – takes about an hour to prepare.

THE FOOD

seafood pallea
The paella is a must try at Rincon, but call ahead if you and your party don’t want to wait for this dish. It takes about an hour to prepare. Photo: Rincon 

Rincon’s seafood paella (“Paella de Mariscos”) is a traditional paella with shrimp, squid, mussels, and clams. One order typically feeds two people, but the Hungry Crew and I ate to contentment and had leftovers – which tasted even better the next day. The presentation of the dish was mouthwatering, the aroma was delicious. It was flavorful, but a bit salty. Luckily, we each had a glass of white wine sangria to cleanse our pallets.

While waiting for our seafood paella, we indulged in some tapas. We ordered the grilled squid (Chipirones a la Plancha), cod fish croquettes (Croquetas de Bacalao), and sautéed garlic shrimp (Gambas al Ajillo).

Before the tapas arrived at our table, the owner served us a small bowl of potato salad as a starter. I usually don’t like potato salad that isn’t made by my mother, but Rincon’s potato salad was tasty. It was well seasoned and not overly creamy.

As we were finishing the potato salad, the grilled squid arrived with warm bread on the side. The grilled squid was not big on flavor. However, the oil based sauce that it was served in was delicious with the bread. Next came the codfish croquettes and OMG they were fantastic! The four pieces were just enough to wet our pallets. Shortly before the seafood paella came out, the sautéed garlic shrimp arrived with more warm bread, it was delicious. The shrimp was well seasoned and perfectly cooked with a kick of spice.

 

Grilled squid served in a buttery lemon sauce.

We ended our meal on a sweet note with flan–a creamy custard dessert popular in Spain. It was divine. The flan’s consistency was perfect and was not overly sweet.

BOTTOM LINE

Overall, I would give Rincon Escondido a rating of four out of five shrimp. It’s a great place to enjoy scrumptious seafood in Miami while hanging out with friends or a casual date night.

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A bowl of girls topped with roasted shrimp and red peppers
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Nothing says southern comfort food like some good ol’ fashioned grits. When this dish is topped with wild Georgia shrimp and dry roasted peppers swimming in a vodka cream sauce, you get delicious shrimp and grits served up by the Old Lady Gang.

A bowl of girls topped with roasted shrimp and red peppers
Old Lady Gang’s shrimp and grits. Image: OLG Instagram.

If you live in Atlanta or if you’ve ever watched the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA), you’re probably familiar with the OLG Southern Eatery. OLG–birthed by its famous owners, Kandi Burruss and husband Todd Tucker is made possible by three sisters who love to throw down in the kitchen.

We came to know these ladies: Mama Joyce, Aunt Bertha and Aunt Nora, through their larger than life personalities every Sunday on RHOA. Their outspoken voices remind many of us of our own mamas, grand mamas and aunties. They’ve bragged about their soul food cooking on RHOA and now they’ve brought their recipes to life for us to try. So, it was only right that I chose Old Lady Gang for my first edition of Soul Food Before Love in Atlanta.

While the menu features signature dishes like Aunt Bertha’s Fried Chicken, turkey-stewed collards and mac and cheese, I opted for the popular grilled lamb lollipops. The lamb came drizzled in a balsamic glaze. It was topped with a fruit salsa, which added a sweet kick to balance out the flavors. Though odd, this was a perfect pair with the shrimp and grits.

Four cornbread muffins on a plate with honey dipping sauce.
Mini cornbread muffins served with a honey syrup dipping sauce. A must try! Image: OLG Instagram.

A dish you won’t find on the menu: the mini-cornbread muffins, served with a honey-flavored syrup. They are little pieces of golden brown heaven. The first basket is complimentary, but be prepared to pay $4 for another round. One basket is truly not enough.

There’s more to love about OLG than the food. It’s nestled in the thriving Castleberry Hill Historic Arts District. The multi-level space is adorned with canvas-sized family photos-turned-memes and even includes an outdoor patio with a block party vibe. This is an ideal place for close-knit social gatherings with folks ready to have a good time.

Marquee letters spelling OLG hanging on a brick wall.
A wall in the restaurants dawn the letters “OLG” which stands for Old Lady Gang.

Beyond the delicious southern comfort food and the friendly atmosphere, on any given day OLG is full of celebrities. You can find Kandi and Todd onsite keeping an eye on things; and you never know when the Xscape member’s famous friends will walk in.

Be sure to join us at our next meet up in Atlanta and share these experiences with us!

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Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes.
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Who does not like a mimosa? Who does not enjoy some sangria? Those delicious beverages combined with tasty bites made brunch at Bulla (pronounced boo-yah) simply delightful. I invited some really interesting Miami residents to join me for a Spanish influenced Mini Mimosaholic Sunday brunch at Bulla, 2500 Ponce De Leon Blvd in Coral Gables. Bulla has an expansive brunch tasting menu with yummy bites plated for family style sharing.

As a group, we decided to take advantage of the Miami Spice brunch menu that Bulla was offering. Miami Spice occurs annually in Miami during the months of August and September where over 200 restaurants offer pre-fixed menus for brunch, lunch, and/or dinner. Each menu typically features three courses – an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert. A delightful addition to Bulla’s brunch was the option to have unlimited mimosas or sangria. My Mimosaholic crew gladly opted to partake in the unlimited mimosas – with a twist of sangria’s.

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Photo by Simone Bradshaw

The service at Bulla was great. The manager introduced herself to our table and made herself available for whatever we needed. Fortunately, we did not want for much because our waiter was very attentive. The bussers came around and made sure that our table was clear of any glasses and plates that were not being used. All service was rendered with a smile, making our experience that much more pleasant.

Each person ordered about three items from Bulla’s Miami Spice menu, and we shared family style as intended. We had: Huevos ‘Bulla,’ Revuelto ‘Lucio’ (my personal favorite of the egg dishes), Coca, Melon Con Bellota, Montaditos De Salmon Ahumadon which was the smoked salmon dish that was kindly substituted for the salmon dish that I originally ordered because its popularity caused them to run out, Ensalada De Pulpa, Bulla Burger, Cochinillo Hash.

Melon Con Bellota. Photo by Simone Bradshaw.
Photo by Victoria Bartley.
Cochinillo Hash. Photo by Simone Bradshaw.
Photo by Simone Bradshaw.

We ended our meals on a sweet note with Blueberry and Ricotta Pancakes, and French Toast. If you could not tell…we feasted!

Blueberry & Ricotta Pancakes. Photo by Simone Bradshaw.
Photo by Simone Bradshaw.

French Toast. Photo by Victoria Bartley.

The plating was exquisite. The flavors were perfect. The mimosas were a perfect balance of champagne with a hint of orange juice. The sangria’s were a fruity blend of deliciousness. Bulla was a great introduction of Mini Mimosaholic to Miami and I cannot wait for the next one!

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The Italian Grinder Fred's Meat & Bread
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Food halls seem to be popping up all across the country and Atlanta is definitely embracing this growing food trend. So when it came time to decide on a location for the second installment of Sandwiches Before Love, I knew that one of Atlanta’s popular food halls, that features Fred’s Meat & Bread, must be on the list! One of the first food halls to pop up was Krog Street Market, which is home to a variety of food options – like dumplings, a bakery, Tex-Mex, BBQ, sushi and of course, sandwiches at Fred’s Meat & Bread.

The wall in front of the Fred's Meat & Bread stall at Krog Street Market

From the outside, the menu at Fred’s Meat & Bread looks pretty basic — classic sandwiches, hand-cut fries and old-school sodas. But the flavors are FAR from basic. With options like the ‘Shroom Shire Cheesesteak, the Korean Cheesecake, the Blackened Tuna, the Italian Grinder and the Crispy Smoked Catfish Po’Boy, it was super hard for me and the crew to decide what to eat! In the end, we all decided on cheesesteaks.

I went with the ‘Shroom Shire Cheesesteak with house blended cheese, grilled onion, garlic aioli and mushroom worcestershire. It was SO good! One bite and I was instantly transported to Philly! Gooey cheese, perfectly grilled onions and seasoned meat.

An order of the Garlic Fries, 'Shroom Shire Cheesesteak and a O-So Cherry soda

You can’t forget the fries! Fred’s menu features hand cut fries in a variety of flavors, including Old Bay Fries and BBQ Fries. I was there for the Garlic Fries served with a side of house made ranch.

The Italian Grinder from Fred's Meat & Bread

Let me tell you, the food at Fred’s was SO good that I went to visit their second location the very next day! Instead of another cheesesteak, I chose the Italian Grinder with salami, mortadella, pork, provolone, tomato, iceberg, cherry peppers, oil & vinegar. It might have been one of the best Italian sandwiches that I’ve ever had! You better believe I’ll be back to Fred’s…and soon!

Location #2 of Fred’s Meat and Bread (along with sister restaurants Yalla, TGM Bagel and Square Bar) can be found at The Canteen Atlanta, the micro food hall located at Tech Square! You can find cheesesteaks and the Italian Grinder at both locations, but some menu options differ.

Interested in some handheld deliciousness and exploring Atlanta’s food scene? Join the Sandwiches Before Love crew…we’d love to have you!

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Steak & Eggs Whisk Chicago
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Anyone who finds themselves in Chicago and is a lover of all breakfast foods, is going to love Whisk. Even more so, if they’re a huge Ron Swanson fan because the place is basically a shrine to the guy. But we get it, because no one loves food more than Ron Swanson, except maybe you of course.

Kam at Whisk Chicago

Created by two brothers, Whisk is a breakfast delight by day, and the perfect burger spot at night. They’re open seven days a week and are BYOB friendly location. You can run to the local grocery store across the street in case you pop up on this place without your bubbly. I visited during the Taste of Chicago so with friends, we had more champagne than we could stand at our table. We did drink it all though, we had to. Especially since I ordered two dishes without an ounce of shame in my body. Not much of a drinker? Whisk has an extensive soda list for your tastebuds to have a party with.

Chilaquiles Whisk Chicago

Ilbert and Martine at Whisk Chicago

We experienced a short wait outside and our server was just the right amount of “is everything okay?”. The menu is easily Mexican inspired with crowd favorites like chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. However, their insane list of out of this world pancakes are what really steal the show and will leave you deciding on what to get. I bet you’ll order two dishes as well because of that.

Steak & Eggs Whisk Chicago

Every choice we made was a good one, starting with the steak and eggs and chilaquiles which were both hearty dishes. The right amount of spice, sauce, and flavors shines through each dish. Not leaving much room for their special pancakes of the day and the banana berry pancakes we happily indulge in.

Featured Pancakes Whisk Chicago

The pancakes are indeed sweet, smothered in the toppings of your choice and best of all, fluffy. That’s how a true pancake should be and Whisk honors that, which you’ll be happy about on your visit. Breakfast lovers, enjoy!

Banana Berry Pancakes Whisk Chicago

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Chicken Biscuit Odd Bird Atlanta
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Located in West Midtown and usually known for their breakfast and brunch menu, West Egg hosts a monthly dinner pop-up called Oddbird, a “restaurant within a restaurant,” Oddbird takes place on the second Wednesday of the month. Oddbird is known for their chicken sandwiches and chicken biscuits, so I knew that it would be the perfect location for the first installment of Sandwiches Before Love.

When you walk into the restaurant, you are greeted by one of their friendly staff at the counter and the three featured pies for the month. Once you reach the counter, you place your order, grab your silverware and choose a seat at any table.

Chicken Biscuit Odd Bird Atlanta

Oddbird’s menu features 4 different fried chicken biscuits, 4 different fried chicken sandwiches, both regular and Nashville-style hot fried chicken & waffles and The Oddbird – a seasonal fried chicken & waffle option that changes monthly. The menus also offers a featured salad called Eat Like a Bird and a variety of hot and cold side items.

The Oddbird and Chicken Biscuit Odd Bird

Everyone in the Sandwiches Before Love crew decided to order something different. Initially, I had my taste buds set on the Chicken Biscuit #2 with spicy honey and bread & butter pickles….BUT I just couldn’t pass up July’s Oddbird chicken & waffle — fried chicken served with a macaroni and cheese waffle, local heirloom tomato & corn salad and buttermilk vinaigrette. So I did what any dedicated food lover would — ordered both!

PB&J Chicken Sandwich Odd Bird Atlanta

My taste buds were not disappointed. The Chicken Biscuit #2 was spicy and delicious. The biscuit was moist and buttery, and the added crunch of the bread & butter pickles bought the entire sandwich together. The Oddbird chicken & waffle was AMAZING! The chicken was fried perfectly, the tomato & corn salad was refreshing and the mac & cheese was hidden inside of the waffle, so every bite was a surprise of cheesy deliciousness!

One of my favorite items on the menu to suggest for first-timers is the PB&J Chicken Sandwich. A piece of fried chicken on local TGM Bread served with pimento cheese, bacon and house-made tomato jam. The tomato jam is so good, that I’ve been known to ask for an additional side of it to take home with me!

S'mores Blondie Pie Odd Bird Atlanta

Don’t forget when you visit Oddbird, you MUST save room for one of pastry chef Carrie Hudson’s pies! July’s selection included a Raspberry Lemonade pie, Berry Mascarpone pie and a S’mores Blondie pie.

Though it wasn’t my first visit to Oddbird, it was the first visit for everyone else in the Sandwiches Before Love crew…but thanks to the great food and service, it surely won’t be their last! The lovely people at Oddbird are taking the month of August off, but they’ll be back on the second Wednesday in September – September 13th!

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