New Places to Dine

In 2023, at least 20 restaurants are expected to open in Coral Gables, ranging from well-known local franchises like Bodega Taqueria y Tequila (opening in September on Miracle Mile) to the highly anticipated Sra. Martinez by the famous Chef Michelle Bernstein (opening later this year in the former Open Stage Club space on Galiano). What follows are four of the newest openings in the City Beautiful.

Motek Cafe

Surprisingly enough, this Israeli-inspired restaurant has taken home the prize for the best burger at Burger Bash twice in a row now, an unexpected feat explicable only by a bite of the sandwich itself. But as popular as the Arayes Burger is, it’s not why you should visit Motek, which opened in late March in the Miracle Mile spot that formerly housed Forte by Chef Adrianne. You come here for the Eastern Mediterranean food: a smorgasbord of shish kebabs, mezzes (the Middle Eastern version of tapas), shawarma, and hummus.

There are spreads inspired as much by Spain as by Lower East Side Jewish immigrants, veggie burgers with tahini, and generous schnitzel plat- ters served with pita and hummus. We estimate you could come to Motek at least 10 times and never run out of new things to try.

The space itself is gorgeous, as it has always been, with an outdoor patio featuring breezy white curtains and warm ambient lighting. The inside is similarly arranged in a Grecian style with white brick walls, comfortable booths, and a large bar situated beneath hanging vines. A great place for date night and to expand the palate beyond Coral Gables’ prodigious Italian scene.

Motek Cafe

45 Miracle Mile
305.396.8547
motekcafe.com


Johnny Pappagallo

Located in the old Swensen’s building, Johnny Pappagallo replaced The One on Sunset, a casual restaurant-slash-comedy club which lasted less than a year. We sincerely hope Johnny stays longer.

The Italian restaurant comes from the ownership duo behind Calista Taverna on Giralda, and they’ve maintained much of the original Swensen’s décor, including the iconic stained glass ceiling lamps. Everything else, however, is Italian — from the menu, which is full of Italian wines and authentic cuisine made with a spin, to Chef Yardley Barroso, who’s half-Italian and half-Cuban.

Take the filetto su canoe bones, a basic beef tartare that’s amplified with grilled bone marrow instead of the usual quail’s egg — a unique version of the classic dish. Or the tortellini in salsa rosa, which is stuffed with veal, of all things. Nothing, however, beats the alcoholic ice cream for dessert. You read that right. Sourced from Quore Gelato in Wynwood, there’s tequila-infused dulce de leche, bourbon-infused vanilla, and vodka-infused pistachio, each more scrumptious than the next and each featuring just a slight kick to them — not enough to be stumbling home, but enough to taste the liquor. It’s worth a trip to Johnny Pappagallo just for the ice cream alone.

Johnny Pappagallo

1586 S Dixie Hwy.
786.332.2417
johnnypappagallo.com


Grilled Cheese Gallery

One of the most interesting things about this specialty hole-in-the- wall is its founder’s story. Jeffrey Thompson spent the early part of his career operating a fine dining restaurant in West Palm Beach, but then decided to leave the world of haute cuisine to make grilled cheese for a living. The rest is history.

“It’s comfort food, it’s for everybody, and there’s a lot you can do it with it,” says Thompson. This is apparent when you consider the Gallery’s menu, which consists entirely of affordable grilled cheeses, salads, and poutine. The sandwiches range from $8 to $15 and feature a wide range of unexpected ingredients, from kimchi to truffle oil to fresh lobster (remnants from Thompson’s fine dining days). Some of the heartier options are stuffed with macaroni and cheese and each can be ordered with a $2 side of tomato basil soup, perfect for dipping. 

The Grilled Cheese Gallery now has five Florida locations and one in Massachusetts, but the Coral Gables iteration is the newest, opening just over a month ago. The heavenly comfort food is also available through most food delivery platforms, great for a lazy night at home on the couch.

Grilled Cheese Gallery

1573 Sunset Dr.
786.953.4056
grilledcheesegallery.com


Levant

Another Middle Eastern restaurant has come to the Gables: Levant, named after the Mediterranean region of Western Asia that includes Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and most of Turkey (also Cyprus, depending on who you ask). At the Coral Gables restaurant, which opened in late April, all the chefs are Turkish and the owners hail from Iraq.

The food is similarly eclectic, featuring dishes from across the Levant, including Lebanese batata harra (spicy potatoes), Grecian Saganaki cheese, and Turkish baklava. It’s a family-run business, located at the site of the now defunct Crudos ArtHouse and taking much of its interior décor from the former tenant. Many a restaurant has tried (and failed) to reign supreme over the rectangular space just off Miracle Mile, but the owners say Levant is different. Their family “specializes in cursed spaces,” says Mohammed Ahmed, who operates the business alongside his sister and father.

“We take those locations that nobody else wants because it’s changed hands so many times, and we breathe life into it…. Not a lot of our people know our food, and a lot of people view the Middle East as a chaotic, crazy place…. But the one thing that makes everybody shut up is the food. When it comes to food, that’s when everyone says, ‘No, no, no.’ We sit down, we eat, we drink, and we party.”  And it’s true – even your most reviled enemy would mend fences with you over that baklava. Bon appétit.

Levant

2415 Ponce De Leon Blvd
786.762.2905
levantmiami.com