Black Friday Dining Beyond the Food Court

By Mitchell Nover

This Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. With 151 million people having shopped over Black Friday weekend last year, there’s no doubt that many of you will be heading to some sort of mall or shopping center this year. And you know what you’ll need to do ensure you don’t shop ’til you drop? Eat!

For years, mall food has gotten a bad rap, but long gone are the days when the only options available are crappy food court fast food chains. That’s why, to help you prepare for sustenance at the mall this weekend (and beyond), I put together a quick round-up of four different restaurants located in different Miami malls.

Grand Lux Cafe
(Aventura Mall)

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Mitch’s take: Grand Lux Cafe is a lot to take in. It’s kind of gaudy, very ’90s, and has a huge menu (which is no surprise given that it was started by the founders of The Cheesecake Factory). That being said, there are some fun, creative surprises to be found on the menu. While it may not be your first choice, if managed correctly, Grand Lux can offer a satisfying and enjoyable dining experience at the mall.

Standout dishes: Stick to the small plates. The most interesting options, in my opinion, came from the “Minis, Bites and Tapas” section of the menu.

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Eggplant Parmesan Fritters (crispy fried eggplant, mozzarella, fontina, and parmesan cheese, served over marinara sauce)

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Asian Nachos (crispy fried wontons covered with chicken in a sweet-hot peanut sauce, topped with melted cheese, green onion, and wasabi cream)

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Pastrami Deli Tots (with swiss cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, and mustard, served with thousand island dressing)

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Kale and Warm Grains with Salmon (kale, butter lettuce, dates, apple, toasted pumpkin seeds, crispy chickpeas, and lemon dressing over warm quinoa and farro)

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Molten Chocolate Cake (with a melted chocolate center. served with vanilla ice cream)

320 Gastrolounge
(Shops at Merrick Park)

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Mitch’s take: Not your average mall, Merrick Park also offers up better-than-average dining options. New kid on the block, 320 Gastrolounge, is a Latin-American fusion concept with the added draw of live music if you want to take your shopping trip from day to night and make a full-blown evening out of it.

Standout dishes: 320 Gastrolounge brings a playful and creative menu to the table with a number of options that are very Miami (in a good way).

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Gastro Sliders (grilled mini patties on a brioche bun with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, and a hint of barbecue aioli)

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Bok Choy Soup (savory house miso topped with charred bok choy, fried kale, tofu, and a poached egg)

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Pulpo 320 (charred, marinated octopus with a frisee salad, pico de gallo, and aji aioli)

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Carne Croquettes (hand breaded and seared croquettes, stuffed with tender beef and olive aioli)

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Homestead Short Ribs (all-day braised, bone-in beef rib with stone ground manchego grits, blistered tomatoes, and pan jus)

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Eighth Street Tacos (trio of tender pork with a hint of chipotle, pickled onions, tomatoes, and cilantro)

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Key West Pie (traditional key lime pie with toasted meringue)

Earls Kitchen + Bar
(Dadeland Mall)

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Mitch’s take: Canadian-import Earls has been a great addition to Dadeland Mall. The new section is almost more of an extension of Downtown Dadeland across the street, as its dining options are more in line with Barley and friends than the sub-par food court.

Standout dishes: Although technically a chain, Earls Kitchen + Bar works with local suppliers and producers to provide a selection of menu items that is as unique to a location or region as possible. Add to that a variety of pastas, seafood, chicken, ribs, steaks, pizzas, burgers, artisan sandwiches, and a great cocktail, wine, and craft beer selection and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

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Bees Knees (Aviation gin, Cointreau, honey, fresh lemon, and Angostura bitters)

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Pandemonium (Bacardi White and Appleton VX rums, Falernum, guava, orange, and fresh lime)

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Leroy’s Crispy Ribs (dry ribs, savory and seasoned with coarse salt and black pepper)

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Tuna Tostadas (chili rubbed albacore, cilantro aioli, avocado, jicama slaw, and crisp corn tortillas)

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Warm Spinach + Three Cheese Dip (with artichokes, creamy garlic, chives, and toasted flat bread)

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Warm Kale Salad (black kale, baby potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, cranberries, and toasted almonds in brown butter vinaigrette)

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Atlantic Salmon (feta, caper, and dill aioli, jasmine rice, and seasonal vegetables)

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Rack of BBQ Ribs (tender pork with warm potato salad and coleslaw)

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Steak + Sushi (marinated steak, ponzu, dynamite roll, unagi maple, and Sriracha mayo)

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Smores Skillet Cookie (house made marshmallow, graham cracker, and vanilla bean gelato)

The Salty Donut
(The Wynwood Arcade)

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Mitch’s take: OK so this one is kind of a stretch, but the Wynwood Arcade is (or will be) a new wave, hipster kind of mall that is perfect for Miami’s favorite Arts District. The thing is that right now there’s pretty much only one draw: The Salty Donut. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve eaten a salty donut by now (and if you haven’t… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!?!?). Although Miami was admittedly a little behind the curve in jumping on the fancy donut trend, “The Salty” has definitely come to fill that void in our community and our lives are all a little sweeter because of it.

Standout dishes: This artisanal donut shop and coffee bar focuses on on chef-made, small-batch craft donuts using nothing but the highest quality ingredients and making everything in house. Their offerings consist of a few regular, year-round flavors that are complemented by weekly seasonal creations. They also have an incredibly unique coffee program, featuring rotating coffees with interesting flavor profiles, crafted by some of the best baristas around.

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Baked Chocolate Cake (top left), Banana & Chocolate (bottom left), Maple & Bacon (center), Browned Butter & Salt (right)

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Peanut Butter & Jelly (left), Nutella (middle), Guava & Cheese (right)

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