Mina’s, 749 NE 79th Street, Miami, Florida 33138
Chic, industrial and warm, Mina’s reminds me of some of my favorite restaurants in my beloved hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s even reminiscent of some of the cool, laid back, hipster spots I used to frequent in Austin, Texas (when I was a young, budding entertainment reporter working in The Lone Star State.)
Mina’s is the kind of place that just makes you feel good when you walk through the door, boasting a line of big, beautiful windows perched high against its back wall giving off a sense of roominess and different shades of moody lighting. During the day, it’s bright and airy; at dusk, it’s self-assured and sexy. When it gets dark, candles illuminate the dining room in a golden amber-like glow. Fresh cut flowers give each table a dose of unpretentious personality.
I started my dinner at the lively bar, where friendly locals chatted with me about how much they loved the place and how much they actually frequented it during the work week (at least twice, sometimes more.) My first drink of the night was the popular “Marakesh Cocktail” (made with Moroccan Mint Tea, Rye Whiskey and spiced pomegranate.) It’s definitely strong enough for a man, but women will like it, too. At least, if you’re like me and enjoy a stiff, strong drink. Back on the ranch, we describe it as “a beverage that’ll grow hair on your chest.”
“The Dusty Rose” was next and was my absolute favorite (made with white rum, pineapple, St. Germaine, rose water and cranberry.) Mmmm…it was unique, feminine and extremely appealing. My photographer, James, was all about the “Fresco Verde” (made with muddled cucumber, mint, basil, honey, gin and ginger beer.) It was definitely refreshing, smooth and I’d even go as far as describing it as effervescent.
Before I drank myself under the bar, I headed to my table to start my dinner with some amazing “Small Plates” on the menu. I really love this concept, too. Drinks, light bites and a great atmosphere; it’s reason enough to check the place out if you’ve never been before. Also, if you just wanna hang (I especially love the outdoor patio,) it’s got this really chill vibe, with live music every Thursday. Every third week of the month, they host something called: Play-te (great food and a theatre reading.) But I digress…
There’s nothing like a good dip! I started off with four amazingly fresh, mouthwatering ones: Besara (ground fava beans, cilantro, dill, parsley, celery, onion and garlic.) Tzatziki (Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, mint.) Baba Ghanoug (roasted eggplant, chickpeas and tahini.) Spicy Feta (Bulgarian feta with harissa.) This was one of my favorite parts of the meal, however…
I was completely infatuated with the “Spanakopita” (a serving of spinach feta phylo pies.) They were light, fluffy and fantastic. “The Stuffed Cabbage” was a pretty close second (served with rice, meat, onions in a savory tomato sauce. I need this in my life at least once a week.) I’m not a fan of “Grape Leaves,” per se, but wow — I surprisingly gobbled up two with no questions asked. My last appetizer, the “Lamb Burger Sliders” (with harissa, tatziki, tomato and lettuce) were absolute perfection.
Now, you’re probably thinking how in the world could I possibly have had room left for dinner after that appetizer extravaganza? Well, I may be wee, but I’m willful! Especially, with the quality and taste of the food. What’s more, Yasmine Kotb (Mina’s owner,) is so generous and kind, her food is a direct extension of her personality. With that being said, you can’t help but wanna try everything on the menu.
Before my main course, though, I tried “The Mersault” (made with muddled cherry tomatoes, lime juice, rosemary, tequila and a touch of harissa.) This drink wasn’t just photogenic, it was incredibly interesting. It was layered with unique flavors, reminding me of a fresh herb garden and who doesn’t love a drink peppered with little cherry tomatoes?
I dined on the “Osso Buco” for my main plate (lamb shank braised in wine sauce with mashed potatoes.) The lamb was soft, tender and a perfect cornucopia of classic flavors. The potatoes were fluffy, buttery and delicious, too. For dessert, three plates landed in front of me: Tiramisu, Walnut Baklava and Dark Chocolate Tart. Hands down, the tart stole my heart (insert crying emoji here.)
The thing I love most about Mina’s is that’s it’s close to Channel 7, so it’s my neighborhood hang-out, but truth-be-told, that’s exactly what it’s like even if you don’t live on 79th Street. It’s a friendly atmosphere, the food is fresh and it’s a fabulous place to feel part of our ever-changing community.
Mina’s is the Upper Eastside of Miami, which is slowly but surely turning into a bustling area; with clothing shops, different restaurants, hairs salons and home decor stores. The restaurant has a pretty big parking lot, so that’s not an issue. Not only that, Mina’s is working on free valet to make it even easier. Cheers!
Tues-Friday 5pm-10:30pm, Saturday 12pm-10:30pm, Sunday 11am-9pm and Happy Hour Tues-Sunday 5pm-7pm.
Editor: Matthew Auerbach
Photographer: James Woodley
Stylist: Pam Garcia