The Miami Lakes restaurant scene is experiencing a renaissance: During the past nine months, six new dining spots opened and they’re about to be joined by four more establishments that will serve unique flavors in town.
Open during Memorial Day weekend was La Traila, a Texas-style craft barbecue restaurant that has a bit of celebrity spice.
Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver Isaiah McKenzie, 26, who is from Miami,
is a co-founder with “pit master” Mel Rodriguez, 40, from Austin.
Coming later this summer is La Strega Cucina Italiana & Steak House, whose chef Rafael Solis hails from Carpaccio in the Bal Harbour Shops.
Solis, 49, is bringing an Italian steakhouse menu, which will include Wagyu beef, to the former Ruby Tuesday location on Main Street.
The third and fourth eateries -- Acai Express
at 6855 Main St., near Shula’s Athletic Club, and Vanilla Espresso Bakery Cafe in the Windmill Gate Shopping Center, are under construction and are also expected to open later this year.
Acai Express will serve bowls, smoothies, cleansing juices and artisan toasts.
The online menu for Vanilla Espresso, at 16395 NW 67th Ave., lists a variety of coffees, hot chocolate and lattes.
This quartet of dining spots will join 65 restaurants and food shops in town.
Between last August and April, Chela’s Beer Garden; Francisca Char- coal Chicken and Meats and BurgerIM, all on Main Street, and Diced, Sushi Sake and Cruzeiro Brazilian Steakhouse in the Cypress Village Shopping Center have welcomed guests.
“As a restaurant owner and consumer, Miami Lakes is on the rise,” said Miami Lakes Mayor Manny Cid, a co-owner
of the Mayor’s Cafe. “We don’t have to leave. You’ve got Brazilian, Peruvian, Mexican, Italian, Mediterranean and Cuban food,
all different parts of the spectrum, which I think is exciting.”
He credited new housing developments and new residents in Miami Lakes with helping to grow the dining sector, even during a pandemic.
Both 6600 Main, the luxury townhome and apartment campus at the north end of Main Street and the Satori residential community on the west side of town “have added
a tremendous amount of foot traffic and disposable income to the community,” Cid said.
When he was elected to the town council in 2012, Cid said, “everybody would talk about what Miami Lakes used to be, what Main Street used to be. Now there has been a major change.
“You’re seeing the town revitalized,” Cid said.
“Now everybody is talking about what’s happening today, about the amount
of energy coming into the community,” Cid said.
The name La Traila, Spanish words for the trailer, is how the partners hauled a 20-foot smoker to pop-up sites.
Perhaps their most prestigious appearance was in May at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
The partners have opened their first restaurant in the Park Centre Shops, at 8030 NW 154th St.
“I feel really good about where we are,” Rodriguez said. “I sense that Miami Lakes is really big on community, in terms of support.”
During the pandemic, Rodriguez was busy grilling meats for family and friends who encouraged him, praising his cooking as the best barbecue they’ve ever had.
He says there is no spot in town like La Traila that offers “the art of Texas- style barbecue.”
McKenzie said the team is excited about sharing their authentic menu with diners in South Florida.
“Being a Miami native myself, I want to continue to bring great food into our communities and expand our local food landscape,” McKenzie said.
That translates to meats cooked long and slow, at low temperatures.
They’ll serve breakfast tacos, and there will also be daily Tex-Mex specials, Rodriguez said.
Many entrees are served on platters with house sides such as homemade mac and cheese and baked beans.
They can be eaten in layers with cotija aged Mexican cheese, crema and house sauce, which is all topped with smoked brisket, aka the Brisket Sundae.
Also on the menu: pulled pork, pork sausage, pork spare ribs, a beef “Dino” rib and Texas-style brisket. There are burgers and sandwiches, too.
McKenzie expects to return to the restaurant during breaks in the NFL schedule and in the off-season.
La Traila will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 10 p.m.
There is indoor and out- door dining, take-out, and beer and wine for sale.
For more information, find @LaTrailaBarbecue on Instagram.
Across town at La Strega, owners Milena Salazar and Tuilo Polo are preparing to open in coming months at 15281 NW 67th Ave., at Main Street near Chela’s Beer Garden.
“Miami Lakes is a great location,” said Polo. “We saw the absence of a restaurant like ours and we know people want good food.”
Solis left Carpaccio in April to join the La Strega partners, and said he was previously an executive chef consultant at the now closed Luciana’s Ristorante and Pizzeria on Long Island in New York and executive chef at H20 Café in Fort Lauderdale.
“I’ve never done a concept like this,” Solis said. “It’s a new challenge for me, but I’m excited.”
La Strega is an Italian herbal liqueur and is also the name of a popular Pembroke Pines restaurant which Salazar bought during the pandemic and began operating in July 2020.
The Miami Lakes location will be open daily, Tuesday through Friday from 8 a.m. – until sold out, Saturdays and Sundays, 9 a.m. until sold out.
For more information, go on Instagram.
Acai Express’s progress can be followed online.
Vanilla Espresso Bakery Cafe can be found on Instagram.