After an unreasonably warm summer stroll down Lincoln Road, my sweaty pedestrian friends and I ducked into Oolite Restaurant and Bar for air conditioning and lunch.
Formerly occupied by Cooper Avenue, Oolite’s space on 16th and Pennsylvania inspires a sense of familiarity and warmth the second you walk in. The sunny floor to ceiling windows, the wood/limestone accents, and the smiling staff all boosted up my Sim Mood Meter.
Oolite touts itself as a “healthy-dining concept,” offering regional cuisine and really simple, grub that’s “plant, land, and sea-based.” The chef, Kris Wessel, hails from local favorites Florida Cookery and Red Light. I freakin’ loved the food at Red Light. I have a brief flashback of sitting in a dark room, dipping all sorts of breads and meats into his famous BBQ shrimp sauce, a festival of Cajun spices that go well with just about anything.
The restaurant claims to limit their use of processed ingredients, saturated fats, and gluten. My adult sensibilities found this to be pretty darn new and exciting. I immediately texted all of my gluten-free and health-conscious friends photos of the menu while secretly scanning the menu for the unhealthiest dish I could order.
After intensive strategizing over the menu, we started with the Brussels Sprouts and Gluten-free Mac & Cheese.
For anyone who enjoys Brussels sprouts (Thanks for the addiction, Richard Hales), goat cheese, and the word ‘pops,’ well, you’re probably going to really, really like the Brussels sprouts and goat cheese pops. If you’re over the whole delicious Brussels sprouts thing, well, then, that sounds like a personal problem.
The Mac & Cheese on the other hand didn’t really do it for us. I’ve still got my training wheels on when it comes to gluten-free pasta, and I certainly wasn’t ready to take them off after this dish. I’m still in Phase II of overcoming my gluten-free fear: the “it-still-tastes-like-cardboard” phase.
Our next round included Avocados, Limes y Tostones, Coconut Conch Soup, and a series of sandwiches and burgers for the table.
While the Avocados, Limes y Tostones is an entree on the menu; it really should be the first thing you ever try here. Holy crap, are these fantastic and a great way to kick off the rest of the meal. I secretly wanted to stick one of the tostones in my purse to take home and convince my Cuban relatives to reverse engineer them.
When the Coconut Conch Soup made its way to our table, we made fun of our friend for ordering soup on such a disgustingly hot Miami day. It was actually so nice-tasting that we ended up eating our words (and, yeah, the rest of his soup) upon tasting it.
The rest of us ordered several burgers and sandwiches. I had the Turkey Burger and had to pick between adding cheese or avocado butter, and my choice of bread. I opted for the roti bread and despite its complete inability to keep the burger’s juices from running down all over my arms, it was a great choice. The same was said around the table for the Portabella Mushroom and Fresh Fish sandwiches.
This was my first time trying roti bread, which is basically just a gluten-free naan/flatbread. It doesn’t really taste like anything but then again, what is bread but a vessel to shove delicious ingredients in your mouth? Sure, bread can be the star of the show, but when it gets out of the way and saves me some calories in the process – I can get down with that.
As a last hurrah, we ordered Wessel’s BBQ shrimp. We found the not-so-hidden treasure! This was Chef Wessel’s signature winning dish on Chopped, and yes, this is a variant of his Red Light dish that I shared an intimate moment with many moons ago. Similar to the Red Light version, the sauce falls in the realm of creole and carnitas sauce, a taste so delectable you wait until no one else is watching to gulp down spoonfuls at a time. This time, my new friend, roti bread, accompanies the dish again. All in all, it was a great time rekindling our romance.
Overall, Oolite serves up a powerful lunch at reasonable Miami Beach prices in an incredibly welcoming and laid-back atmosphere. And while they opened my eyes to the potential of gluten-free and health-conscious dining, it also rewarded me vastly for ordering what I think is probably the least healthy of the options. Either way, patrons may just find me hiding under their tablecloth, nibbling on their left-over roti.
Oolite Restaurant & Bar
1661 Pennsylvania Avenue Miami Beach, 33139