MIAMI BEACH — South Beach is South Florida's fashion and pop culture capital.
Mention South Beach, and the images of scantily clad models and bronzed celebrities are usually the first things that come to mind.
But a new, black-owned restaurant is hoping to add Po' Boy sandwiches and homemade macaroni and cheese to the area's trendy food milieu.
"There is more to this area than just the beach. We are here for the locals, the people that actually live down here on the beach," said CJ Mc Murren, co-owner of The Spot.
The restaurant is a new sandwich and comfort food restaurant at Alton Road and 14th Avenue in Miami Beach. The upstart restaurant sells chicken, seafood and deli sandwiches. It is tucked between a busy Starbucks, a McDonald's and several other chain restaurants. The restaurant's owners are banking on the quality of their food in the hectic competition for customers.
"We feel like once people come in and taste the food, that we will become an option for them in the future,'' Head Chef Will Jones said. "No one is ever going to beat McDonald's, but we can provide that quality alternative for the days when people are tired of day-old hamburgers."
The Spot serves several variations of the New Orleans-born Po' Boy sandwich. Jerk fish, jerk shrimp, and Cajun chicken are a few of the other options on the menu.
McMurren is originally from New York City, where, he said, "fish-and-shrimp, hole-in-the-wall joints are on every corner. We came down here and realized there was no place for that type of food without going to a restaurant. So we thought we could bring that type of homey feel to the beach.''
He continued: "We used to go down to New Orleans for the Bayou Classic and have these great Po' Boys. So we worked on the recipe, and used the Po' Boys as a way to bring that quick, tasty, home-style food to this area."
All the meat and seafood at The Spot is marinated for at least 12 hours before it is cooked. The fish, shrimp and chicken are then dredged in a seasoned, flour mixture developed by Chef Will.
"We marinate everything so that we don't need a heavy batter to deliver flavor.'' Jones said. "The finished product comes out light and airy and very flavorful. We don't want the customer to feel heavy after they eat the food."
On my visit to The Spot, I ordered the Jerk Fish Po' Boy. It did prove to be light and packed with flavor. It provided a substantial portion of fish with just enough of a homemade remoulade to complement the jerk flavor without overpowering it.
The fish was served on a soft hoagie roll with a side of Cast iron sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes were slow-cooked in a cast-iron pot with vanilla, cinnamon and other seasonings culled from Chef Will's grandmother's recipe.
The South Beach food scene is definitely upscale. But McMurren said he feels there is a niche for homestyle food on the beach. As for being surrounded on all sides by better-funded, nationwide chains, McMurren said, it's just a matter of getting the word out.
"The food will sell itself,'' he said. "We are banking on the diversity of the people here. There are so many different types of people here from all over the world who are willing to try something new. We are providing another option. A quality option that is different from burgers, pizza and sushi."
Photo: The Spot's fish Po' Boy with onion rings
IF YOU GO
What: The Spot restaurant
Where: 1570B Alton Rd., Miami Beach.
Cost: Prices range from $4 for a meatball hoagie, to $6 for conch fritters, $7 for a Po' Boy sandwich, and $15.50 for a platter with a selection of chicken, shrimp or fish.
Contact: 305-532-9122. You can also become a friend of the restaurant at SpotMIA on Facebook, follow the restaurant on Twitter at Twitter.com/thespotmiami, or email the restaurant at firstname.lastname@example.org.