I haven’t been here long enough or tried enough places to proclaim it “best restaurant” but it certainly ranks among my favorites! I actually get excited to sit down and eat in this place. Xixón Cafe (pronounced “zichOn”) is a authentic Spanish themed restaurant / wine bar / tapas counter / gourmet specialty market located at 2101 SW 22nd Street in Miami. (www.xixoncafe.com 305 854-9350) . It has an interesting, somewhat unorthodox layout, pulling off the stunt of providing a selection of ambiances within one venue. There is the patio dining with a view of busy Coral Way, there is an informal cafe setting overlooking the busy tapas counter – set up almost like a deli, and there is wine oriented downstairs with state of the art Vinoteca wine pouring technology, and an upstairs, suited for large family dinners, groups, and a generally more formal setting. There also is a small market area where one can purchase Spanish specialties, such as my favorite, Asturias Cabrales cheese, premium Serrano hams, chorizos, morcillas, spices, the famous canned Spanish treats such as anchovies, percebes, and other hard to find delicacies. I paid around $24 per pound for my last 1/2 pound of cheese. Not cheap, but compares favorably to mail order outlets I am in touch with that charge over $35 per pound. The quality was first rate and left no doubt as to its authenticity.

The staff has always been friendly, welcoming and polite, if not exactly warm; but certainly this is not a complaint. To their credit, they are usually busy and still do a good job of making sure you are not neglected. Once I did show up at an off hour, right around 5 pm and the bathroom was in dissarray but then they were also in the process of cleaning it and getting set up for dinner. I would rather them stay open and clean, than shut down like some restaurants did. That trip I stopped in for a quick glass of wine and a couple of tapas treats before a late afternoon meeting.

My last visit was with an out of town friend unfamiliar with Spanish cuisine.  We enjoyed several rounds of tapas before meeting other friends for an evening of live entertainment, enjoying Miami’s own Pan-Caribbean band “¡Suénalo!”  We started off with a plate of Patatas Alioli ($5.00): cold potatoes in aioli sauce… A common dish to those familiar with the cuisine, but for the unfamiliar, imagine a minimalist potato salad.   This was followed by Boquerones a la Vinagreta ($8.00): white anchovies in vinaigrette sauce. Another cold dish, this went great with the ample, quality bread that the staff graciously kept coming. Often people stateside think of anchovies as vile, salty things, but remember an Anchovy is a type of fish and can be prepared many different ways. These were served cold, and their delicate creamy flesh was a great foil to the assertive crunchy crust of the bread.  We shared a Jamon/Manchego platter ($13.00) which is exactly as it sounds, a cold plate of ham and manchego cheese garnished with a few olives. The last course on the list was a rather tiny but well done tapas of bacalao ($4.75), presented artistically and perfectly cooked.   We each had a glass of Larrauri Crianza $6.95.

Dinner for two – albeit comprised of several flights of tapas for less than $50 at such a quality establishment… The menu is still so extensive at Xixón and constantly changing so  there is always something new to explore. For those oenophiles, the wine selection is truly astounding, emphasizing of course, in the wines of Spain but with selections from across the globe.