Smart Bites: Urban Farming and a Healthy Café
In the quadrant between I-95 and The Dolphin sits the Allapattah “ Healthy” District, a mixture of sparkling glass medical centers and empty warehouses and lots. On a corner of NE 20th visible with its bright green awning is Smart Bites, a small storefront café that is run by Mari Vila and features healthy soups, salads, burgers (including a Bison Burger!) wraps, sides and fresh juices.
Also know as Smart Bites To Go, the casual spot, popular with the doctors, med students and others “in the know”, offers fast casual grab & go lunches.
But I encourage you not to just “grab & go”, as it is the back lot farm and seating areas that truly takes you out of the bustling city within earshot of I95 and into the farmland. Mari shares that she bought the entire acre corner lot a couple of years ago and with her business partner Will, built out the rows of fresh vegetables, greens, fruit trees and the aquaponic fish pond used to recycle the water and keep the plants fertilized and irrigated. Seating is colorful and comfortable and a huge shingle oak tree provides shade over the many picnic tables.
Will and Mari own and operate Smart Bites and in listening to their story, you recognize their commitment to offering healthy alternatives using ingredients not only farmed locally, but from their own back yard. On a spring Miami day, I watched as Will cut fresh cilantro and other herbs for the salad I had just ordered.
The menu varies each day depending on what is available and at lunchtime be prepared for the line out the door, as doctors in scrubs, local businessmen and women, and frazzled med students wait patiently to order at the inside café window.
Some of the most popular items on the menu include:
Butternut Squash Soup- a creamy pureed soup topped with toasted pumpkin seeds
Panda Salad- Lettuce, kale, spinach, tomato, raisins, toasted almonds, parmesan cheese, olive oil and honey citrus vinaigrette.
Goat Tomato Salad- FreshSpinach, goat cheese, oven roasted tomato, toasted sunflower seeds and balsamic dressing.
Green Sandwich- Kale, Spinach, Arugula, Alfalfa Sprouts, sautéed onions toasted sunflower seeds and chipotle mayo..
Tostado Bowl (Special on Wednesdays)
Salmon Burger- Wild Alaskan salmon patty, topped with arugula, sautéed onions, pineapple, tomato, alfalfa sprouts, and chipotle mayo. Come with ½ corn on the cob.
Cochayuyo Burger- a patty made of a thick seaweed called Cochayuyo imported in bundles from Chile. It comes dehydrated, then cooked for hours and chopped finely, mixed with veggies and herbs and grilled. Topped with alfalfa sprouts, fresh lettuce, arugula, tomato, sautéed onions, and chipotle mayo this is a unique, healthy and delicious alternative to the traditional burger.
Zucchini and Squash pasta -shredded “pasta” topped with a rich roasted tomato sauce, garlic and fresh basil.
Key Lime Cheesecake- Creamy and tart with graham cracker crust.
Smart Bites offers both grilled pork loin and chicken as add ins to salads and wraps in addition to both Vegan and Vegetarian options. Freshly made hummus and juices and ginger shots are other key items and there are always daily specials to decide from as well. They also offer pick up and delivery using Yelp/EAT24.
BUT, I suggest you take a break from your crazy day and head over to Smart Bites. Parking is ample in their lot in back and I bet an Uber ride from Downtown or the Brickell Financial District is around $5.00. Money well spent for an hour away from the high-rises and high stresses of work. Smart Bites is closed Saturday and Sundays.
791 NW 20th St