What To Order At Biscayne Diner In El Portal | Tasting Table MIA

Tara Nicoisa and Alfonso Alvarez cater to late-night crowds at Biscayne Diner

"The extravagant is great; we all want to get dolled up and go out. But for me, realistically, how often does the average person get to do that?"

So says Nicosia, one of the co-owners of the newly reopened Biscayne Diner. It's familiar inquiry for locals, considering that our dining scene consists mostly of haute hotel restaurants on South Beach. "But we all need to eat every day, and I want my customers to be able to come in here and get food they love but that feels like home," Nicosia says.

We savored a slice of the key lime pie—which she claims to "be better than Joe's"—as we sat down with her in one of the red vintage booths at her and partner Alvarez's new eatery, Biscayne Diner. After a bit of drama at Seasalt and Pepper (now Seaspice)—the project that originally brought the pair down from New York—they decided it was time to leave the flashier riverside restaurant behind and pay homage to their roots by reopening this forgotten diner on the El Paso strip of Biscayne Boulevard.

Co-owners Alfredo Alvarez and Tara Nicosia

"It's funny. Everyone who came in on opening day has told us the same thing: that they've driven by numerous times and never noticed it before," Nicosia says about the old diner. It's been refurbished, but the duo has maintained some of the original, nostalgic elements like the checkered floor and lacquered counter with round stools. Meanwhile, new additions, like the murals on the back wall and outside facade by local artist Don Rimx, are clear signs that this isn't your typical mom-and-pop diner of days gone by.

Classic BLT at Biscayne Diner

Considering Nicosia used to own a diner in her hometown, the restaurant will be open 24 hours, but she plans on raising the bar a bit: "In New York, 24-hour diners are very robotic. Their staff is trained to do every dish, their menus are a bible. How can you produce all that food and keep it at a quality level?" This menu does offer staples in the breakfast, lunch and dinner categories, including BLTs, waffles, burgers—like the melted cheese, double decked Phat Fcuk ($13) with bacon, caramelized onions, topped with a fried egg and doused with chipotle mayo—and milk shakes. But it also offers more crafted comforting dishes like pork shank osso buco ($23), and homemade ravioli and pappardelle served with a slow-braised short rib ($19), as well as an ample selection of salads and organic juices.

As for the crowds, expect anyone and everyone from families living in the neighboring area to industry friends looking for a place to decompress after a long shift.

You can officially kiss your late-night runs to Denny's good night.