Unfortunately after only a few months Benchwarmers and the club upstairs has closed…
I feel like a lot of my posts start out along the lines of- “I had been wanting to check out this place for months…” and that’s pretty true. I have a bad habit of getting really excited about a place opening and then I don’t visit for a while. Partially that’s because there are far too many good options in Miami, but also partially out of me making bad excuses (or is it making bad decisions…).
However, while there are many places on my restaurant “bucket list,” Benchwarmers had been at the top for the last month and a half or so. And it’s only two blocks from where I work! It definitely crossed over into “this is ridiculous I haven’t been there yet” territory a few weeks ago.
Here’s why I was so excited about Benchwarmers-
- It’s a new project by the same people who do Wood Tavern in Wywnood, which I love (super chill, relaxed, cheap drinks)
- I’m always down for the “sports bar” vibe just because it decreases the probability of it being a loud, clubby kind of bar (although in Miami a “sports bar” still leaves at least 30-40% chance it will be loud and/or clubby)
- It has fries. On fries. On fries!
In the article I read before it opened they mentioned that Benchwarmers would have tons of fries- curly fries, waffle fries, steak fries, and more. Since I pretty much consider fries to be worthy of it’s own food group on the food pyramid (I can’t call it a nutrition pyramid if fries would have it’s own spot…) I wanted to go immediately. And that was even before I saw specials like $0.49 wings on Wednesdays and half-off fries on Fridays. And why did it take me so long (about a month and a half) to go? Who knows. But hopefully from now on I will make up for lost time.
The other Saturday I had a work event and my friend and I agreed to head to Benchwarmers after we were finished. Unfortunately we had Latin Cafe catered for lunch and for anyone who knows me (personally or through my posts) you know I am obsessed with rice and beans. I could eat it anytime, anywhere, any day. And I have a bad habit when we have catering involving rice and beans (so crazy huge amounts of them) of eating them until I am about to throw up (and even then the part of my brain controlling desire almost overpowers the part that you know like keeps you alive…). I mention this only because I wasn’t as prepped (ie. having an empty stomach) as I should have been going into the Willy Wonka of french fries).
We got there probably around 3:30 and we were the only ones there. A little odd, but I will say there wasn’t really much sports going on that day (football hadn’t started, World Cup was over, no major golf or tennis event). So I’m attributing part of the emptiness to that. It also doesn’t have the most visible location. It’s on 36th St and 1st Court in Midtown (kitty corner from the giant lawn next to Target). On the 1st Court side (where it’s a tiny little street under the freeway) there is a large sign announcing Benchwarmers. But it’s not at all visible to people going west on 36th and not super visible to even people going east (there’s even a pole in the way). On 36th itself I think there was just a flag that had “BW” on it. There also unfortunately is no outside seating (at least currently) to grab people’s attention and bring people in. Plus it’s August in Miami. So even if I lived across the street in Midtown 2 I’d probably debate walking that short distance (I know I know…) if I had never been there before. Plus there isn’t a crosswalk right there across busy 36th. Anyways I think there are a number of reasons it was so empty, but luckily that wasn’t because of the place, the food, or concept itself.
Another friend had been there before during a World Cup game (when it was packed) and mentioned that the seating was kind of limited. The space isn’t huge. There is seating around the windows, a bar in the back, and then maybe 4-5 “tables” in the middle. The tables are benches (like a baseball bench) raised up. It’s long enough to sit four people, but since it’s not very wide you might run out of room if people order more than one thing. We were fine with just two people though.
The menu is pretty simple and the fries are right at the top (not surprisingly). You have your choice of regular, steak, crinkle cut, curly, waffle, and sweet potato fries, plus tator tots and chips. You then can choose your toppings, which can be Plane Jane, seasoned, cheese sauce, Blue cheese and balsamic, covered in a fried egg and bacon, fully loaded (like a baked potato- cheese, bacon, etc.), or cheeseburger style.
Of the more elaborate fry options our waiter recommended the fried egg/bacon or fully loaded. He also recommended the waffle fries because they hold the toppings better. My friend went for the fully loaded on waffle fries, but it was hard for me to pass up the cheeseburger kind and so I went with that on waffle fries. I also wanted some curly fries, but I think I misspoke when I said regular curly fries (instead of Plain Jane). When our waiter read back our order I said yes to regular fries (thinking it meant regular curly fries). But I ended up with a basket of the regular fries. Anyways I got pretty stuffed from my cheeseburger fries so I wouldn’t have had much room for the curly fries anyways (definitely getting them next time).
I really liked the cheeseburger fries. Our waiter was right that the waffle fries hold the toppings well. It was quite filling. It did taste pretty similar to a cheeseburger and the meat and cheese on then waffle fries was pretty delicious. The cheeseburger fries were the most expensive of the fry options (at $9.25) and are more expensive than you’d usually pay for fries at most places (although they don’t have so many toppings), but it’s filling and is more like an entree so the pricing is very appropriate. My friend also thought his fully loaded fries were pretty solid. Next time I’ll try probably get the fully loaded or fried egg, along with a side of the curly. They also have burgers and wings I want to try at some point, along with more of the other 52 remaining fry combinations (after I try fully loaded or fried egg and the curly). I’m worried the next couple trips I’m going to order like 3-4 things…
I’m in Portland right now and last night had a great time doing a bar crawl with my friends. It was great just to be able to visit so many places where there was always an open table and was a relaxing, chill, and more intimate place to hang out and get drinks/food. That’s just not always easy to find in Miami (as many people have heard me say/write). Either it’s more of a restaurant or a chain or a clubby kind of bar and/or a hassle to get seated and relax. I could see Benchwarmers filling this need though (along with its brother, Wood Tavern, and the other bars in Wynwood. I see a bar crawl coming to mind). Benchwarmers is open late (until 3 AM on Sun-Wed and until 5 AM on Thurs-Sat) and reasonably convenient to places (Midtown, Wynwood, etc.). And the drinks are reasonably priced (like Wood Tavern). When I’m back in Miami I’m going to try and get my friends to check it at night and see if it’s the vibe I’m hoping it is. It had shuffleboard so that’s hopefully a good sign it’s not going to play crazy loud music and get all clubby at night (probably that won’t be the case since it’s by the people from Wood Tavern). Definitely we’ll be back soon during the day/week for $0.49 wing Wednesdays and 1/2 off fry Fridays.
Benchwarmers is definitely worth a stop for any fry connoisseurs out there. It’s also a place I’d recommend stopping by and checking out for sporting events. The space isn’t huge, but I think it’s worth a look to see if there are open spots. Plus if it is packed/standing room for a big sporting event I think that could be a pretty cool atmosphere to watch. And although granted our experience with service was when we were the only people there (another group of two came in halfway through our meal), I feel pretty confident saying the service will be better than Bar Louie’s (their sports bar competition in Midtown). So you have nothing to lose at checking it out.
Benchwarmers- 175 NE 36th St Miami, FL