Was devastated to learn that Oolite had closed… Hopefully Kris Wessel opens up another restaurant soon and with similarly delicious gluten-free fare!
One of the days that I was in Portland I was on Twitter and saw a Tweet somewhere that Oolite (a new restaurant in South Beach) was an entirely gluten-free restaurant. I thought “hold up. What?! An entirely gluten-free restaurant in Miami? Miami?!” Kind of hard to believe. I checked out their website and couldn’t find a menu (I later found out you click on the fork icon). However I did find a menu on OpenTable and most of it looked gluten-free or was listed as gluten-free. The Holy Grail of gluten-free eating might actually exist in Miami! The thing on the menu that really caught my eye (and stomach)- non gluten-really cheesy Mac n Cheese! Very few things can get me as excited or induce cravings as macaroni and cheese (probably beats out bagels for #1). I knew I needed to make a visit as soon as I was back in Miami.
Unlike many other new restaurants where I promise myself I’ll visit ASAP and then it takes months, I went to Oolite the very day I got back to Miami! My aunt picked me up from the airport and we went there for dinner. How’s that for determination? I think almost anything can be accomplished when macaroni and cheese is the motivator.
The name of the restaurant comes from a limestone and coral formation, Oolite, that exists down in the Florida Keys. The menu similarly pays tribute to Florida, along with the Caribbean and South America. As we found out at the restaurant, the menu is indeed entirely gluten-free and seeks to do local and regional fair that is healthy and fresh.
There were a lot of things on the menu I wanted to try and my aunt had a similar dilemma. The macaroni and cheese was a must, but besides that there were a lot of decisions. The menu had sea protein, “animal protein” (like ropa vijea, flank steak, and ribs), vegetable protein, salads and soups, flatbreads, and starters (which were pretty varied in themselves). Can’t you see why there were some tough decisions to be made?
I went for the corn-rice spaghetti with tomato, basil, garlic, and Parmesan as my entree and a side of the Mac and Cheese. My aunt and I also got the fried green tomato arepa with Romescu Sauce to start off with. My aunt then got an order of the fried plantains with avocados to start and then an order of the cauliflower-kale chevre gratinee and two slices (to share of course!) of the onion, spinach & cheese masa tart. A pretty good haul of gluten-free goodness (hopefully). I’m just shocked that there was no animal protein involved for this almost-carnivore, but when my stomach sees what it wants my mouth goes for it.
The arepa was the first thing to come out and it was different than I was expecting (compared to other arepas I’ve had). It was extra crispy. They were like little pockets (sort of like Venezuelan arepas) filled with gooey cheese. They were delicious! They kind of reminded me of these mac and cheese bites bites they had in my college cafeteria (not gluten-free of course). The arepas also came with kernels of corn sprinkled on top and a spicy red sauce. This was one of my favorite things that I had. The texture and taste was something that did not seem gluten-free at all!
Next to come out was the fried tostones with avocado. I’d had fried tostones before and liked them, but these seemed a step up. They seemed extra fresh and had extra flavor. I couldn’t help thinking that the extra flavor was the taste of eggrolls! A little weird, but my aunt agreed with me. The avocado was a delicious touch to the tostones. I’ve always been a big guacamole fan, but avocados I’ve been more so-so. Combined with the tostones though (and being super fresh) I came to have a much better appreciation for avocados.
The rest of our food came out and was more of our “main meal.” First up for me was the corn-rice spaghetti. The pasta was good for gluten-free, but the overall dish just didn’t have tons of flavor. There wasn’t enough garlic or Parmesean to really have a defined taste and then the tomatoes seemed just added in. I ended up finishing it, but if I had been full I probably wouldn’t have. I just prefer more saucy and flavorful pasta. After the explosion of flavors with the arepas and tostones it was a slight disappointment. If you’re looking for something more light this might be something you’re interested in. Also perhaps as part of a larger meal it’d be a nice part. I just wouldn’t want that to be a person’s only impression of Oolite (because it’s overall awesome!).
For no reason in particular I ate a good amount of the spaghetti before diving into the Mac and Cheese. Luckily the dishes got back on the flavorful side. The Mac and Cheese was super cheesy, delicious, and gooey. It took care of my Mac and Cheese craving for sure. Even without all the sauce I think the pasta (penne style) would have been good on it’s own and it seemed like great quality. I will say it was pretty rich so I would recommend it to be shared. It’s small enough that you can go at it on your own if you put your mind to it (and slightly prepare your stomach for it). I’d say this and the arepa are must orders on my next visit.
I next tried the onion, spinach & cheese masa tart. The masa tart reminded me of the kind of arepas I am used to in Miami. Texture wise onions slices kind of weird me out (still a picky eater deep down), but it was flavorful and I think the three flavors (plus the masa tart) complemented each other really well.
I hadn’t gotten around to the cauliflower-kale chevre gratinee, mostly because I was occupied with all the other great dishes, but my aunt was raving about it. I took a few bites and agreed it was delicious. It was very rich and flavorful. Reminded of a super cheesy broccoli casserole, but with a much richer and flavorful cheese (vs. the usual American/cheddar cheese sauce you’d put on broccoli). I’ll be honest I wouldn’t have expected it’d be something I’d put high up on my list, but it was by the end.
I really hope the buzz about Oolite gets out since it’s an awesome place. Oolite was a delight-ful (see what I did there) experience. It’s not only because it’s 100% gluten-free, but the food is fresh, flavorful, and somewhat healthy for you (more so than other restaurants at least. Worth believing right?). My aunt enjoyed the meal and thought it was a great choice, so gluten-eaters can enjoy Oolite a ton (as their gluten-free companions reach bliss!). I already have some new favorite go-tos (the arepa and the Mac and Cheese), but there is a long list of things I want to go back and try (especially on the animal protein side). Oolite is worth a visit when you’re in South Beach (or not)!
Oolite Restaurant & Bar- 1661 Pennsylvania Ave Miami Beach, FL