An unfortunately slow lunch in a hip, “retro” diner- Naked Lunch (Restaurants, Health District)

Ever since last spring I had been wanting to check out Naked Lunch in the UM Life and Science Building near Jackson Hospital. I had never been to the chef Ralph Pagano’s Naked Taco on South Beach, but for some reason I really wanted to go to his new restaurant, Naked Lunch, for… well lunch. The description of it as a old school diner (with all day breakfast) captured my attention.

When my office was in Midtown it was a little bit harder to convince people to go to lunch near the hospital (even though it’s not that far). Once we moved to Wynwood, it was easier to get people to go and a couple of us went over hoping to grab a quick lunch. Parking is in the lot of the UM Life and Science Building (make sure to get your parking validated at lunch).

The decor is very hip, “retro” diner, which was cool. It’s also bright from the wall of windows, so it gives a Miami feel to a place that’s otherwise decorated more New York or Chicago than Miami. The menu has a wide range of diner food (breakfast, sandwiches, burgers, salads). They also have a few appetizers like truffle deviled eggs, bacon wrapped dates, and tuna nachos. One cool part of the menu is their daily blue plate special. Each of the specials comes with an “everlasting” side (ex. Tuesday is tacos with everlasting chips, Wednesday is spaghetti and meatballs with everlasting garlic bread, and Friday is London fish and chips with everlasting chips).

Several posts (including a recent one I did) have attested to my inability to not order the deviled eggs when they are on the menu, but this post is an example of when I said no! Instead I got the bacon wrapped dates (alternative was to get both). Bacon wrapped dates from Sugarcane will be a part of my final meal in Miami, so similar to the deviled eggs it’s hard for me not to order them from a menu. I thought about doing the taco special for a second, but then figured I could try Naked Taco on the Beach if I wanted to try Ralph Pagano’s tacos. Breakfast for lunch intrigued me, so I spent a bit of time looking at that part of the menu. However I eventually focused in on the burgers. I narrowed it down to the Cordon Bleu- Serrano ham, Swiss cheese, and mustard sauce- or the Royal- Swiss cheese and bacon onion jam. I got an order of the lemon pepper fries on the side based on the waitress’ recommendation. My friends also got burgers.

It’s hard to beat Sugarcane’s bacon wrapped dates (that’s generally a given), but I will give Naked Lunch’s credit for being pretty delicious. They get extra points for only being stuffed with Gorgonzola and drizzled in honey. Most bacon wrap dates that get the biggest raves from me are stuffed with sausage too. I liked that these were a little light and an extra mix of savory and sweet with the added honey. The bacon wrapped dates beat my expectations. The burger was pretty solid and more or less met my expectations. It was juicy and I liked the bacon onion jam taste (although it didn’t compete with the taste of the burger and cheese as much I hoped). I also liked how melted the cheese was around the burger (almost like a protective shell). This meant I got more bites with cheese than usual on a burger. The lemon pepper fries however didn’t live up to expectations. The lemon taste was present, but didn’t have the effect I thought it would. They were the typical American French fries (thicker than the McDonald’s kind though) and a little bland in terms of potato taste (and not much crispness). The waitress perhaps raved a little bit too much about the lemon pepper fries when I ordered, because that also affected my thoughts about the fries.

I wanted to talk about the food first before talking about the service. Our waitress was not rude or unhelpful at all, but it was just a very long and slow lunch. It took us an hour and a half to get through lunch (and we had wanted it to be a quick lunch…). I will say that we came in at a busy time and it looked like we were seated right after a number of people just sat down (so our order was probably behind quite a few). This is also Miami (have had a lot of bad luck with “quick” work lunches running very long). However they’ve been open for at least four months and delays at every step of the process really aren’t excusable any more in my mind. It took a long time for our waitress to stop by our table, more of a wait to order, a very long time for our food to come out (we were starving and just sitting there for about 25-30 minutes), and then it took a long time to get our check (and that was after asking several people for it). It definitely colored our thoughts about the burgers and fries (from probably pretty good to meh given the wait).

If you work near Jackson and especially in the UM Life and Science Building, then it’s great to have a sit-down restaurant and a diner option nearby instead of just fast food or fast casual restaurants. It was pretty packed, so I think they’ve found customers that enjoy it (given it’s location I’m guessing most customers work in the building or walking distance). The decor is really cool and the menu has a lot of things that can deliver. I just hate to say that the experience and how long lunch took will probably dissuade me from returning (even to try the breakfast I was excited for). That’s partially because I’ll rarely have time to risk another hour and a half lunch. If time is not as much of a concern when you’re thinking of visiting or some of the items on the menu catch your eye (their pastrami sounds pretty famous and good) then don’t let my review turn you off. There’s potential here in some ways and hopefully my visit was more of a fluke.

Naked Lunch- 1951 NW 7th Ave, Miami, FL, 33136

The bacon wrapped dates
The Royale burger (sans bun)
Their “in-house” (from Naked Taco) hot sauces
The retro diner vibe


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