I’ve been a few times to the Cafe at Books and Books and each time I go excited to try something new as there are multiple things on each menu that catch my attention. My first visit was when my office was getting its air conditioning fixed and a few us camped out at the Cafe to do some work. I didn’t get any food at the time, but I loved the space. It’s a cozy, but bright and open cafe with a good number of books. Friends know I love books and I’m pretty ecstatic to have a bookstore in downtown (no matter the size). There are so few bookstores north of the Gables… There was also some delicious looking food on the menu for both breakfast and lunch, so I knew a return visit was in the cards.
One other very cool fact about the Cafe (and bookstore) is that it’s inside the Carnival Tower. This is a historic Art Deco building that used to be a part of the larger Sears Roebuck Store that existed on Biscayne where the Ziff Ballet Opera House now sits. You don’t always notice the exquisite detail on the facade of the building when you’re driving by. I even miss it sometimes when I run by every morning. When I look up though I’m always very impressed with the beauty of the building. Here’s a link to a webpage with some more info on the tower.
My most recent visit (for breakfast) seemed to represent the great things about the Cafe and a few things that could be improved (or just to keep in mind when visiting).
The recent visit was for a work breakfast and I ordered the pulled heritage pork hash. I love hashes in general and this sounded really good. With some high hopes it definitely met them (and probably exceed them a bit). It was very flavorful and pretty filling for the size. The pulled heritage pork was ham-like, but tender and flavorful with a bit of sweetness. It was actual hash browns (like the shreds) inside, which is hard to find in Miami (I feel like this is the 10th post where I’ve bemoaned the prevalence of homefries here…). There were peppers thrown in and some sour cream on the side. I would say this is one of my favorite breakfast dishes I’ve had in Miami and certainly want to go back for it.
I’m not a big coffee drinker, but the crillo mocha (with spiced drinking chocolate, espresso, whipped cream, and shaved chocolate) really caught my attention and I ordered that. The waiter came back to say they were out of the spiced drinking chocolate, but he recommended the caramelized latte with steamed soy milk. I enjoy almond milk, but wasn’t sure about soy milk. I went for it anyway. I ended up really liking it. It was creamy, but not too heavy, plus it wasn’t too coffee-like (since I don’t drink it often). If I went to the Cafe more often it could maybe even turn me into a “coffee” drinker (although I know it’s nothing like a cup of black coffee or “real coffee” as some people would say).
Overall- food has gotten similar rave reviews from friends/co-workers. Favorites from them include the avocado toast and warm and nutty quinoa. Everything seems very fresh and flavorful.
Some of the downsides or qualifiers is that every time I’ve been several dishes have been incomplete (at least according to the description on the menu) such as a friend’s toast missing a fresh fruit compote, the fruit salad missing a honey lime dip, or an omelette missing 2 of the 3 ingredients. For that I was tempted to give 3 stars on Yelp, but my friend who is very particular about service still thought I should put 4 stars because of how delicious the food is. She made a good point that they seem to source things locally, so when they run out there isn’t an alternative. I agree with that, but think that staff could do a better job about informing patrons when something is out. Multiple times dishes were delivered and people were disappointed with it based on how it compared to the description. The toast for example came out just as a plate of bread and my co-worker had to ask for something to put on it. Only when the waiter brought out the butter (after the request) did he mention they were out of the fruit compote.
The Cafe at Books and Books has a lot of delicious, fresh, flavorful, and locally sourced dishes. The dishes myself or my friends have tried all get rave reviews. Sometimes certain dishes are missing ingredients that run out, but that’s understandable given where they source their ingredients. They could just do a better job of letting customers know that instead of them being confused when an incomplete dish comes out. The atmosphere and space is also great. You can either sit inside surrounded by books (which is awesome! So glad downtown Miami has a bookstore now) or outside in the shadow of the Arsht Center. A great place to do work or get a cafe breakfast. Certainly this gets a recommendation if you’re in the area and if you’re seeing a show (which a performance at the Arsht Center is a “worth-the-drive” experience) then I think you should consider the Cafe at Books and Books for your meal before or after the show.
Cafe at Books and Books (Adrienne Arsht Center)- 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami, FL 33132