This story has to begin with a bit of history, because it’s probably the main reason you might go to the News Cafe. Back in the 1990s, I was one of those Floridians who spent many lazy Sundays under the green awnings of News Cafe, taking in the parade of odd Ocean Drive characters and eating pretty decent eggs. Then it all ended.
It happened infamously when Gianni Versace made his last daily walk in 1997 to the News Cafe before being gunned down a few blocks away at his mansion. The fact that he was a News Cafe regular got repeated in one million news articles, and suddenly the 24-hour restaurant became a macabre tourist attraction. Locals eventually just stopped fighting sunburned tourists for a table.
The place closed in 2021, and perhaps it would’ve gone into the vault of old Miami Beach. But the Vida & Estilo Restaurant Group, the same restaurant conglomerate behind pretty a-ok spots like Havana 1957 and Marabu, reopened it in early 2023.
Sitting down under those green awnings the other day for the first time in perhaps two decades, I immediately remembered that there’s just something lovely about the spot: ocean breeze, light filtered in from those green awnings, roller bladers and cyclists zipping by, and a parade of oddballs out front. It’s an afternoon vacation in the city where you live.
Largely, and thankfully, the restaurant group didn’t change much. There’s no more newsstand full of papers from around the world, but there’s still the same walls inside covered in photos and tight bistro tables and chairs. The menu is largely carried over from the original, covering a whole lot of ground from breakfast to full-on entrees.
They’ve added a new “signature” item: Molten Chicken Parmesan. It’s a cutlet that arrives bare tableside, before a waiter slides a coating of sauce and cheese out of a hot skillet. It’s kind of brilliant, actually, keeping the chicken crispy until the last minute, and even with the overcooked spaghetti on the side, it’s a pretty good parm. The burger we got also was solid, animal-style with thousand island dressing, shredded lettuce and good pickles. We ordered a toast for the table, a slice multi-grain that could’ve been from Zak the Baker, covered in ricotta, jam and almond slices.
Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to like any of it, figuring News Cafe could just send slop to unsuspecting tourists for the rest of time. But it was all good, even the service that was spot-on quick, a thing as rare on the island as a mocktail.
Yeah, we had a few complaints. The salad that came with the burger was a hard miss of cukes, tomatoes and iceberg that spent too much time in the walk-in. We had a speaker next to our table blasting coffeehouse covers, which was fine if not for the equally loud soundtrack from the Mexican restaurant next door (owned, actually, by the same restaurant group).
But sitting out there in the breeze, it’s nostalgic, I’d bet even for those who don’t remember the ‘90s. It’s the News Cafe, after all, and there are few places that better capture the wonderful oddities of South Beach.