Lost Restaurants of Greater Miami: Part I

By Seth H. Bramson, Barry University Adjunct Professor of History and Historian in Residence, Florida East Coast Railway Company Historian, and author of more than 30 books on Florida history.

When Arcadia and The History Press asked me to write the book as part of their “Lost Restaurants” series, I was limited to 120 images, but I wanted to be certain that we covered more than just those operations that would be in the memories of those still living and, in addition, presented some history on and about the wonderful lost and long-gone clubs and restaurants of Miami’s distant past, for which, thankfully, I was given the “go-ahead” to do.

And that, dear readers, is where and how we begin: at the beginning, and said beginning, for us here in Greater Miami goes back to four entities, including the Biscayne House of Refuge, possibly the very first place where meals were offered for sale, on what, in 1915, would be named “Miami Beach;” the Peacock Inn and Commodore Munroe’s hotel and dining room, both beginning before the turn of the 20th century; and, last but certainly not least, the tavern of W. N. Woods just north of the property owned by one Julia Tuttle in what, someday, would be downtown Miami.

While all of those places are recorded, the only known piece of memorabilia of any kind which exists today from any of them is a shot glass from W. N. Woods tavern, with his name on one side and “N. Miami/1899” etched on the other side. At that time, “North Miami” was any place north of Mrs. Tuttle’s property, which then stopped at approximately 8th Street (today’s Northeast 4th Street, the quadrant numbering system in use today not put into effect until 1921 under what was called “the Chaille plan”) because she did not allow alcohol to be sold within her domain.

There is, however, one more place that should be mentioned, and that is the first of the grand hotels for which Greater Miami would become so famous, the Henry Flagler Florida East Coast Hotel Company’s Royal Palm, right on the Miami River at its confluence with Biscayne Bay. Opened on December 31, 1896 with a grand ball, the hotel would be the grande dame of Miami’s social life every winter until 1925, it being brutalized by the September 17 and 18 1926 hurricane. It reopened briefly in 1928, closed after only a few weeks and was at last torn down in 1930. Anything from that hotel is a true Miami treasure, whether menus, china, silver, brochures or anything else, as dining at the hotel was a highlight of Miami living during the years the hotel was in operation.

📷: Photo Courtesy of Seth H. Bramson

Oh, the memories, the unending memories of the great and wonderful places which are now so long, long gone, include The Roman Pools, on the south side of 23rd St. on Miami Beach, directly opposite the Roney Plaza, which originally opened as Carl Fisher’s Casino in the late teens of the 20th century. With dining, dancing and the cabanas facing the swimming pool along with the windmill on the east end of the pool overlooking the ocean, it was a magnet for romance, great dining and early Greater Miami fun.”