When we hear the term “Mexican food,” the first thing that comes to mind is tacos. We blame this on late-night trips to Taco Bell in college and, more recently, all of the great taco spots that have opened up throughout the city: Coyo, Taquiza, Bodega … the list goes on.
To be honest, we’d be perfectly cool with eating tacos and queso fundido — our other kryptonite — every day. But a few recent visits to Olla opened our eyes to cuisine beyond tortillas and melted cheese. The new Mexican eatery from Coyo Taco’s Scott Linquist just took over the former AltaMare space on Lincoln Road, and it’s already on track to become a local favorite.
The first thing you’ll notice about the menu: it’s extensive. Grab yourself a cocktail, order some mashed-to-order Guacamole and take your time perusing all the different selections. For those unfamiliar with Mexican cuisine, many of the items may seem intimidating. But Olla is a place where it pays to be adventurous; the dishes are approachable, fun and full of fantastic flavors. If there’s a place to go outside of your comfort zone, it’s here — nobody in town is making awesome food like this right now.
Before diving into the heavier dishes, we suggest you start with something light like Esquite aka elote sans cobb. Cotija cheese, mayo, chile and lime make for a very happy Pug. Another interesting starter: the Ahumado, a tarro (Spanish for jar) filled with hot smoked salmon, boiled egg and green chile-tomatilo that’s accompanied by bolillo bread (or as we call it, crack bread). Meant for sharing, this dish is basically egg salad on steroids — and we mean that in a good way. If the ahumado doesn’t catch your eye, both the Cobia and Cangrejo (king crab) are stellar seafood alternatives.
Full disclosure: We didn’t try the namesake Ollas. For our first visit, we decided to double down on the moles. Not to be confused with the burrowing creature, mole in Mexico is basically sauce. On paper, it might not sound all that exciting. But in your mouth, it definitely is. Our two selections — the Coloradito (duck breast) and the Chichilo (short rib) — came with a fruity, nutty red mole and a charred Oaxacan mole, respectively. They’re on the opposite ends of the flavor spectrum, but they’re both tasty in their own ways. Order at least one during your meal; it’s something that should be experienced.
If you come in for brunch instead of dinner, expect unique selections alongside a few carryovers. Of the items that appear on both menus, we can’t recommend the Cortado enough. We’ve been hunting for good salads lately, and this one is stacked: Romaine, roasted corn, avocado, baby tomatoes, queso fresco, roasted pistachios, poblano, and Green Goddess dressing. Missed the enchiladas on the dinner menu? Here’s another chance to order the Costilla (short rib).
Chilaquiles and Torrejas are the main attractions for brunch, and either dish can easily feed two people. In fact, we had a hard time finishing the dishes between both of us; Chef Linquist isn’t shy about generous portions. Of the two, the chilaquiles came out on top ever so slightly — we’re suckers for good tortillas and runny eggs. For an additional cost, you can throw a protein into the mix (pro tip: get chorizo).
Having visited the restaurant twice already, we’ve fallen head over heels in love. While casual Mexican spots are a dime a dozen in Miami, the restaurants that put out this caliber of Mexican cuisine are few and far between. Olla fills a big hole in the local dining scene, and our stomachs are grateful.
Olla is located at 1233 Lincoln Rd. on Miami Beach. For hours of operation and more information, please visit their official website or call 786-717-5400.