There's a dilemma one experiences while reviewing so-called "hidden gems" and "best kept secrets." The problem is that one wants these places to thrive but not get too popular and thus become inaccessible, but that's not really up to us to decide as consumers. We don't want this place to be so well kept a secret that it doesn't last, and I am surprised at how rarely others have heard of the Alibi when discussing casual dining places in Miami. So here goes...
I was first introduced to the Alibi by my friend, Ben, a great guy who passed away just over a month ago at the terribly young age of 34 from complications due to his diabetes. It's hard to believe and it hasn't really sunk in, but it prompted a group of close friends that day to head over to the Abbey for a few beers, and then to the Alibi, one of his favorite spots in Miami, to commiserate and grab a bite the day we found out about his untimely demise.
Located within Lost Weekend, one of the few remaining dive bars on South Beach for those of us who bemoan the bottle service and velvet rope culture that's permeated our town, the Alibi is simply a dining counter that doesn't even take orders. You place yours with the bartender on duty and he or she will pass along the instructions to whoever's slaving away on the grill.
Take a look at the menu and you'll find among the many offerings my favorites: the Chicken 'n Cheese, with optional just-like-they-make-'em-in-Philly Cheese Whiz for 9 bucks, the Writer's Block, which you could consider something like a Deluxe Chicken/Steak 'n Cheese with all the fixins for 11 bucks, piping hot, crispy, savory Truffled French Fries for 6 bucks, and the best Margherita Pizza in town for 10. Check out the fresh basil and balsamic drizzle. This is gourmet bar food on the cheap. mmmmmmmmmm -
I don't know anyone who doesn't love this place. I know plenty of people who think that Lost Weekend is kind of lame. It never has much energy, which is ironic since I've seen so many people openly doing coke in its bathroom. You know, unlike most bars in Miami. I do like that the jukebox has a wide selection and is rarely monopolized. There's also a foosball table on which I've kicked many an ass. There are several pool tables, a punching machine, etc. You'd think the place that has it all would be a ton of fun but it just isn't. I think the crowd it attracts is an unusual one. Maybe the owners like it that way for whatever reason.
But the Alibi! Oh, the Alibi. I love it so. If you haven't been, check it out. You won't be disappointed.
Back to the man who introduced me to the Alibi, my pal, Ben.
Ben was a lover of life. He didn't half-ass anything. As we mourned him and recounted stories of our respective relationships with him, I told a few friends and relatives about the fact that you didn't just go to lunch with Ben. It was an adventure. If he wanted you to accompany him to lunch, he'd call you up and say something like "Alright dude, this is what we're gonna do. You're gonna swing by my house, get on the boat, and we'll cruise up to Duffy's." On the way we'd look at some waterfront mansions. Like A-Rod's, near Mr. Sinai Hospital -
Man that place is sweet.
We'd take four, five hours for a lunch mission. If he had a barbecue, there would be several courses, starting around 2pm and the production wouldn't cease until at least 9 or 10.
I suffer from fairly serious headaches, including migraines, from time to time. Once when I was at Ben's house years ago, I mentioned that I wasn't feeling so great and he offered to make me a coffee, since caffeine is a great remedy for headaches. He concocted for me a professional espresso with foamed milk and sweetened with agave nectar, which is low on the glycemic index and good for him since he suffered from severe Type 1 Diabetes since age 14. When he'd made me that elaborate, delicious coffee, I remember like it was yesterday saying to him, "Ben, you really get a lot out of life, don't you?" He replied "you only go around once, my friend." I knew he meant it like he savored every moment he had in this world. If you had the pleasure of spending any significant amount of time with him, you know that that is how he approached pretty much everything in life. Kind of how the Alibi makes simple things like Margherita Pizza and Steak 'n Cheese into gourmet fare. If you're gonna make a sandwich, make it the best goddamned sandwich you ever had, because you just don't know, it may be your last.
At his memorial service just days after he passed, his sister Katie put it this way, to the crowd of hundreds in attendance: "Ben always chose the path of most excitement." Couldn't have said it better.
I'm going to close by posting a photo that encapsulates Ben to a tee. He was easygoing, friendly to everyone he met, a lover of the good things in life like nice clothes, very fine scotch and tobacco. He loved California. He loved good times and great people and he surrounded himself with all of those things. There is an enormous void that is left in his absence. I will think of him often for the rest of my life. Here Ben stood during a wedding reception, in a custom-made suit, on the California coast, scotch in one hand, Nat Sherman cigarette in the other, bringing a little sunshine from the eponymous state to a group of his best friends.