All of the conversation about food at Miami Book Fair International inspires the appetite. Unfortunately, if the past is a guide, the food at the Book Fair is not curated with the same care as the authors; it's basically overpriced carnival fare.
However the Miami Culinary Institute (MCI) is part of the Wolfson Campus, where the Book Fair takes place. MCI houses the student-run cafe, Root Cellar, overseen by Chef Norman Van Aken. The cafe is usually open until 2 p.m., but it remains open until 4 p.m. during the weekend street fair.
At the cafe, students brew locally-roasted Panther coffee and serve tasty pastries and light dishes that are a a good value, especially compared to the sometimes exaggerated prices seen at street fairs.
Nearby, there are other options for those who are inclined to walk a little further (a few blocks) in between or after their literary pursuits:
Bali Cafe Head just a a block south of the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus if you're in the mood to try Indonesian dishes. The cozy restaurant delivers satisfying meals; a rijstaffel for two offers a sampler of the cuisine. The restaurant also serves sushi. Open weekdays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., weekends 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., 109 NE Second Ave; 305-358-5751
Pollos y Jarras This Peruvian rotisserie, about three blocks from the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus, offers much more than roasted chicken (although it's quite good). Order soups, salads, sandwiches, chifa (Peruvian-style fried rice) or a juicy "Holy Cow Steak." Pollos y Jarras is owned by the same folks as Cvi.che 105, another solid Peruvian restaurant, down the street. Open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week 115 NE Third Ave.; 786-567-4940
Sakaya Kitchen This is a longer walk (seven to eight blocks) depending on where you are at the Book Fair. The Asian and Korean-influenced menu features dishes like rice bowls and short rib tacos, with options for vegetarians too. They also sell Wynwood-based Panther coffee. Open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, noon to 10 p.m. weekends, 125 SE Third Ave.; 305-371-2511
Soya e Pomodoro This charming Italian restaurant is in the arcade of an old building about three blocks south of Wolfson Campus. It's best to call and make sure they're open as they are "closed on Sunday and on every major and minor Holidays [sic] American and/or Italian! And sometimes just because!" If they are open, you're in for a lovely meal. Open weekdays for lunch, Thurs. through Sat. for dinner; 120 NE First St.; 305-381-9511
Sparky's Roadside Barbecue A haven of hearty barbecue and craft beer lies a few blocks south of Wolfson Campus. The menu includes fried pickles highly recommended by WLRN Miami Herald News editor, Sammy Mack, one of my trusted sources on Southern food in all its incarnations. Open for lunch and dinner, 7 days a week; 204 NE First St.; 305-377-2877
Tuyo The restaurant is located right at the Wolfson Campus at Miami Culinary Institute. It's a worthwhile splurge if you're in the mood for a meal that showcases some of South Florida's ingredients most creatively. It's only open for dinner; reservations are required.
Saturday night, chefs Norman Van Aken and Seamus Mullen prepare a special Book Fair dinner ($130, reservations required). Mullen is chef at the lauded Spanish restaurant, Tertulia, in New York City, and he's in town to promote his new book Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make us Feel Better. At Miami Culinary Institute, 415 NE Second Ave.; 305-237-3200