216 E. Eighth Ave.
Eighth Avenue in Homestead has struggled to regain its footing, even as the adjacent Waterfront complex draws tens of thousands of patrons. Plenty of those folks are in search of casual dining options.
Now nibblers have a welcome spot right on Eighth Avenue. The recently opened Tin Front Café sits just past Amity Street, and is easily accessible by bus. That's how I arrived on a wintry morning, with some time to kill and a grumbling stomach. The steamed-up window promised free wi-fi, and the interior looked warm and inviting.
"Tin front" isn't simply a cute name: This storefront café boasts a lot of the pressed metal, some re-purposed into lighting sconces. (The salvaged tin came from the rear of the building, which has been cleared out to make a garden.) Diners can sit at small Formica kitchen tables, or perch on a draftsman's chair along a counter. Dominating the café is a bona fide piece of Homestead history: the wooden, art-deco back bar from the former Chiodo's Tavern, two blocks west.
And yes, you can get a beer here! A small selection of beer and wine is available to complement the seasonal vegetarian menu, which offers breakfast, lunch and early dinner. There are also the requisite coffee concoctions, tea and juice.
Breakfast is primarily pastries, egg dishes and an indulgent sounding brie and apple French toast. I tucked into the stick-to-your-ribs option: grits. Piping hot grits arrived in a coffee mug, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, red pepper and a sprig of cilantro. Some diners are picky about how grits are served, but I think south-of-the-border seasonings always favor corn.
Salads, soups and sandwiches make up the lunch menu, with the breaded-eggplant sandwich and risotto burger appealing to those looking for a hearty, but healthful, midday munch. Comfort food highlights the entrees: butternut-squash lasagna, a chili bake with mashed potatoes and egg, and the ever-popular four-cheese mac-n-cheese.
And if you've come to Homestead to shop, be sure to pop next door to the adjacent Annex Cookery to check out dishware, kitchen doo-dads, linens and selected food items.
Tin Front hosts occasional special-event meals, and a prominently displayed bulletin board reminds patrons that this café strives to be by and for locals. This is not just another cookie-cutter eatery dropped in from corporate America, and they've got the bar to prove it.