The Only Thing Better Than the Food at Tap Tap -- the Music

Tap Tap's house band.
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It’s sort of a shame that the most popular Haitian restaurant in Miami is in South Beach rather than, say, Little Haiti. But Moped Whitey’s fear of an unknown ‘hood isn’t the only reason -- although it probably helps -- for Tap Tap’s (819 Fifth Street, Miami Beach; 305-672-2898) claim to that title. It’s gotta be one of the tastiest, most unique establishments in Miami.

Every wall is covered with a colorful, sometimes eerie, mural -- the type you’d expect to see painted on an alleyway in Haiti. And embedded throughout the restaurant are little artful Santeria shrines, adorned with strangely personal items like a woman’s ballet slippers. It’s not something you’d expect in a restaurant -- and neither is the giant painting of Black Baby Jesus.

And the food is damn good -- reasonably priced, large-portioned, simple dishes prepared to perfection. Among the winners were the grouper in lime sauce and the fried pork chunks, which confirmed that high-falutin’ dish names are for chefs with something to hide.

The kicker is the Tap Tap Band, which played a mix of jazz and Haitian folk. A guitarist and bassist were led by a saxophonist, and the latter, as a friend aptly pointed out, didn’t go for that mournful-wailing-on-a-bridge-during-sunset sound that’s plagued his instrument ever since Kenny G laid his hands on one. His funky, short-note playing was more James Brown back-up band than Bill Clinton. Stuffed into a small space among tables, and playing lively, jam-heavy songs, Tap Tap easily transcends the “background music” vibe that your average house band lends itself too.

If you’re planning a trip to Tap Tap, aim for Thursday or Saturday night, when the band plays.

-- Gus Garcia-Roberts

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