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Irresistible desserts at Serendipity 3


Whether you're 8 or 80, don't even think about going to Serendipity 3 and not having the frozen hot chocolate ($11; $15 for two) that made the place famous.

It's not quite frozen, but icy cold and served in an old-fashioned sundae dish. Topped with a tower of whipped cream that's drizzled with chocolate, it is the subtropical antidote to regular hot chocolate. Its fans are said to include Beyoncé, and the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis favored it.

It's also what put Serendipity 3 on the map 60 years ago, when the original location opened in Manhattan's Upper East Side. Set on two floors of a historic townhouse, it's filled with mismatched, Tiffany-style glass lamp shades and all kinds of soda fountain kitsch. There's way too much going on, but its owners and fans wouldn't have it any other way.

Much of that visual spirit and high energy can be found in Miami Beach, where there are 71 seats inside and another 62 out on Lincoln Road. In just over two years since opening, Serendipity 3 has become a destination for children's birthday parties. Cuteness reigns. But at night, the venue works to attract some of the South Beach nightclub cache, with cocktails that taste like birthday cake or jelly beans. Serendipity has other franchise locations in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas and inside the private Boca Raton Resort and Club.

The Miami Beach menu runs from salads and pizza to burgers and sandwiches. It even has omelets. Parts of the menu remind me of old department-store dining rooms for ladies who lunch (for example, the Asian chicken salad, which costs $16). Other parts remind of delicatessens (the foot-long hot dog, $12; the Mr. Reuben sandwich, $16). Somehow, it's easier to choose dessert, which I've done several times, than real eats.

We settled on Wild West Wings ($12), 10 scrawny chicken wings fried Buffalo-style but not tossed with sauce. They come with dipping sauces, celery and carrots. Crab artichoke dip ($14) comes with loads of toast points for transporting this cheesy creaminess from bowl to mouth.

I ordered Thai beef salad ($17), tender, marinated skirt steak on top of iceberg lettuce, Napa cabbage, tomato and tossed with toasted peanut dressing. It was quite good, but I couldn't figure out why it was served on a plate with an empty coconut shell.

Sandwich-wise, the Tasty T-BLT ($16) — made with turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and Dijon mustard on thinly sliced sourdough — is like a thick diner sandwich. The Full Monty ($16) combines grilled chicken breast, Jack cheese, grilled red onion, arugula, bacon and barbecue sauce on ciabatta. It's fine, if it's a sandwich you're after. Sandwiches are served with very good sweet potato fries, steak fries or coleslaw.

A youngster at our table was very happy with his kid's size mac n cheese ($9.95), made with shells. And an adult who prefers calories from chocolate rather than real food was quite pleased with simply grilled grouper ($23) served with broccoli and carrots. The fish wasn't overcooked, and was delicately seasoned.

Desserts will beckon, and there doesn't seem to be anything on the menu I wouldn't order again. That includes the red velvet sundae ($15), with chocolate ice cream, red velvet cake, hot fudge, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles or the similar carrot cake sundae ($15), with vanilla and butter pecan ice cream, maple walnut and white-chocolate fudge, whipped cream and the cake.

There's even a $1,000 Golden Opulence sundae made with 23-karat edible gold leaf and sweetened, salt-free caviar. I'll stick with frozen hot chocolate. or 954-356-4632. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @FloridaEats.

1102 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach


Cuisine: Eclectic American and ice cream

Cost: Moderate

Hours: Noon-midnight daily

Reservations: Accepted

Credit cards: All major

Bar: Full service

Sound level: Noisy when full

Outside smoking: Yes

For kids: Highchairs, menu

Wheelchair accessible: Yes

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