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Vintage Miami

With quirky comfort food served on old-fashioned plates, the Icebox Cafe is a homespun haven in trendy South Beach.

At a glance, Miami Beach's Icebox Cafe, with its long glass counters crowded with confections, resembles a pastry shop. Which, briefly, it was. In March 1999, when Robert Siegmann, a former New York caterer who cooked for Martha Stewart, was settling into his warmed-up industrial space, he could do only so much in a typical 18-hour workday, and he didn't want to let his ambitions surpass his expertise. So instead of offering a menu of made-to-order items, he emphasized what he loved: home-style desserts such as his rich yet delicate cinnamon butter cake.

As Siegmann's confidence grew, his cafe evolved from a simple brunch-lunch place into the storefront restaurant he had wanted to open since he was a pastry-obsessed boy, creating desserts for the parties his parents threw in their Mexico City home. Word spread through the South Beach neighborhood of the nice little hangout with the comforting retro feel and the wacky three-tier cakes oozing with frosting. "We do some really outrageous stuff," Siegmann says, referring to his impressive chocolate log with chocolate and vanilla ice cream and peanut butter.

Siegmann's ice cream cakes and pastry chef Lawrence Anzivino's sweets are a major draw, and the changing menu keeps the hard bodies of South Beach coming back for chef James Heltsley's dinners. But only those who eat at midday on Saturday and Sunday can sample Anzivino's offbeat versions of brunch classics, which are served on colorful vintage glass cake stands. Beneath the poached egg and salmon, his waffles are moist and steamy--and pumpernickel. And his bread pudding gets its distinctive flavor from panettone. No room for dessert? Siegmann will happily wrap up a generous piece of cake to take home.

Published November 2000
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