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  • Grilled pepper-cilantro wings from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • A bacon cheeseburger and side Caesar salad from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • Grilled shrimp Caesar salad from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • A gyro plate with black beans and rice from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • The mahi mahi platter with a side salad and fries from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • Crispy wings with South Beach sauce, left, and Miami Jammin' Jerk sauce with fries from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

  • Miami Grill opened next to a gas station along Bluffton Road in Waynedale.

  • Miami Grill opened next to a gas station along Bluffton Road in Waynedale.

  • Classic Philly Cheeseteak from Miami Grill in Waynedale.

Sunday, April 09, 2017 1:00 am

Gas station eatery has healthy, tasty options

RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette

Miami Grill

***1/2

Out of a possible five

$

You can finally get a little taste of Miami … in Waynedale … in a gas station.

Yes, I was a bit surprised to find out the location the Florida chain Miami Grill, which boasts rapper Pitbull as one of its owners, chose for its first Fort Wayne location. There was a big photo of Mr. Worldwide on the wall and his videos were on a loop on a TV in this quick-mart setup. However, Pitbull has not been to the Waynedale neighborhood yet as far as any of the employees know.

I was also surprised at how spiffy the spot was with its almost neon, “Miami Vice” look. And though its menu was less South Beach than I expected, I was surprised how good the offerings were and how balanced they were between healthy and more traditional fast-food fare.

I asked employees and regulars what the best items were and the answers were mixed. There is no Cuban sandwich, which surprised me, but the Philly Cheesesteak was spoken highly of by the employees and one gentleman picking one up for lunch. Another customer said Miami Grill was her new go-to spot for chicken wings.

But neither was the best thing I had there. The blackened mahi mahi platter was fantastic. For $8.49, I received a perfectly cooked piece of the meaty fish resting atop some of Miami Grill's well-above-par pita wedges with two sides. The fish had the perfect amount of spices that were not too hot and had just enough blackened char. It was one of the best-cooked pieces of fish I have had anywhere lately.

Pair it with black beans and rice or with a side Caesar salad and you have a healthy fast-food dish that would be hard to beat around here, given quality and cost.

I had the Caesar on the side with my hormone-free, antibiotic-free bacon cheeseburger and as a meal with grilled shrimp. The dressing and croûtons were pretty standard, but the romaine was super fresh and crunchy so it was worth the effort.

The shrimp were cooked as beautifully as the mahi. There were eight big ones on the salad and all were well seared on just one side so they did not overcook. They were perfect with just a little of the Caesar dressing.

My burger had a rich beef flavor and was OK but not worth going out of the way for. Its toppings – lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles – were fresh and the crunchy lettuce really lifted the sandwich. I did like that I could choose Swiss or American cheese and found the bun to be of good quality.

The wings, like the burger, were good but not as good as advertised by the customer who recommended them. The sauces were the key here as there were several that were unique and which sounded enticing.

Offered traditional crispy fried or, following the healthy vibe, grilled, the pepper-cilantro grilled were my favorites. The vibrant sauce had plenty of peppery kick and they had deep, dark grill marks so they looked tasty. The fatty skin had not rendered enough and was a tad flabby, but I would still have them again.

The Miami Jammin' Jerk and South Beach sauces on my crispy fried wings will be had again, too. These breaded wings were crunchy and well-sauced, but there are a lot of places with better wings.

The South Beach was what the employee at the counter called an “onion petal” sauce. This creamy sauce was, indeed, oniony and I loved it. I will be having it on grilled wings next time because I think it would be perfect for them. The jerk sauce was not overly spicy, but it did have a pronounced peppery kick with a subtle sweetness.

The Classic Philly Cheese­steak – which had mushrooms, onions and green peppers whereas the Original had just onions – was OK but did not blow me away. The meat was tender and moist, and the Swiss cheese oozed out from it, but the peppers and onions did not pop. Next time I would ask for some of the grilled banana peppers – which were a garnish to my grilled wings – to perk it up.

The gyro, it is worth noting, does not include onions, tomatoes or lettuce unless you specify. It was solid and the meat was not at all dry, but there are better places to get gyros. Its pita was nicely toasted, which was a nice touch.

There were some nice service touches, too, which were not expected. Though you order from a counter in true fast-food fashion, your food is brought to the table and is served on real plates, not paper. When dining in, the staff also clears those plates and cleans your table when you leave. Everything is made to order so this fast food is not as fast as your normal burger place so note that, especially if you opt for the drive-thru.

So don't let its location fool you. Miami Grill is very nice inside – Pitbull poster aside – with all the modern touches one would expect when a new chain pops up. Parking is limited so you may have to pull around back, but that short stroll around the building is well worth it.

Restaurant: Miami Grill

Address: 5858 Bluffton Road

Phone: 209-6213

Hours: 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes, with healthy options for kids' meals

Menu: Wings ($5.75 for 5; $9.75 for 10; $18.95 for 20), classic cheesesteak ($5.29 half; $7.99 full), gyro platter ($7.49), bacon cheeseburger ($7.29), shrimp Caesar salad ($8.64)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: 1/2 (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)

Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at rduvall@jg.net; call at 461-8130. DuVall's past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.