Updated 7 months ago
When they say, “the New Yorkers are coming” in Miami these days, they’re talking about famous chefs and foods from the Big Apple, not tourists.
This year’s crop of imports is especially large. Longtime celebrity chefs like Jean-George Vongerichten and Geoffrey Zakarian have arrived along with fresh hot names like Upland’s Justin Smillie — all extending their brands and concepts south.
Also arriving are the latest hip juice bars and places to hang out over grilled cheese and extreme cocktails, plus the most famous gyro stand on Times Square.
That’s just from New York. Concepts from Berlin, Madrid, Denmark and Taiwan are planting their flags here as well. “In the last five to 10 years, Miami’s really become an international city,” says Douglas Rodriguez, one of the original Mango Gang of chefs and once a star in Gotham, too. He’s excited by the global status and New York buzz. “I welcome it. I love it.”
Fellow Mango pioneer Norman Van Aken is more guardedly enthusiastic. “Some amazing talent is coming, but the majority of them don’t cook or offer the flavors of the place we live in. Florida is to be valued every bit as France, Italy, New York, etc.”
» At high-energy Mojito Bar & Plates, Douglas Rodriguez takes a favorite “perfect food” and reconstructs it as a sexy “Cuban sandwich on a stick.” Add watermelon ceviche, plantain chicken, all-hours dancing, rum and stir.
» In Wynwood, In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken will offer Van Aken’s New World Cuisine three ways: In a restaurant, at a rooftop bar and, most important to him, at a cooking school where he and visiting chefs and authors will teach.
» Gloria Estefan is in the Design District with her Estefan Kitchen serving classic Cuban and superstar mojo.
» Local hero (and Brasileña) Paula da Silva is cooking tempura wahoo and more at Bal Harbour’s Artisan Beach House.
» Laurent Tourondel adds Poeti, a casual trattoria, to his steak offerings at The Betsy hotel.
» Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who has the Matador Room at the Edition hotel, plans a version of his farm-to-ABC Kitchen in the Design District.
» At Point Royal in the revamped Diplomat, Geoffrey Zakarian harvests coastal Americana in a vast raw bar and features gumbo, cornmeal snapper and grilled octopus, along with broccolini and heirloom grains in Thai peanut sauce.
» Brooklyn’s Bromberg brothers have arrived in South Beach with Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill, which also serves the brand’s beloved fried chicken.
» Justin Smillie, who named Manhattan’s Upland for his California hometown, now has a second Upland in Miami Beach. The Cal-Ital menu runs from pistachio fontina pizza and sweet pea seashells to coal-roasted duck and short ribs, along with rainbow carrots with labneh.
» Next year, Thomas Keller of California’s French Laundry and New York’s Per Se debuts at the Surf Club in Surfside.
» Molto Pizza and Booze is the creation of Nick Racanelli, whose Bronx family has made pizzas for 40 years.
» The Halal Guys, three Egyptians whose food stand had Muslim taxi drivers and midtown execs queuing up and the internet cheering, now have franchises across the U.S., in Asia — and in Davie.
» Employees Only was once a West Village insiders’ bar and secretive destination for the millennial cocktail cult. Now it serves speakeasy buzz, bacon-wrapped lamb chops and Mata Haris until 4:30 a.m. in the Washington Park Hotel on South Beach.
» Sant Ambroeus, posh Milanese for art divas, has eight locations from the Upper East Side and SoHo to, now, Palm Beach.
» The Smile, a deceptively simple, cozy cafe/bakery in four fashionable sites in New York, has partnered with David Grutman and Craig Robins in the Design District. OTL, aka Out to Lunch, serves fresh comfy all-day breakfast, grain bowls, kale salads and sandwiches in happy Miami pastels.
Meanwhile, Miami provides OTL with bread from Zak the Baker and something New York doesn’t have: Vast space. “We’ve got 3,500 square feet. You can’t get that in Manhattan,” says Smile’s Randi Lee. And a second floor as big for more creative ideas.
Miami’s restaurant scene also has plenty of influences from around the world. Already a hit in London and Dubai, La Petite Maison, with Provencal pissaldiere and newer dishes of shrimp poached in olive oil, is now in Brickell. Credit the global team at Zuma and a Michelin- starred French chef.
» From Taiwan: Lemongrass Hot Pot is a popular Taiwanese DIY format. Diners get a hot bowl of stock, dishes of ingredients to cook in it, a la fondue, plus dipping sauces. Now in Davie and Boca Raton.
» From, Spain: Tatel, from Ibiza and Madrid, delivers contemporary style, Spanish tortillas, squid ink fideos and lots of Iberico ham to Collins Avenue.
» From Germany: Vapiano serves fresh healthful Italian with global touches on long oak common tables. Already in Scandinavia, Qatar and New York, it’s now on Brickell. Salads, risottos and pizza, too.
» From Denmark: Joe & The Juice fires up flat whites, kale smoothies and sandwiches all over Europe, 17 locations in New York and now six in Miami.
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