John from Sweden, Alex from Brazil and I got into a really cool talk recently about the art of beer. This followed talks Marcia, Cristie, Fred, Jaime, Adam and I had about food, but preceded talks I had with the Kreugers and their tall friend about the art of holes in the wall. Suddenly it seems, Miami has become a big, artistic food hall.
While I’m dropping names, Olee Fowler from Eater, Zachary Fagenson from the New Times, Alex Alvarez from Buzzfeed, Evan S. Benn, plus Frodnesor, TPigeon, and Chowfather from CHOW are working overtime to keep taste on the mind of all our tongues. Nothing could be finer for a city once obsessed with only the top end. Throw in Ale M’s mom, Bradley C, Sheree, big Bryan and Irwin H, and I have a veritable network of go-to gurus. There is too much to cover here.
For a time, Miami’s food discussion meant the Mango Gang, Nuevo Latino, Floribbean, Allen Susser, Norman Van Aken, Stephen Raichlen, Joe’s, etc. I’d be remiss to leave out trailblazer Mark Soyka of the News Café, the Van Dyke and his own namesake. He was genius.
Though our chattering classes ate well, our tired and poor did not. In fact, there was nothing respectable for the masses, except Versailles, La Sandwicherie, The Rascal House and a hundred little ethnic joints, but that’s another column. Yes Arbetter’s, Shorty’s, Walter’s, Sergio’s and Frankie’s fed us something interesting, but, to be honest, more as nostalgia than as cuisine.
It is arguable, but the great leap forward – one that all of us could enjoy – began with Joel and Letitia’s Panther, got further elevated by Sam Gorenstein at My Ceviche, then pushed into the future by Zak Stern who floored the Delorean like Doc in Back to the Future. It was as if Lionel Ritchie sang it: you wake up suddenly – you’re in love.
The celebrity chef phenomenon has its beginnings with Emeril back in the day (sorry Julia Child). Now, names get tossed around like romaine leaves, and nobody can genuinely (I forgot Michael Schwartz and Harry’s) conduct a proper history as it is entirely anecdotal and subjective. Locally, chef/owner of Eating House, Giorgio Rapicavoli won Food Network’s Chopped, two times. That is stunning.
Nevertheless, it’s now a few years since The Pubbelly Crew waved their magic wand on Sunset Harbor. Way way way out west, Casa Yuca or practically Broward, Finka Table and Tap’s Eileen Andrade went crazy Cuba-Korean. Lokal owner Matthew Kuscher expanded to Kush and is about to spillover to a location that nobody has ever been able to flourish in; these guys are confident that things have changed. Johnson Teh and Kazu Abe’s family are also old Asiabenders, with Su-Shin, Lan, Yuga and their latest, Burrito San.
All of these folks support one another and the local beer on each of their menus is the evidence. The once invisible Florida beer scene is now repping hard. Due South from Orlando, Cigar City from Tampa, Monk in the Trunk from Jupiter and Funky Buddha from Ft. Lauderdale are everywhere. Now Miami offers J. Wakefield, Wynwood Brewing, Biscayne Bay Brewing and soon, Concrete Beach’s Social Hall will open. Craft Beer bottle shop and taproom BoxElder doesn’t brew, but it serves many of these. Prize for the best name, MIA Brewing Co.’s Miami Weiss.
Clearly, it’s a great time to eat and drink in Miami.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to firstname.lastname@example.org.