|Aggressive Development Hits Restaurants Too|
|Written by Andrew McLees, BT Contributor|
Food news we know you can use
For better or worse, and speaking personally, 2016 was the year when Miami felt like it had earned its place at the table of international food cities.
More openings, more chef-driven menus, fewer closings, and rising demand hint at a city whose food scene is thriving. Better yet, a palpable feeling of excitement surrounded many of this year’s best openings, including Fi’lia (1300 S. Miami Ave., 305-912-1729), Michael Schwartz’s tradition-bucking Italian eatery; PB Station (121 SE 1st St., 305-420-2205) by the Pubbelly Boys; Bachour Bakery + Bistro (600 Brickell Ave., 305-330-6310) by Henry Hané and Antonio Bachour, whose sumptuous desserts double as impeccable works of art; and the stunning vegan oasis Plant Food + Wine (105 NE 24th St.) by Matthew Kenney.
Thankfully there’s a lot more to come in 2017, when Brickell City Centre becomes fully operational, Aventura Mall finishes its massive expansion, and MiamiCentral opens later in the year.
However, Miami’s ascendance is not without its growing pains. Many restaurants, most notably chef Brad Kilgore’s tour de force, Alter (223 NW 23rd St., 305-573-5996), one of the city’s best restaurants, require reservations weeks in advance. Sometimes, as is the case with Alter, weeks spent waiting are rewarded with a dining experience that is singular and nonpareil, a dinner best reserved for special occasions. Often, however, there is no better way to dash one’s hopes for a night built upon spontaneity quite like being told “you need a reservation.”
As interest continues to build in Miami’s urban core and its creative neighborhoods, more dining experiences become constricted by the pressures of rising demand. Wynwood is a good example: premium rents mean new restaurateurs face prohibitive barriers to entry, while staples in the area experience bottlenecking when it comes to serving their constituents.
On the one hand, we should be thrilled that so many restaurants in the city are doing so well; this is a good indication that Miami’s food scene is firing on all cylinders. “If you feed them, they will come” is seldom a good mantra when it comes to serious dining. Discerning eaters require a little more and will wait as long as it takes to eat well.
However, there’s a cost that lurks quietly in the shadows, and as 2016 proved, it cares little for history or localness.
Restaurants, just like their customers, are no strangers to the same socioeconomic pitfalls of neighborhoods in transition. Two high-profile casualties of 2016 struck a nerve: the Upper Eastside staple Cena by Michy and the historic S&S Diner in Edgewater.
Cena by Michy, co-owned by spouses chef Michelle Bernstein and David Martinez, folded after the couple unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a new lease on their ten-year-old critically acclaimed restaurant. Likewise in June, the management and staff at S&S Diner were unceremoniously evicted by ASSR Capital, which purchased the lot where the restaurant sits for a cool $33 million.
While the circumstances surrounding these restaurants’ respective closures differed, both involved significantly inflated or nonrenewable rents, echoing stories shared by communities, families, and struggling small businesses alike, all rendered powerless by market forces, bullish development, and surging costs of living. For many, their inevitable demise had been forecast long in advance.
Miami is experiencing some of the most aggressive development in its relatively short history right now. Who plays, who pays, and who gets left in the dust ultimately comes down to matters of dollars and cents, but there’s more at stake now than ever. Will restaurants continue to act as harbingers for development in 2017, paving the way for upending communities? Or will Miami’s culinary scene continue its ascent without stepping on anyone’s toes? Better yet: can Miami cultivate a real, inclusive, and meaningful community around food?
There is as much to think about as there is to eat.
Thought November was a great month for restaurant openings? December was even better.
Some new additions included My Ceviche Midtown (3252 NE 1st Ave., Ste. 117, 786-220-8832); Wynwood’s own Hawaiian poké hub, Ono Poké Shop (2320 N. Miami Ave., 786-618-5366); Jack’s Home Cooking (2426 NE 2nd Ave., 305-640-5507) at the former location of Jean Paul’s House in Wynwood; the permanent storefront for Salty Donut (50 NW 23rd St., Ste. 112, 305-925-8126) at the Wynwood Arcade; and the Wynwood outpost for Cake Thai (180 NW 29th St., 305-573-5082). No signs of slowing down in 2017.
Volume 15, Issue 1, March 2017
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