Mikey reflects on day two of the Miami Food Tour

On day two, I woke up bright and early (jet leg) and went on a stroll of the local area. Every five minutes I was met with a coffee shop, bistro restaurant or café serving breakfast offerings. One morning I went to an establishment called Rosetta’s, which did not disappoint me!

Their offering is very similar to our profile at the NEC, a ‘to go’ offering with a USP of cakes, pastries, handmade sandwiches and drinks. The place had a beautifully cool feel, a clean, crisp and modern eatery. I loved the way you could watch the bakery and prep in action – which I saw a few times over the trip duration, with open kitchens and bakeries on show. This was a nice start to the day, and you could tell how popular this was with local people. It’s clearly a concept that works well across the globe!

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Then it was onto a business mixer, where we joined a Q&A session with three influential guests in the Miami scene. The Q&A was compared by Gio Guttierrez of Chatchow TV - infectious to listen to and so inspirationally enthusiastic about food.

Olee Fowler is a marketing and branding consultant who has spent nearly 15 years in marketing, branding, communications, and public relations roles. Her marketing career began in public relations working with high-profile clients like Soho Beach House, Kimpton Hotels, W South Beach, and EWM Realty.

She moved to the marketing department at the Miami Design District, a new luxury shopping and art-focused neighborhood, which has quickly become one of the most talked-about neighborhoods in the country (I visit later in the trip). Olee is also the editor of ‘The Eater Miami’, who shared the insights into the trends - if it's in Miami, then Ollee has wrote about them.

Mika Leon is a Chef and owner of Caja Caliente - an amazing self-starter from her family's garage into the food hut business, now into fixed units and cloud kitchen operations. At the age of 28 – she was so inspirational. Having recently hosted a show with Gordon Ramsey, she believes Peruvian Food is the next big trend, and that Gen Z require a different approach to work. Her belief is that the only way to succeed is by building a team of knowledge and dedicated staff (no casual or agency).

Mika has moved into cloud kitchen - and has used this to diversify her menus. In the day, her fixed units lunch menu approach works with business trade around her. In the evening, a takeaway menu is aimed at the delivery only market. The area she uses has 47 kitchens and operates mainly through ‘Just Eat’.

Tom Walker is an internationally renowned bartender and winner of the Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition. Starting out as a glass collector in Newcastle after graduating from a journalism degree, Tom has on gone onto work as a professional bartender at prestigious venues such as Attaboy and Fresh Kills (NYC), Bramble Bar & Lounge (Edinburgh, UK) and the prestigious American Bar at The Savoy (London, UK). Tom has also consulted on drink strategies for brands such as Monkey Shoulder, Dewars and Boodles Gin, and has been included in panels for several talks at Tales of the Cocktails, one of the biggest beverage and cocktail conventions in the world.

In the Q&A, we learnt some great facts and invaluable information:

  • Miami, like the UK, is struggling with recruitment post Covid-19, not in numbers but in finding the right skillset. These gurus of the industry believe we need to change our mindset as recruiters to the younger generation of today and move forward with the times. Something I fully agree with - new is not bad.
  • Following the pandemic, Miami’s food industry has been experimenting and trying lots of infused concepts, from Asian infused Mediterranean to steaks served in suitcases.
  • There was an influx of new restaurants and concepts arriving after the pandemic, which has now slowed dramatically. Next year, they believe people will lean back on tradition and simplicity - desiring home flavors and dishes done well.
  • They are not a fan of food markets in Miami – with the impression they are filled with low-quality food vendors with tacky branding. The only benefit they see is the ability to test the concept with the public before investing more widely into the business.

One interesting fact I discovery was they in Miami, Starbucks have also gone into the ‘cloud kitchen’ world. In many areas, they have big mobile order and pay, without any stores locally. Just Eat operate ‘order and collect’ at Starbucks instead of stores which is very successful, especially in big business communities.

After the enthusiastic Q&A, we were split into our groups of 10-15 and went on our way into Brickwell to see some of the iconic food places on offer.

Brickwell food

My first stop was a unique quirky spot called KUSH. The way they toe the line on menu use and wording was a real favourite of mine. It has several décor pieces like signage that reads “Legalize Kush” and “This Sh*t Ain’t the Real Tobacco Road” along with a small stage and live performance area in the dining room.

As for food, the menu focuses on American bar food with a twist. Think dishes like wings rubbed with Old Bay and Sofrito, barbecue chicken nachos, bang bang shrimp, vegan jambalaya, chicken and waffles, and a “death” burger topped with sautéed onions, jalapeños, spicy mayo and siracha.

I also love the fact that the restaurant was opened in response to corporate giants that monopolize on the local area, singing and providing something different for fun all whilst serving ace food.

Beverage offerings here ranged from a large selection of beers broken down into three categories: draft, craft, and sh*tty. A variety of cocktails with tongue and cheek names were also on the menu including

  • Dan F*cking Marino, a nod to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which was shot in Miami, consisting of Montelobos, campari, and vermouth
  • Sh*t Miami Girls Say, a“bubble gum” version of a Cosmo
  • This Ain’t the Real Tobacco Road, a take on the infamous Moose Juice that comes complete with free souvenir cup; and Pinga Colada made with Havana Club rum.

The bar also offers an extensive whiskey list as well as a section called Shit*y & Mini – dive bar classic cocktails such as Beam and Coke and scotch and soda served with a mini liquor bottle flipped upside down in the glass.

I opted for a Mexican Miami Cocktail which included a Jalapeno - so it was very hot! To add to the heat, the included watermelon lollipop was dipped in chilli paste…

The one bit of food that blew me away was a stunning burger Frita by Kush (Basic Pattie) but topped with Guava Jello. It was unreal - to the point I asked any sponsor on the table who could re-create that jello in volume to hook us up!

Our second stop was a Cuban cultured Restaurant called Marabu and the setting was beautiful. The food was very new to me, but this was exactly what the trip was all about, studying culture and new foods.

Marabú pays homage to Cuban culture with its unique name. The restaurant’s artisanal cuisine brings Cuba’s countryside dishes to the table with bursts of smoky, rich flavor as they are cooked with charcoal. Likewise, the cuisine offers a variety of items on the menu ranging from large-format meats, rices, and vegetables as well as seafood.

Marabú’s ambiance is inspired by cities like Camagüey and Pinar del Rio. Therefore, its interiors embody the Cuban suave and elegance that makes the island so alluring.

Taking center stage, a swanky Havana-inspired bar, serves an array of handpicked traditional Cuban cocktails with a modern twist. In addition, the restaurant also features an outdoor pergola, reminiscent of “el campo,” to anchor a lively al fresco dining scene.

The smokey environment was exciting knowing every bit of meat was going to be treated to it low and slow - and it did not disappoint. The meat and fish were melting in my mouth!

Tech is also everywhere in these establishments, whilst they stay traditional in serving, atmosphere and dishes. Everything is showcased on digital displays, the have KVS screens, and servers use tablets. We want to get a bit more Miami at our venues.

We almost ordered the entire menu all be it average pricing (for Miami) you could see how the love and attention from the kitchen came on the plate in more taste and flavor rather than look.

This sparked an idea in me around rice – a concept called Miami Rice at the NEC! The Moro Rice was something new with a great taste and the traditional Cubana Rice Bowl pictured is something I could see us replicating in a serve and go approach from our Streat kitchen operation - watch this space…

To finish off the afternoon we ended up in a swarve bar called Sugar. The views were stunning as seen here from Level 40 where the bar was situated. The pricing was steep at $22.00 for a Mojito or $25 a shot of a spirit before adding a mixer.

The part I loved was the way the bar team worked - their pace, their chilled vibe combined with an ‘on it’ attitude, their ability to showcase showmanship in cocktail making whilst keeping an eye on the bar in a busy environment. With only two team members working that night, I was very impressed!

Another item I found impressive was their straws (sad I know). In Miami they have moved away from the shockingly terrible paper straws and opted for Agave straws which don’t disintegrate before you finish your drink and aesthetically look much more premium. These decompose 200 times faster than plastic straws and made from the Agave plant residual from tequilas process.

As if that was not the end of the day, it was back to the Hotel quick refresh and straight back out on coaches to South Beach to enjoy the nightlife and food and drink on offer at the end of the Strip.

We had the privilege of going to the Yard House, which consisted of innovative foods from an amazing scratch kitchen. The beer menu at Yard House features a variety of new craft, local, seasonal, and imported beers on draft and by the bottle. I counted over 55 beer fonts around the bar!

Whilst the food was good (I opted for a 20oz Korean infused ribeye and ate it all) it was not of a high-end quality, more sports bar grub with an edge. Still, it did not disappoint. There was a vast array of quirky ideas and food trends on show, some nice cocktails, and yards of ale.

Again, tech was integral to everything we ordered from the table by ourselves using a tablet. Their servers were food runners only, with drink dispensers.

From there we went to a destination of Mickey Burkes to see the night out. Picture Miami Ink and yellow taxis!

Keep your eyes peeled for day three and four!