When Danny Serfer opened Blue Collar at the beginning of 2012, the chef/restaurateur had humble aspirations for the small restaurant on Miami's Upper Eastside. "I just wanted a job. I came back down here from New York and no one would hire me."
Instead of pounding the pavement, Serfer took a ballsier route and opened a restaurant that specialized in comfort food during a time when many Miami restaurants were trying to outdo one another with in-house DJs and molecular gastronomy.
The chef, who for years worked at Chef Allen's, envisioned owning a tony restaurant like that of his mentor, Allen Susser. "When I worked at Chef Allen's, I dreamed of owning a place with a separate bar, a big dining room, and white tablecloths. But after spending time in New York, I realized there was a place for restaurants that weren't as formal but could still be good."
Serfer then set about creating a menu, using his own food sensibilities as a guideline. "I think there are a lot of people like me and my family who really go out and eat almost every night and don't want a big production but still want something really great and a good value." His Blue Collar menu offered items that were familiar, warm, and comforting: pork 'n' beans, mac 'n' cheese, and a "parm" or "braise" of the day. Serfer says his food reflects his entire lifestyle. "If you look at my apartment or what I wear, it's all very similar -- comfortable with a bit of style. There's nothing flashy, but you can tell there's a lot of care that's gone into it."
Serfer recently opened a second restaurant, partnering with food blogger Ryan Roman on Mignonette, an oyster bar and restaurant in Edgewater. Serfer says that although a second restaurant is a challenge, the timing was right. "The space had been sitting dormant for a while, but as soon as we started talking about it, it seemed like other people were interested in it too, and we didn't want to lose it."
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Though Mignonette is a completely different concept, Serfer's easy, no-fuss style shows through. Blue Collar regulars will immediately recognize his mark with a ton of veggies and a dish called "chicken Thanksgiving." The chef says he was surprised to see the similarities in the restaurant, many of which were unconscious. "Last night I was decompressing and I was thinking of the two restaurants and how similar in look and feel and service. Even how the food looks, tastes, and feels, and I thought, Wow! I really have developed a style, and it just happened naturally.
"When I was at Chef Allen's, I always wondered when I would be known for a 'style.' When does that happen? Even when I was chef de cuisine, I didn't think I had developed enough as a chef to really figure out what my own dishes should look and feel like. At Blue Collar, I really started defining what I wanted things to be like. And yes, you can totally tell these two restaurants have the same DNA, and I'm grateful and thankful that's happening."