Beaker & Gray soft-opened in early December, just before Art Basel 2015 began. The restaurant and bar by chef Brian Nasajon and bartender Ben Potts took advantage of the hungry hordes of Baselers by presenting a limited food and drink menu.
Now the restaurant is in full swing, offering dinner and a lively happy hour. In fact, happy hour followed by dinner is probably the best way to experience the Wynwood eatery. Start with a $5 cocktail at the bar during happy hour, 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Late-night happy hour kicks
Nasajon has also put together a nice selection of $5 small plates for happy hour, including glass noodles with green papaya, chayote, and Valencia peanuts, as well as pork belly with watermelon rind. The most crave-worthy bar snack is a plate of onion rings, which aren't rings at all. Instead, the chef batters tiny pickled cipollini onions. Think less sweet onion rings and more the little cocktail onions found in a Gibson.
The bar was lively during dinner on a recent night, just before happy hour was ending. The dining room area is warm, filled with wood tones and industrial metal accents, and is bookended by the bar on one side and an open kitchen on the other. The post-happy-hour cocktail menu offers some more experimental options, categorized "Aperitivos," "Shaken," "Stirred," "Mocktails," and "Strange." The barman, best known for his work at Blackbird Ordinary, suggested the Inside Outside In ($16). The drink — a mix of Santa Teresa Gran Reserva rum, Luxardo maraschino, and madeira — is accompanied by a glass filled with pineapple spears. Potts explained the rum is infused with the pineapple, and the pineapples, in turn, are soaked in the rum. The object is to drink the elixir with pineapple notes and then eat the rum-soaked fruit.
Other cocktails include the Halliwell — a flowery, refreshing blend of Stolichnaya vodka, Cocchi Americano rosa, ginger, strawberry, and mint ($12) — and the blast furnace, made with Basil Hayden bourbon, apricot preserves, and Funky Buddha Floridian ($13).
The menu is divided into "Bites," "Colds," "Smalls," and "Not So Smalls." Although sharable-plate menus are certainly nothing new, the concept works well at this restaurant, where cocktails are as important as the food. The small plates allow you to change up your flavor profile to the drink you have in front of you rather than commit to one large plate of food. The food comes out fast and furious, and the chef has a predilection for serving dishes with many ingredients on the plate. That results in sometimes not knowing which dish is which when they arrive at the table. For instance, I wasn't quite sure what the colorful plate was in front of me, but a quick bite confirmed it was wild mushrooms with nashi pear, butternut squash, and apple cider ($13).
Equally intricate is the chilled dish of Spanish octopus, cilantro, watermelon, and palmito ($14).
Oxtail with sweet potato, miso, and jalapeño negro ($18) is a tender few bites of meat.
Yes, there are chicken nuggets on the menu ($14). This grownup version of the childhood favorite is given a kick with pickled cucumbers and onion sweet-and-sour sauce.
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The risotto is a creamy, soothing dish with tiger shrimp and uni butter ($24). It's also the perfect comfort food for a Miami cold snap.
Beaker & Gray is open for dinner from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.