For Miami Restaurants, No Such Thing as a Slow Summer Anymore
Crowds fill the streets during August art walk.
It appears there is no place left to hide.
Lincoln Road in mid-August is flooded with throngs of tourists who require you to have both twinkle toes and ankle-breaking jukes just to get to Shake Shack. Brickell is slammed, even though few restaurants in the area are worth your time. And despite the fact that most of Wynwood's best art galleries snub art walk, NW Second Avenue this past Saturday was as clogged as ever and the restaurants were packed.
Miami's traditional slow season, the steamy dregs of summer when most of town empties leaving a handful of locals to sweat it out, is long gone. This also means the days of restaurants closing up, or huddling together like penguins in winter hoping to survive the storm are also gone. For a restaurant to succeed it needs to perform year round. No blaming the summer for a failure or a delayed opening.
Sure, Joe's Take-Away shutters, depriving us of fried chicken for a few months, but elsewhere restaurants are opening like mad. In July, according to our restaurant openings and closings 21 spots came online. In June it was 16. This isn't even counting the places that don't spam our inboxes with press releases.
It started in the mid-1980s with chain restaurants, said Mango Ganger and Chef Allen's toque Allen Susser. "There started to be demand from people living here full time," he said. "We had the Mariel boatlift which changed the population, changed where people were living."
Now there's no end in sight. Finka Table & Tap, run by the progeny of Islas Canarias royalty, opened on 147th Avenue and Coral Way. Let me repeat that. A gastropub opened in the Everglades in middle of summer in Miami. Today Blue Collar boss Danny Serfer opens his oyster bar Mignonette. The it girl of the moment -- Drunken Dragon -- opened in June on a chopped up Alton Road in a space that from outside looks like an Asian massage parlor.
Kris Wessel, who opened Oolite just off Lincoln Road in June, said it became clear construction on the space formerly occupied by Cooper Avenue would wrap early summer, and he had few concerns about opening in June. It gave him even more incentive, he said, to tweak service and refine recipes on hard-to-perfect gluten-free items like sandwich buns, arepas and pastas.
"I have a dollar an hour parking and I have 47 tons of air conditioning," he said. "It's anti-Lincoln Road, it's interior seating, and it's a fine dining restaurant."
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