Matt Kuscher wanted to leave the corporate life after working for Houston's for many years. Taking a leap of faith, he ventured off and opened Lokal in Coconut Grove in 2011, offering straightforward food made from sustainable and local ingredients paired with good beer. It helped that he brought David Rodriguez on board as head of the craft program. Lokal was an instant hit.
Three years and a brew bus later, the duo is opening its third venture this Friday. Kush (short for "Kuscher") aims to become Wynwood's go-to spot for drinking, eating, and art. With a small menu of about 15 items, Kush concentrates on the beer. "We want to be the best craft beer selection in all of South Florida," Kuscher says.
Matt recently chatted with Short Order about local boar, Kush brownies served with a bag of greens, his favorite beer, and his plans for Kush to become Wynwood's beer mecca.
New Times: Kush is to fuse beer, food, and art into one. How do you plan to do this but still maintain a single identity?
Matt Kuscher: Our single identity is integrity. Everything I do is based on the fact that I try doing it with the best that I can find but still keep it a local, neighborhood spot.
You plan on having some menu crossover from Lokal. How?
We will feature some of our key items, like our local alligator strips, straight from Cypress Creek Farms in Starke, Florida; our fried Florida chicken with Belgian waffles served with chopped bacon, powdered sugar, and homemade maple syrup; the Frita by Kush, a burger topped with guava jelly and melted Gruyère, stuffed with potato sticks, crispy bacon, Lokal sauce, then pressed down; and The Lokal Burger, which is Florida grass-fed burger served with homemade honey mustard, using local honey, melted jack cheese, local tomatoes, sliced red onions, arugula, and Florida avocados. Just like Lokal, all our burgers are delivered weekly from Cowart Ranch in Sumterville, Florida, and ground in-house every day by hand.
What are new dishes we can expect?
We found some local boar, so we are doing boar sausages that are delicious served with spicy slaw, sliced pickles, toasted bread, and homemade mustard; Grandpa Joe's pastrami Reuben, hot pastrami served on rye bread, spread with Lokal sauce, coleslaw, and melted Gruyère cheese; and our awesome homemade Kush Brownies with chopped nuts, chopped bacon, and sea salt -- served with a bag of greens and a glass of cold milk.
Why will Kush be the beer mecca for Wynwood?
We aren't kidding when we say we are aiming to have Florida's best craft beer selection, but you will have to follow us to find out about all the rare releases and events. Just know we will be getting beer that South Florida has yet to see and drink. We've also been aging beers in my house for three years, waiting for a moment like this. We have a reserve list at Lokal, but it's only for those who "know," but at Kush it'll be available for everyone. We'll also have casks weekly, a nitro line, and beers that are made just for us as well as rotating beers and 18 taps.
Do you and David ever disagree over beer, or do you pretty much see eye-to-eye on everything?
We both love beer, but he knows a lot more than me, so we disagree on how much beer we should have on hand. He always ends up convincing me that no matter how expensive or how much we have in our cellar, there is always room for some more rare releases. He always wins, and that's cool because if I lose, that means I am drinking some awesome beer.
Your wife, Priscilla, and David's wife, Cici, became heavily involved with the brew bus, and Priscilla helped you with the original menu for Lokal, making sure everything came from local and sustainable sources. What will their involvement with Kush be?
Cici is focusing on running Miami Brew Bus, which has had great success, and Priscilla is working with me in all aspects at Kush. David and I are definitely lucky guys to have their support.
What are some of the events/special beer selections we can expect?
We will be bringing people who make great beer to host special events. Beer geeks like us will rejoice with our aged beers, tap takeovers, and rare releases. But we are a small space, so we want to keep it to the people who are in the know and really appreciate these sorts of events, so you'll have to follow us at @kushwynwood to know when we'll have these events.
Looking back on Houston's just five short years ago, did you ever think you'd now be setting off into your third business venture and changing Miami's eating and drinking landscape?
I always dreamed I would, but at the time I was just happy to get out of the corporate lifestyle.
Wynwood has become a haven for artists, creatives, and straight-up cool, down-to-earth people who aren't into the pretentious club scene. Plus, three to five breweries in walking distance within the next year -- my kind of place.
I will always have the itch to keep creating. I have several other ideas for different concepts that I would love to roll out in the near future.
If you had to drink one beer for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
Matt: Last Snow from Funky Buddha.
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David: Zombie Dust from Three Floyds.
Kush opens Friday, March 21, at noon for lunch.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha