Danny Serfer
Danny Serfer

Danny Serfer Reflects on Closing Mignonette Uptown

"I did everything I thought I did right at the other two restaurants," Danny Serfer says.

Nevertheless, the North Miami Beach location of his and partner Ryan Roman's Mignonette shuttered earlier this month, leaving about 20 employees without jobs just before the holidays and leaving the restaurateurs, who've enjoyed runaway success since Serfer opened Blue Collar on Biscayne Boulevard in 2012, scratching their heads in confusion.

"As we moved along through the months, we made adjustments we felt were good ones: We tinkered with the menu with good success; we took off dishes that weren’t working and replaced them with ones people seemed to enjoy," Serfer says.

Nevertheless, the residents in surrounding neighborhoods, particularly well-off ones such as Bal Harbour and Miami Shores, didn't respond well enough. Since closing Mignonette Uptown, Serfer has been working on placing former employees in restaurants around town, while the eatery's pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith acolyte Devin Braddock, will oversee dessert at the remaining Mignonette location and Blue Collar.

"If you haven’t had the cookies she makes for Blue Collar, you haven’t had a cookie. It’s like eating several dollars' worth of Valrhona chocolate wrapped around delicious, light dough," Serfer says. "We're going to be growing the dessert program."

Mignonette Uptown opened to much fanfare earlier this year, taking over the retro diner space that once housed the French eatery Gourmet Diner. The space was freshened up with auburn banquettes matching those at the downtown Mignonette, while the windows were adorned with gold-leaf fish in keeping with the restaurant's tongue-in-cheek motto: "Fuckin' fancy." Early on, the menu corresponded with that of its downtown counterpart, though it switched up ingredients to find a sweet spot with local clientele.

Mignonette Uptown's gleaming retro building was hard to miss from Biscayne Boulevard.
Mignonette Uptown's gleaming retro building was hard to miss from Biscayne Boulevard.

Four months after the restaurant opened, chef Anthony Ciancio, who had done time in the kitchen at Brad Kilgore's Alter, left, setting Serfer on a path to again revamp the menu, this time with a slight Greek influence.

Serfer still remains perplexed by the closure. He points to the larger space as a possible reason. "The physical size comes with more challenges," he says. "I think with the bar, it was about 80 seats, while downtown is like 50." The larger dining room also meant a larger kitchen that made it more difficult for cooks to find their rhythm and for new cooks to find their place.

"I got very lucky with Blue Collar. It's a 700-square-foot space attached to that little closed motel, and back when I opened, it was me, Michelle [Bernstein], and Kris [Wessel], and the boulevard wasn’t what it is now," Serfer says. "I got so lucky. I guess Lady Luck was looking harder down on me at Blue Collar."

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