Ralph Pagano is at it again. The celebrity chef is opening Naked Burger at the Stiles Hotel (1120 Collins Ave.) on South Beach in November.
This is the third "naked" theme for Pagano, who also owns Naked Lunch and Naked Taco, located at the Dream South Beach, across from the Stiles. Naked Burger is not, however, your average burger joint. "Expect all things burger, pupu platter and tiki drinks," says Pagano.
The chef explained the concept further. "If Naked Taco is the expression of my love affair with all things Mexico, then Naked Burger is my love affair with all things Polynesia." So why not call the new spot, Naked Tiki or Naked Pupu? "The fact is that naked is what I am. I crafted my world, so when you think of getting naked you think of Ralph Pagano. So,naked is what I have to go with.
"If I called it Naked Tiki, there are thousands of people who walk along Collins Ave. and many wouldn't want me to give them a Hawaiian experience. However, everyone knows what a burger is. That's an approachable item. When you walk into the restaurant, you'll also get the benefit of my creative soul." Pagano, a rabid film buff, also acknowledges the concept is a riff on Pulp Fiction's Hawaiian burger joint, Big Kahuna Burger.
That's not to say that burgers won't play a prominent role on the menu, with burgers ranging from a bahn mi burger of shrimp and pork served on a baguettte, an aloha burger made with a blend of brisket, chuck, and short rib patty topped with Gruyere, sweet soy glaze, and pineapple on a Hawaiian roll, and a lobster burger topped with roasted corn and avocado.
Pagano thinks a blend of classic American burgers paired with Polynesian dishes is something that works well. "The reuth of the matter is that a burger join doesn't just have to have onion rings and tater tots as appetizers. In order to rise above the fray of the burger world, you need something delicious and unique. Let's face it — who doesn't love a pupu platter? You do get to play with your food."
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Menu items on the Polynesian side include tuna poke, lobster bao, dumplings, BBQ spare ribs, noodles, and fried rice dishes.
As promised, the cocktail program will feature tiki drinks (with, yes, Naked Burger tiki mugs), with a menu of classics like the Singapore Sling, the Blue Hawaiian, and the Mai Tai. Pagano says, "I love everything about the 60's, and when you think about the 60's you think either Jetsons or Hawaiian theme. I'm a throwback to that era. Besides, there's gotta be a line of connection between Hawaii and Miami. After all, we both live in a tropical world. I can't believe more people aren't doing tiki drinks here."
Pagano has even found a way to throw in a Goodfellas reference, for good measure. "In the movie, there's a bar called the Bamboo Lounge. The bar at Naked Burger is, indeed, called that."
Apparently, Pagano won't stop on the naked train. The chef is also planning Naked Oyster next, opening in Oakland Park in Broward in the future.