When Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis left Miami for the bright lights of New York City, they always planned to return to Miami with a restaurant. The partners, both in life and business, made doubly good on the promise. First, the team opened Sarsaparilla Club at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach.
Named Best Chefs to Return to Miami by New Times, the duo is preparing to open Stiltsville Fish Bar at 1787 Purdy Ave., the former home of Joe Allen and PB Steak, in the Sunset Harbour neighborhood of South Beach.
The previously unnamed restaurant is inspired by McInnis' childhood in the Florida Panhandle and the seafood shacks that line that part of the Sunshine State. When it opens sometime in the first quarter of 2017, the restaurant will feature a second-story deck overlooking the water.
The pair has enlisted Grove Bay Hospitality Group's Francesco Balli and Ignacio Garcia-Menocal as partners in Stiltsville Fish Bar. Booth says she and McInnis had been working on a Florida seafood concept for a while, but the location only recently fell into place. "We have great partners and we love the Sunset Harbour neighborhood and the space. Everyone told us about Joe Allen's. I never got to experience it, but whenever I'm at the restaurant, I can feel the history."
Renovations to the Purdy Avenue location include a completely new kitchen and dining room and an upstairs sunset deck. Last December, McInnis and Booth went before the Miami Beach Planning Board to request permission for the deck and were given resounding approval.
While working at two successful restaurants and planning for a third might be more than enough for the average person to juggle, Booth is working on one more title and job responsibility: mother. The 28-year-old Top Chef alum is expecting her first child with McInnis, with the baby and restaurant coming within a few weeks of each other. Booth says, "I'm due November 7, and we just pulled permits at Stiltsville, so we're in construction mode. It's a big buildout."
The chef looks forward to the challenges. "It's going to be a fun couple of months. I'm used to multitasking, and Jeff is super-supportive. He has stepped up as a man and a business partner."
Booth says she and McInnis complement each other's strengths. "When it comes to running a restaurant, you're not just a chef; you're a designer and a businessperson. Jeff and I are very hands-on. I picked out every single plate and chair at Sarsaparilla Club."
The menus are also a collaborative effort. "In the kitchen, we work together on the menu. We'll talk and come up with different ideas. Then we taste them and tweak them and bounce ideas off each other."
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With two restaurants on Miami Beach, Booth is happy to divide her time between the Big Apple and the Magic City. "Jeff and I love New York, and Root & Bone is so intimate and cozy. But Miami has been home for a long time. I moved here in 2010, and I fell in love with the atmosphere and multiculturalism. Even though Miami is halfway across the world from Australia, it's very much like home. It has a similar vibe. I have a lot of friends here, and Jeff has family."
Booth has much to look forward to. With Sarsaparilla Club just a few months old, she says the restaurant is going strong, "Jeff and I love our restaurant and our awesome team here at the Shelborne. As we head into the summer, we've just changed the menu to reflect the season, and in the coming weeks, we're introducing some exciting programming."
Of course, with three restaurants, Booth and McInnis will need more hands on deck. Luckily, there's help on the way. "Jeff says that he doesn't care if the baby is a boy or a girl, but one thing is confirmed: It's definitely a sous-chef."