Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth's long-awaited Stiltsville Fish Bar is set to open tonight in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood.
The two-story space, previously home to Joe Allen and PB Steak, has been given a revamp by the seafood-centric restaurant, a partnership between the two chefs and Grove Bay Hospitality Group. According to Booth, Miamians have a soft spot for the location. "Everyone that we speak to has a history with this particular space," she says. "We've been hearing that people are excited to see this place alive again."
Booth adds that although the long-standing building held some challenges, the payoff was worth the effort. "We've done more than we originally planned because you start uncovering things. You need to treat an older building with love." The finished result is an interior that melds a traditional Southern seafood shack with modern amenities. Old fishing rods and photos of Miami's iconic Stiltsville grace the walls. At the bar, beer taps are fashioned from swordfish bills, a gift from the fishermen who will provide Stiltsville with local seafood.
Locality, says McInnis, is the driving force behind the restaurant. A fish card, printed daily, will accompany the menu. A list of the evening's offerings will be presented along with the name of the boat that hauled in the fish. The catch of the day is also listed on butcher paper in the dining room. About seven kinds of local fish will be on hand, presented on ice in a claw-foot bathtub. Last night, yellow jack, cobia, triple tail, grouper, snapper, and pompano were served. McInnis says patrons won't find salmon or tuna on the menu and likens the seafood section to a steakhouse, where you choose your fish, a side, and a sauce from 15 options.
Though the seafood is listed at market price, McInnis strives to maintain affordability. A whole snapper for two was priced at $32. "The goal is to sit down and get an $8 fish dip and a whole fish and have a fresh seafood meal without breaking the bank."
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Nonrotating menu offerings include smokin' Havana scallops ($9) with Cuban-tobacco-smoked plantain, as well as crispy ham chips and fish wings ($10) — a play on Buffalo wings made from the collars of the grouper and snapper used at the restaurant. "We take the collars and we also fry the tails and fins. It's like the best fish potato chips you've ever had." Of course, an iteration of McInnis' popular fried chicken is on the menu, this time seasoned with citrus and bay leaf ($20 for a half bird, $27 for a whole).
For now, Stiltsville serves only dinner, but brunch and then lunch will be introduced soon. In addition, a market will sell house-made items such as pickles and sauces. The rooftop Sundowner Bar will open at a later date.
McInnis says Stiltsville is a way for Miamians to get fresh local seafood at affordable prices. "I'm a Florida boy who lived here long enough to make relationships. We're able to cut out the middleman since I'm buying direct from the boats." Many of those boats dock at the marina just across the street. McInnis has hooks set up in the front of the restaurant. "When the fishermen bring in their catch, we'll ring the bell."
Stiltsville Fish Bar. 1787 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach; stiltsvillefishbar.com. Dinner Sunday through Thursday 5 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight. Weekend brunch and lunch to follow soon.