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Top Ten Influential Figures in Miami Dining

Joel and Leticia Pollock brought great coffee to Miami.
Joel and Leticia Pollock brought great coffee to Miami.
billwisserphoto.com

This isn't a popularity contest.

This is about influence.

These people have shaped our city's dining scene. They operate fabled restaurants, mentor budding chefs, grow organic vegetables, and roast the best damn coffee in town. What follows is a list of the top ten influential figures in Miami dining -- the enterprising folks who have made the Magic City into what it is today.

Robert Moehling, repping jackfruit and mamey for over fifty years.
Robert Moehling, repping jackfruit and mamey for over fifty years.
Jacob Katel

10. Robert Moehling, founder Robert Is Here

Robert Moehling sold his first vegetable when he was 6 years old. Fifty years later, he runs a huge fruit stand named Robert Is Here -- a wacky place equipped with a petting zoo, papaya farm, and milkshake counter. Miamians often forget that Moehling also boasts a lucrative online store. He sells varieties of Florida avocados, mangoes, and citrus nationwide. For that, and making some of the best tropical fruit milkshakes, Robert Moehling is one of the most influential dudes in town.

For giving us pretty flowers.
For giving us pretty flowers.
Gabriele Marewski

9. Gabriele Marewski, founder Paradise Farms

This five-acre organic farm supplies Miami's best restaurants with edible flowers, baby greens, fruits, and oyster mushrooms. Marewski also hosts dinners, brunches, workshops, and tours. (She even runs a charming bed and breakfast.) She finds time to weed, plant, and harvest her produce entirely by hand. Paradise Farms wasn't the first chef-friendly farm in Miami-Dade. But it's been the best at engaging and developing the city's dining culture.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Because they created this.
Because they created this.

8. Garcia brothers, founders of Garcia's Seafood Grille & Fish Market and La Camaronera

Eleven kids were born into the Garcia family, kin of fishermen based in Las Villas, Cuba. In the 1960s, the brothers headed to Miami and founded a fish market named Garcia Brothers Seafood. Years later, they opened a casual restaurant serving deep-fried fish and their local catches. Now this family runs two Miami eateries: Garcia's on the river and La Camaronera, a fish fry on West Flagler. Garcia's is the perfect spot for beer and dolphin sandwiches, enjoyed from a rickety wooden patio overlooking the water. La Camaronera is ideal for pan con minuta, fried oysters, and unfussy vibes. Both are fixtures on Miami's dining scene.

Taking over a hotel and stuff. No big deal.
Taking over a hotel and stuff. No big deal.
billwisserphoto.com

7. The Pubbelly Restaurant Group, owner of Pubbelly, PB Steak, Barceloneta, Macchialina, and Pubbelly Sushi

It's hard to believe Pubbelly opened only three years ago. Since then, partners Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro have debuted an empire of successful restaurants. The group's business savvy is astounding, and so is its impact. These boys responded to a need in the community -- a desire for youthful, high-energy hangouts that weren't formal or serious. The rise of Pubbelly echoed a new era of Miami restaurants, a time defined by pub-like environs, playful food, and reasonable prices.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Coffee roasted this morning? Yes, please.
Coffee roasted this morning? Yes, please.
billwisserphoto.com

6. Joel and Leticia Pollock, founders and owners Panther Coffee

Panther Coffee is the leader of our specialty-coffee scene. The Pollocks opened their first location in 2011. Now they've spread their freshly roasted beans to the best restaurants in the city. Their second location opened recently in Sunset Harbour, and reports have already surfaced that a third spot is coming soon. Before they arrived, Miami ran on cafecitos. Now we have a choice: cortadito or cold brew.

MIchelle Bernstein, chef and owner of Michy's
MIchelle Bernstein, chef and owner of Michy's
Jacob Katel

5. Michelle Bernstein, owner Michy's

You've heard of Timon Balloo, the chef of midtown's Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. You might also recognize the names Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook -- the duo behind Animal and Son of a Gun, two critically acclaimed restaurants in Los Angeles. What we're saying is this: Michelle Bernstein isn't just a James Beard Award-winning chef. She has also nurtured many young, talented chefs by teaching them how to succeed on their very own.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Norman Van Aken, founding father of New World cuisine
Norman Van Aken, founding father of New World cuisine
billwisserphoto.com

4. Norman Van Aken, chef Tuyo

In the late 1980s, a crew of Florida chefs became known as the Mango Gang. This team, comprising Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Mark Militello, and others, cooked with local tropical fruits, seafood, and produce. This generation spearheaded a new fusion of cuisines: New World, Nuevo Latino, Floribbean -- whatever you want to call it. Van Aken, who is credited with fathering New World, is now the director of restaurants at the Miami Culinary Institute. He's written cookbooks. He's been inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America. He's a big freaking deal.

Michael Schwartz, owner of the Genuine Hospitality Group
Michael Schwartz, owner of the Genuine Hospitality Group
Ben Fink

3. Michael Schwartz, owner the Genuine Hospitality Group

Michael Schwartz, the chef who opened Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, has his own set of accomplishments. In less than a decade, he has built a restaurant group with locations in the Design District, South Beach, and Grand Cayman. He's won awards, written a cookbook, and accelerated Miami's local food movement. But like Michelle Bernstein, he's also cultivated an amazing group of talent. Schwartz doesn't just hire employees; he turns his cooks, sous-chefs, and chefs de cuisine into leaders. Bradley Herron, Sam Gorenstein, Matt Hinckley, and Keith Kalmanowicz all started under Schwartz. Now they're all great chefs in their own right.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

 

Felipe Valls (right), rey de la ventanita
Felipe Valls (right), rey de la ventanita
Versailles Restaurant

2. Felipe Valls and family, owners of Versailles Restaurant, La Carreta, and Casa Juancho

Say what you will about Versailles. This Calle Ocho restaurant is an emblem, a place where Cuban exiles have gathered for more than 40 years. Sure, tourists are bussed there more often than locals, and the ventanita can get rowdy as hell. But Felipe Valls and his family don't oversee just this restaurant; they're also responsible for La Carreta and Casa Juancho. The Valls family employs thousands of Miamians. And let's be serious: Most people don't frequent the city's chef-driven South Beach joints. More often, Miami's dining is about places -- and families -- such as these.

Joe's: It's an institution.
Joe's: It's an institution.

1. Joseph Weiss family, founder of Joe's Stone Crab

Is Miami dining all key lime pies, ceviches, and stone crabs? Of course not. This metropolis' epicurean vista has diversified in recent years, boasting more personality and talent than ever before. But this new outlook shouldn't expunge our past. And Joe's Stone Crab is one of the most historical spots in town. In the 1920s, Joseph Weiss began selling stone crabs from his seafood restaurant. (Some believe he was the first one to do it.) Nearly a century later, Miami is still known for these little buggers. For this legacy, and its enduring impact, Joseph Weiss and family are the most influential figures in Miami dining.

Want access to our Best Of picks from your smartphone? Download our free Best Of app for the iPhone or Android phone from the App Store or Google Play. Don't forget to check out the full Best of Miami® online at bestof.voiceplaces.com.

Follow Emily on Twitter @EmilyCodik.

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Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Robert Is Here

19200 SW 344th St.
Homestead, FL 33034

305-246-1592

www.robertishere.com

miles
Paradise Farms

19801 SW 320th St.
Homestead, FL 33030

305-248-4181

www.paradisefarms.net

miles
La Camaronera Fish Market
miles
Pubbelly

1418 20th St.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

305-532-7555

www.pubbelly.com

miles
Panther Coffee

2390 NW Second Ave.
Miami, FL 33127

305-677-3952

www.panthercoffee.com

miles
Michy's

6927 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33138

305-759-2001

www.michysmiami.com

miles
Tuyo

415 NE 2nd Ave.
Miami, FL 33132

305-237-3200

www.tuyomiami.com

miles
Michael's Genuine Food & Drink
miles
Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant

11 Washington Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

305-673-0365

www.joesstonecrab.com

miles
Versailles Restaurant

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