Back in November New Times' own Riki Altman asked whether Miami was ready for Urbanite. Well, it turns out the answer is "not yet." Because as of Saturday night the bistro known as Urbanite is no more
Altman also asked whether or not Urbanite was ready for Miami. But without crowd enough to prove themselves, that question is largely moot. Even if Urbanite had done everything right for everyone that had trekked over to the site (and if the foodie reviews are any indication, they pretty much did), it's unlikely their numbers would've been enough to sustain the eatery.
Alas there are shades of gray in both questions. Urbanite had set up shop in the neighborhood known as North of Downtown, where crack heads and club kids outnumber foodies by at least 1000-1. So a better question might've been whether NoDo was ready for Urbanite.
As for Urbanite being ready to serve the proverbial hordes, well, Executive Chef Frank Imbarlina insists that they were. And given a few more months to stake their place in Miami's restaurant pantheon, they would have.
"Location had a lot to do with [our closing]," said Imbarlina by phone the day after Urbanite shut its doors. "In terms of failing though, we didn't really fail. The powers that be decided rather abruptly not to go forward."
Abruptly indeed. Owner Elliot Alexander only told the staff of the eatery's impending demise at the start of Saturday's evening shift. And a majority of them used the bad news as an excuse to walk out.
"You know, he could've not told anyone anything and no one would've been the wiser," said former bar manager Claude Hogan. "I think he did the best he could do under the circumstances. For the staff to walk out like that showed a tremendous lack of appreciation."
It also impacted their pockets. Had the whole staff stayed on they would've worked one of the busiest nights in Urbanite's eight-month history. For a good while all of the tables were occupied with diners and the front bar was two-deep with well-wishers well into the late evening. As it was a skeleton crew has to handle all the action. And they did so with great grace.
But therein lies the rub. Saturday night proved that Miami might just be ready for Urbanite after all; and that given the chance Urbanite could certainly ready for Miami. Alas it was too little, too late. And the place that boasted what was perhaps the wildest menu in town ground down to an unceremonious halt.
Imbarlina's understandably disappointed by the development; Urbanite was basically his concept, from the revolving art that hung on its walls, to the deer steaks, boar chops and alligator egg rolls which highlighted the menu.
And, despite the drawbacks of the location, he "still wants to do something in the area." In fact, Imbarlina says he's "already speaking to prospective partners about a follow-up."
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"Restaurants are my life and now Miami is my life," says the mid-Atlantic transplant. "There's a burgeoning culinary scene here and I'm determined to be a part of it."
With any luck Miami will be just as willing to be a part of whatever it is Imbarlina gets up to next.
Good night, Urbanite.