Taste of Brickell: Hey, Guys, Why So Many Chains?

The second annual Taste of Brickell festival is this weekend. The event -- which takes place this Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25, from noon to 10 p.m. -- turns 1201 Brickell Bay Dr. into a large party area featuring food, drinks, and a kiddie zone complete with petting zoo. Admission ranges from $5 (food and drinks to be purchased separately) to a $100 VIP ticket, which includes access to a special tent with wine, spirits, and food.

The fest is a great idea. But while checking out the list of participating restaurants, I couldn't help but notice a large portion of participating establishments are either part of a big chain or are owned by a large restaurant company -- usually with corporate headquarters outside Florida.

It's really not the fault of the Taste of Brickell organizers, who should be lauded for curating a list of restaurants solely in the neighborhood. It's that the area itself seems to be a magnet for chains.

Yes, there are some wonderful little restaurants in the Brickell area. Perricone's Marketplace & Café, Baru Urbano, and Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita quickly come to mind. There are also some beautiful fine-dining establishments, such as Azul and Edge Steak & Bar. And, of course, there's Tobacco Road, the poster child for independently run establishments.

But there's also an inordinate amount of chains. You have to look only at Mary Brickell Village's directory to find P.F. Chang's, Rosa Mexicano, Blue Martini, the Oceanaire Seafood Room, and Fadó Irish Pub.  Even restaurants that many people think are local are part of a much larger picture. Take, for example, Balans. It poses as a neighborhood café, but its corporate office is in London (home to ten other Balans locations, by the way).

Take a stroll down Brickell and you'll be able to dine at the Capital Grille, Morton's, Truluck's, and Gordon Biersch.


can argue that the cost of real estate has made it tough for

independent restaurants to pay the rents that Brickell commands and that

only large chains can afford to thrive there. But that argument

doesn't really hold water when you consider there are so many fine

independently run restaurants turning out great food in Miami Beach and


But there is hope for the area. Altamare chef/partner

Simon Stojanovic is working on a tapas-influenced restaurant in the

neighborhood, and favorite local hangout Burger & Beer Joint opened a

Brickell outpost. We're hoping other local Miami chefs follow that


Though there's nothing wrong with larger chains, we should all strive to support our growing (and fantastic) independent and local restaurant scene.

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