As 2016 draws to a close, New Times is looking back at the year's stories with the most impact.
The past year saw a lot of good and bad in our local food scene — from a beloved Brooklyn restaurant opening in South Florida to the Zika scare that threatened a large part of the dining scene. Here are the ten biggest stories of 2016, as chosen by readers and our editorial staff.
1. Zika Affects Wynwood and Miami Beach Restaurants and Businesses
Each summer, Miami restaurants and businesses hunker down for a slow season. This year, however, Wynwood restaurants got a double-whammy when the CDC and local officials warned pregnant women and people of child-bearing age to avoid Wynwood and parts of midtown and Edgewater. Some establishments, such as the Wynwood Yard, closed for several days in order to spray. Others noted a severe drop in business as Wynwood turned into a veritable ghost town. Zika cases were then found in Miami Beach. Instead of closing, however, local restaurants fought back — instituting a Love for Locals weekend, offering discounts on everything from drinks to clothing. Locals, armed with repellent, came out in droves, assisted by local radio legends Paul and Young Ron. Thankfully, those businesses weathered the Zika storm and are now thriving.
2. Miami Heat's Ray Allen Opens Healthy Fast-Food Concept
When Ray and Shannon Allen announced the opening of Grown, a fast-casual organic restaurant, they didn't want to attract the usual glitterati that many other celebrity restaurants do. Instead, they set up shop in family-friendly South Miami and proffered everything from smoothies to salmon to chicken nuggets. The impetus behind the project stemmed from Shannon's desire to feed their five children — especially their son Walker, who has type 1 diabetes — nutrient-dense food. The public responded so well that Grown has now, well, grown, opening additional locations at Hard Rock Stadium. Hmm, maybe the key to the Miami Dolphins' success is because they're eating better this year. At least the fans are.
3. Junior's Famous Cheesecake Comes to Boca Raton
When it was announced that Junior's Restaurant was opening in Boca Raton (with a Miami location possibly in the works), ex-New Yorkers went insane. Long before Dominique Ansel's cronut and Momofuku Milk Bar's corn cookies, New York's cult favorite treat was Junior's cheesecake. The creamy recipe hasn't changed in over decades and calls for just cream cheese, fresh eggs, sugar, heavy cream, and a touch of vanilla. The batter is then blended for 45 minutes before the cake is baked in a water bath in rotating ovens. The restaurant opened in Boca Raton's Mizner Park in October and continues to cause a sensation.
4. Zak the Baker Suffers Stroke
With his laughing eyes and his fantastic bread, Zak the Baker could very well be one of Miami's most adored people. So, when he Instagrammed a picture of himself being transported in an ambulance, the city freaked out. Turns out, the 30 year-old suffered a minor stroke. Thankfully, this proved only a slow down in the baker's upward trajectory, with Stern making a speedy recovery and opening up a bigger bakery just a few short months later. Mazel!
5. Cena by Michy Closes
Long before MiMo was considered Miami's trendiest new neighborhood, chef Michelle Bernstein and husband David Martinez opened a storefront restaurant on 69th St. and Biscayne Blvd. Bernstein's eponymous eatery became a hit, with tourists and locals driving for the chef's signature short rib and fried chicken feasts. In 2014, Michy's closed for a facelift and reopened in 2015 as Cena by Michy with talented chef Mike Mayta as Bernstein's right hand man. Together, they formed a formidable team and the diners came. It all came crashing down when, after landlord negotiations failed, the restaurant shuttered abruptly in May.