Food Industry

A&Eats Semifinalists Announced: Cocktail Collection, Cheeseburger Baby, Noodlehead in the Running

Miami's restaurant scene continues to grow, but for every restaurant that opens, another concept fails. Part of the blame is simply the high cost of doing business in one of America's fastest-growing cities. Startup costs and rents can be sky-high, forcing talented chefs and restaurateurs to give up before they even get started.

That's why, when the New Tropic and Miami's Arts & Entertainment District announced in July the launch of A&Eats: The Search for Miami's Next Great Restaurant Concept, many young entrepreneurs jumped at the chance to enter the competition for one extremely generous prize: a restaurant space in the blossoming neighborhood for one year. 

The restaurant offered to the winning concept will be located on the ground floor of the Filling Station Lofts at 1657 N. Miami Ave. The 2,000-square-foot space will be provided to the winner rent-free for one year, with no obligation to continue beyond that year. In addition, the Arts & Entertainment District will provide more than $300,000 in build-out value, including restaurant and kitchen equipment. The contest winner will be responsible for decoration, furniture, fixtures, and other equipment not included. 

Chris Sopher, cofounder of the New Tropic, says this program is much more than a contest. "We need more places built for locals in Miami. It was fantastic to see so many unique concepts from Miami's chefs and restaurateurs — many new, many with decades of experience. I'd like to eat at almost all of them, so I'm hopeful the people we couldn't bring forward will still make their ideas happen."

Ron Gottesmann, cofounder and principal of NR Investments, the company behind the growth of this neighborhood, was impressed with the number of entries. “The response we’ve received for A&Eats has been beyond anything we could have anticipated. There is an unparalleled amount of culinary talent and vision, coupled with a genuine passion and desire to bring something unique to Miami, which is unlike anything we’ve ever seen. While we can only announce one winner for this specific contest, we hope to continue to support these incredible entrepreneurs and small businesses in the future by providing the platform needed to showcase their aptitude through the Arts & Entertainment District.”

Nearly 100 hopefuls submitted proposals. A panel of professionals from the district shortlisted the submissions based on originality, know-how, and community. These 11 semifinalists will be whittled down to five finalists, who will compete in a cook-off November 19 for the ultimate prize. Four of the five finalists will be selected internally, with the fifth chosen by popular vote. The semifinalists include a mix of established chefs and brands such as Jeremiah Bullfrog's Noodlehead, an expansion of Leo Holtzman's Cocktail Collection to include food and entertainment, and Stephanie Vitori's Cheeseburger Baby, which has two locations and a food truck.

Other semifinalists include Art & Craft (a café, cocktail bar, and art gallery); the Avenue (a British-style diner offering refined pub-food classics and American craft beers); Block (serving "blocks" of food based on omakase dining); Cilantro Gastro Pub (serving Indian and Peruvian tapas-style cuisine); House of Poke (featuring fast-casual Hawaiian poké-inspired dishes); Little Bird (a gastropub offering Miami-inspired food and local craft beer); Rumba (showcasing modern Caribbean cuisine and a rum bar); and Triciclo (serving contemporary Spanish cuisine with Mediterranean influences and good wines). 

To learn more about the concepts and to vote, visit Voting ends October 14, and the finalists will be announced October 16, giving them ample time to practice for the final elimination cook-off November 19.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss