Walrus Rodeo Offers Wood-Fired Dishes in a Whimsical Setting

The pizza bar at Walrus Rodeo
The pizza bar at Walrus Rodeo Walrus Rodeo photo
Boia De has become Miami's unlikely sleeper hit. The small restaurant, tucked inside a Little Haiti strip mall, opened in 2019 and offers untraditional Italian food and a curated wine selection. Even during a pandemic, the restaurant continued to make strides, with life and business partners Luciana Giangrandi and Alex Meyer finding the little restaurant filled to capacity nightly. Their hard work paid off when Michelin bestowed a star on the restaurant.

Just last week, the pair announced the immediate opening of a second restaurant just steps from Boia De. This time, Giangrandi and Meyer have partnered with Jeff Maxfield on Walrus Rodeo, a small 32-seat restaurant with a curious name and a wood-fired oven.

Best known for his past role as a corporate chef for Brad Kilgore Culinary, Maxwell explains how Walrus Rodeo got its name. "We were really searching for something that was unique. We had some names that we were really in love with, but they were taken by some other restaurants around the world. One day, in a random text message, I wrote we should join the 'walrus rodeo,' and the name stuck. I wish I could tell you some crazy cool story."

Maxwell said that the whimsical-sounding name stuck. "We wanted for it to be if you could imagine what a walrus rodeo is.  It's a picture to remember. I don't know if we're pretty crazy calling it this."

In a bit of serendipity, the partners happened upon some wallpaper that had punk rockers dancing with a western theme — as close to a walrus rodeo as you can get. "Things started coming together," says Maxwell.

The partners also decided to utilize a wood-burning oven for the restaurant for nearly all dishes, including dessert. When asked to describe the menu, the chef/partner calls the menu "elemental" with some Italian ties. "I basically started with ingredients that I wanted to use," adding that he sourced produce from local farms and other items from nearby producers. Maxwell says the dishes were born of the ingredients and Miami itself. "I wanted the food to speak of what I'm passionate about in life."

The chef says the Italian influences can be seen in the sauces. "There's complexity built there, but it is also elemental, and it comes back to the ingredients and how you play out the menu." You will see quail on the menu, but you won't see much beef. "To be able to serve a whole animal versus buying pieces of meat is very important to me," says Maxwell.

Dishes at Walrus Rodeo include lasagna with lamb ragu, mustard greens, and stracchino; a spicy "OG" pizza with boquerones, melted shallots, oregano, and maple brown butter; and a turnip salad served on a bed of fresh ricotta and served with a charred scallion vinaigrette. Five dishes on the current menu are either vegan or can be made vegan, something that Maxwell says is important to him. "We wanted to be accepting of the broader range of diners and try to give them an experience they would enjoy."

Though the restaurant isn't open for quite a week, tables are already booked for the next two weeks on Resy. Maxwell is pleased that the labor of love that is Walrus Rodeo is getting such attention. "A restaurant is a team sport, and we have a great team. To be able to have people come who are taking time out of their day to spend their money here gives us the energy to push on."

Walrus Rodeo. 5143 NE Second Ave., Miami; Thursday through Monday 6 to 11 p.m.
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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

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