Brian Griffiths, best known as a bartender at Miami Beach's award-winning Broken Shaker, will open Over Under in downtown Miami come late August/early September.
“Downtown is the coolest neighborhood in all of Miami; there’s a ton of creative agencies. Olympia Theater is right across the street, and this building is historic,” Griffiths says of the Alfred I. DuPont building, the first skyscraper built in Miami after the county courthouse and economic downfall of 1928, and the soon-to-be dwelling place for his new cocktail house and eatery.
The bartender-turned-restaurateur had been looking for a space for over two years before finding the former Havana Coffee and Tea Company spot. Currently, the space still bears its brick walls, antique piano, and matching vintage back bar. “We’re keeping the bar, but if you’ve ever been to a racetrack, we are going to make it look like the tote board where the odds of the entrants are shown.” The vibe, Griffith says, will be old Florida meets modern-day Miami. “Fifty years ago Miami was still kinda the Wild West. Then all of the sudden, it went from Everglades frontier to being the Magic City,” Griffith says. “We want it to have an elegant kind of mid-century sporting feel.” But not sports like the Marlins or Heat play; rather fishing, horse racing, and jai slai.
As far as the food and drink, inspiration is also old-meets-new Florida, with the kitchen helmed by executive chef Cleophus “Cleo” Hethington. "Our goal is to introduce people to ingredients from Miami and Florida they don’t think of as local now,” says Griffiths as he picks up a mamey apple. “Two hundred pounds of these grow in the U.S. out of one farm in Homestead,” he notes. Hethington says of the menu, “I love to cook seafood but I also love rural African and Southern, so it’ll be something new and different, but always with a Miami tie-in somehow.” Think field pea hummus with pickled veggies; strawberry gazpacho; goat nuggets with curry ketchup; peaches, heirloom tomatoes, arugula pesto, and camembert la bocage; oxtail and onion jam sandwiches; grilled cobia with sun chokes and garlic relish, bacon, and breadcrumbs; grilled chicken with barbecue plantain; and breadfruit cobbler with roasted white chocolate.
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Hethington has quite the impressive resume. He was first hired by Jeff McInnis as part of the opening team at Yardbird. “That’s where I got my values and foundation in cooking, and where I realized I wanted to make this my life and career.” From there, Hethington worked at Cypress Room with Roel Alcudia and Michael Beltran and at Beltran's Ariete.
Cocktails will match Hethington’s food and have a culinary focus without the culinary price tag. “All these places opening up in Miami, specifically South Beach and Brickell, are out of their fucking minds charging $13 for a cocktail,” preaches Griffiths, who promises to keep his prices at $12 and below, with classic daiquiris clocking in at $9 and a happy hour that will make anyone who works or lives in downtown happy indeed. “My dad owned a bar and he taught me there’s supposed to be a sense of community. We want regular people to be able to come have the best drinks, the best food, and not spend all their money. That’s what a neighborhood restaurant is supposed to be like.”
If you'd like a preview of Over Under's food, you can savor almost all of the above during a five-course dinner July 23 at 5 p.m. at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Tickets cost $70 via eventbrite.com.
Over Under: 155 E. Flagler St., Miami.