iLov305 Needs More Pitbull

iLov305 Needs More Pitbull
Photo by Laine Doss
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Pitbull is Miami's own unicorn: a white-suit-clad creature that's magically conjured whenever anyone Googles "Miami vacation." The performer opened iLov305, his Miami Beach restaurant, about a month ago.

Located in the epicenter of Miami Beach clichés, right on Ocean Drive, iLov305 could have taken Pitbull's image as Mr. 305 and doubled down on it. Hell, it could have tripled down on it.

The possibilities are seemingly endless: Pitbull's signature white suits enshrined in glass museum cases. Pitbull sing-alongs. Even an animatronic "Hall of Pitbulls" that come to life with catch phrases like "¡Dale!" and "Mr. 305" would be cool. And the merch opportunities are equally multitudinous: Imagine every Miami vacationer wearing a "Mr. 305" or "Ms. 305" shirt. It's a gold mine in the making.

Billed as a "Latin steakhouse and nightlife," iLov305 seems to have an unnecessary identity crisis. A spot owned by Mr. 305 would almost have to work hard not to have a strong identity.

The restaurant has all the trappings of any Ocean Drive restaurant: a menu of everything from wings to steak to lobster and giant drinks served in clear plastic Voli vodka buckets. (A friend pointed out that "iLov" is "Voli" spelled backward. Voli, of course, is owned by Pitbull.) There are performers dancing on the bar, a DJ booth, a woman selling cigars on the sidewalk, and the same frozen drink machines found at Wet Willie's and Fat Tuesday. Though the space was reportedly designed by Pitbull, you'll miss the references to the entertainer if you blink.

The 305 platter
The 305 platter
Photo by Laine Doss

At a media dinner, each table was presented with the 305 sampler platter ($29) — a hodgepodge of onion rings, ham and cheese croquetas, chicken wings, lobster empanadas, and mini crabcakes. It's the kind of presentation that would be at home in any tourist trap around the world.

The 305 burger ($25) tops a Black Angus beef patty with grilled shrimp, bacon, and plantains. Other Miami-inspired dishes — billed as Armando Pérez's favorites — are ropa vieja ($49), chicken paella ($49), and seafood paella ($89) packed with lobster, shrimp, and mussels. The sticker shock for these dishes is partly mitigated by the fact they're supposed to serve two to four people, family-style.

The best bet at Pitbull's eatery is the eight-ounce skirt steak and fries ($24). The meat was juicy and tender. Other steakhouse offerings include a 14-ounce New York strip ($54), a 16-ounce rib-eye ($49), and a 40-ounce tomahawk ($125).

The restaurant also offers a large selection of tiki cocktails that rename classic drinks with Pitbullesque names. A Mai Tai is now a "Mr. Worldwide Mai Tai"; a Sex on the Beach is "Sex on South Beach." All are fine, but the best thing about a tiki drink is collecting a souvenir mug. Where is the Pitbull mug? Why is there no keepsake ceramic fireball to purchase for an additional 15 bucks? How about sipping from Pitbull's shiny pate immortalized as a tiki god?

Dancer at ilov305
Dancer at ilov305
Photo by Laine Doss

Colossal cocktails come with flashing lights and giant straws. A huge fortune cookie ($18) is stuffed with chocolate mousse. There are dancing girls and guys. There are photo ops with pink neon signs that say, "Hello gorgeous" (a phrase better suited to Barbra Streisand than Pitbull) and "I love 305 bitch." However, what's not present is Pitbull — in person or in spirit. Though photos of him are splashed across the walls, his infectious energy is absent.

iLov305 Needs More Pitbull (6)

On a recent Friday night, the bar filled with mostly tourists. Two men gawked at the dancers. A bachelorette party looking for a good time walked in and walked out. iLov305 is open till 4 a.m. on weekends, and I left around 11 p.m., so it's highly likely the place grew livelier as the night wore on.

The first iLov305 opened at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Biloxi. Based on the three Yelp reviews posted, the place looks like a spirited casino bar with Miami flair.

Though the food and drinks are in line with those at any decent Ocean Drive establishment, Pitbull's hometown flagship should be a neon-pink fever dream of fantasy and heat and energy — sorta like the Palace Bar a few doors down.

iLov305. 1060 Ocean Dr., Miami Beach; 305-535-9773; ilov305.com. Sunday noon to 11 p.m., Monday through Thursday 5 p.m. to midnight, Friday 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., Saturday noon to 4 a.m.

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