Take, for example, the restaurant's adorable Mel O. Mushroom. Everywhere else, he's just a dude in a blue cap. In Miami, however, he's decked out in a straw fedora and a guayabera while smoking a cigar (or a very large doobie). Moises Rodriguez explains he wanted his store to be unique to the neighborhood.
With that in mind, there are more than a few nods to South Florida, besides a proud Cuban-American Mel hanging out behind the bar. For one, Mellow Mushroom's general manager is quick to point out that all of his employees are locals living in South Miami and neighboring Coral Gables, and free Wi-Fi is clearly a draw for nearby University of Miami students.
Mellow Mushroom also serves a surprisingly large selection of local beers, including offerings from J. Wakefield, MIA, Miami Brewing, Biscayne Bay, and Funky Buddha. Rodriguez says he's committed to serving beers by local breweries. "We want to support the community and showcase and support local businesses." Local beers are available on tap at your table or the bar and can also be poured at the restaurant's Alien Tap table (complete with an alien staring at you from the safe confines of the beer storage room), allowing guests to pour their own beers. Locals can also join the Mellow Mushroom beer club, which rewards loyalty with free brewskis.
The most intriguing Miami integration in the Mellow Mushroom world comes in an exclusive-to-South Florida sandwich found on the menu. The Dooban is a hoagie inspired by a traditional Cuban sandwich, married into the stoner culture of Mellow Mushroom.
The Dooban features pulled pork, applewood-smoked bacon, sliced honey-glazed ham, mozzarella, and MontAmoré cheese and is topped with pickled onions, pickle slices, and Dijonnaise spread on a French roll. When I ordered one, Rodriguez was quick to point out that the Doobie is not a Cuban, nor is Mellow Mushroom trying to copy the traditional sandwich. Rather, think of it as being inspired by the Cuban, in much the same way that realism inspired impressionism.
With that in mind, the Dooban holds its own. The slow-cooked pork is tender and flavorful, the cheese melted into the bread, and the pickled onions give it a extra pop of brightness and acidity. The Dooban is offered as a half sandwich ($8.99) and a shareable full ($12.99). Rodriguez says the South Miami restaurant plans to add more unique dishes to the menu.
Of course, Mellow Mushroom has achieved its cult-like following from its pizzas. The Magical Mystery Tour pizza ($12.49 to $24.49, depending upon the size) boasts one of the best pizza crusts in Miami — crisp yet doughy, with a green-tinged pesto crust. The pizza, featuring mushrooms, feta, mozzarella, spinach, and jalapeños, is flavorful, made to order, and in no way resembles a typical chain pizza.
Lest we forget this is a chain, however, the restaurant's Mellow Mushroom decor is all over the place. Take, for instance, the trippy Sgt. Pepper-meets-Woodstock tie-dye, the giant light-up toadstools, the VW bus by the hostess stand, and, last but not least, the Flushrooms. Because even a mushroom has to powder its nose.