Usually, anniversaries are reasons to celebrate, but the third year of COVID is a milestone no one is looking forward to.
After years of lockdowns, mask-wearing, and canceled plans with family and friends, most of us just want some comfort and reassurance in the way of a hug — or the food equivalent of a hug.
Adam Darnell and Steve Santana have created that at Off Site, a small storefront beer-and-chicken restaurant that opened two months ago in Miami's Little River neighborhood.
The tiny spot is a collaboration between Adam Darnell (Boxelder) and Steve Santana (Taquiza), who became friends when Santana made chicken sandwiches on Friday evenings at Darnell's beer bar, Boxelder.
In 2019, Darnell and Santana signed a lease on the current Off Site space, announcing it at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Swine & Wine event. Nearly three years later, in October 2021, Boxelder closed. Off Site opened just a few weeks later, in November 2021, with a small menu that focuses on chicken sandwiches, along with beers brewed specifically for the restaurant.
The little restaurant serves a concise menu of around a half-dozen items, paired with about as many beverages. The attraction lies in that precise curation. In these confusing times, who needs to peruse a seven-page menu filled with sea-urchin espuma and quail-egg frittatas?
At Off Site, it's almost as if Darnell and Santana personally greet you with a warm pat on the back and say, "Sit down, I've got you," as they hand you a pint of crisp "Super Good" lager ($8).
Though short, the menu contains everything you want to eat.
More specifically, Steve Santana tells New Times
, the menu is everything he, Darnell, and their friends want to eat. "The food is basically everything we love to eat at bars," Santana says. A perfect example? The wedge salad. "Adam loves a wedge, so we made a really dope version with fancy bacon from Benton's
The menu also includes hot dogs made in-house, chicken wings that are smoked for three hours before being fried, and some of the crispest fries in Miami.
But, what's really getting attention is Santana's "Super Good" chicken sandwich ($13). Naming something "Super Good" is the culinary equivalent of putting a rock on your shoulder — you're practically begging for someone to say otherwise.
The thing about it is that this chicken sandwich is darn near perfect. Santana uses chicken thighs for a juicer piece of meat. You'll want to dig into this sandwich immediately, but use caution — the chicken inside the crisp, golden breading isn't just juicy; it's also molten hot. That explains the lettuce and pickles: They cool off the burn you'll inevitably experience when you're compelled to take another bite before the meat cools.Go ahead — take that bite and then wash it down with a long sip from your pint glass.
That is, after all, why beer was invented.
Other menu items include a cheeseburger made with a koji-cured chuck, brisket, and short rib ($13) and hot dogs made from scratch, from the all-beef sausage to the sauerkraut and mustard ($8).
Santana says just about everything at Off Site, including the lacto-fermented pickles, is made on site. "Except the ketchup," Santana notes. "That's classic Heinz." Though the restaurant is closed on Mondays, Santana and Darnell, along with staff and some friends, use that day to prep for the week ahead. "We spend the day cutting potatoes for French fries," Santana explains.
Mondays are also for testing out new additions to the menu — including breaded chicken bites, which Santana would make for Boxelder's Nicole Darnell when he would fry up his chicken sandwiches at the bar.
There will also be corn dogs, breaded in a batter of three different types of corn: creamed corn, cornmeal, and masa, as a nod to Santana's excellent taco restaurant, Taquiza.
Though it's been open for a few months, Off Site remains a work in progress.
Though the establishment is billed as a restaurant and nano-brewery, Darnell (who's in charge of the beer side of the operation) is currently brewing at the Tank in Doral. But Santana reports that the fermenters have arrived and brewing will commence in-house shortly. (The "Super Good" lager will continue to be brewed at the Tank.)
Santana, who welcomed a son with his partner, Aubrey Swanson, this past October, is working seven days a week at Off Site, along with Darnell. He's also juggling his new restaurant with Taquiza, which he reports is doing well. Darnell plans to open a version of Boxelder at the soon-to-debut Julia & Henry's
food hall in Downtown Miami.
Still, Santana reports, the pieces are falling into place at Off Site. "We're slowly getting a cool little team together here. Our first dishwasher is now our line cook and he's doing a great job. We have a strong core of friends that are pushing us forward."
For now, when you drop in for a sandwich and a beer, be sure to wave to Darnell and Santana, working the open kitchen. "We love being here and hanging out. That's what keeps our sanity," Santana says.
Off Site. 8250 NE Second Ave., Miami; 786-360-4237; offsite.miami. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m.; Sunday from 4 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday.