Pastis Miami Brings Parisian Bistro Chic and New York Style | Miami New Times


Pastis Miami Opens With Parisian Fare and New York Flair

Pastis is the little black dress of restaurants.
The bar at Pastis Miami
The bar at Pastis Miami Photo by Joshua Perez
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New York is having a Miami moment.

In the past few years, Miami has seen an increased infusion of New York money and culture. A perfect storm of low taxes, lower-priced (than New York) real estate, and a balmy climate have been the major attractants for New Yorkers to permanently make the "sixth borough" home.

Seeing the same opportunities (and an instant audience), New York-based restaurateurs have been migrating south. Major Food Group's Carbone was an instant sensation when it opened last year, Cote was handed a Michelin star for its Miami restaurant, and Rao's — a New York establishment famous for the fact that you'll never be able to secure a reservation — plans to open in Miami Beach.

So, it wasn't a total surprise when restaurateurs Stephen Starr and Keith McNally announced plans to bring Pastis to Miami's Wynwood neighborhood. But, of all these New York darlings, Pastis is — and has always been— different.

The original Pastis (which opened in early 2000, closed in 2014, and reopened a stone's throw away in 2019) made its home in Manhattan's Meatpacking District back when workers wearing bloody white aprons slung carcasses from the wholesale butchers that gave the neighborhood its name. Although celebrities embraced it, its roots were that of the noble-yet-humble French bistro: an egalitarian establishment designed to provide good food and drink in a convivial setting.

The restaurant's warm globe lights welcomed everyone in those heady first years of the new millennium. Yes, the burgers were delicious, the French onion soup piping hot, and the wine cold — but the New York bistro became a sensation for more than its food and drink. It was a place where you felt anything could happen. Pastis starred in an episode of Sex and the City where Aleksandr Petrovsky and Carrie Bradshaw canoodled over oysters, The Sopranos' James Gandolfini would hang out at the bar, and Cher filmed a music video on the cobblestone streets just outside its doors. But it was also a restaurant that welcomed everyday New Yorkers with open arms: spend a thousand dollars or just come in for some frites and a beer at the bar. Pastis was loved by all.

In the early 2000s, I had a part in a not-so-great off-Broadway show. Every single Friday evening, I would throw on jeans and run out of the theater, stage makeup still on, and hop on the subway downtown to Pastis. Pastis was always the first stop for a glass of wine and shrimp from the raw bar.  I had a friend who purchased the smallest apartment I had ever encountered across the street, and I adopted the neighborhood as my own. Even though I would frequent other restaurants like Florent, Mrkt, Rhone, and even Hogs and Heifers, Pastis was my home base.

I've lived in Miami for well over a decade, but every time I go back home to New York, I visit Pastis. The last time I was there, I spotted a very famous Food Network celebrity having lunch, rosé wine flowing at the table. The time before, I was enjoying a platter of oysters and a glass of wine as a woman showed me her book of poems dedicated to war victims in Ukraine. Pastis continues to attract all New Yorkers with their quirky fabulousness.

When I heard that Keith McNally and Stephen Starr would open Pastis in Wynwood, I had a healthy dose of skepticism.  Though these were two of the savviest restaurateurs in the country, would they "Miamify" my beloved Pastis (which, in itself, is a New York version of a Parisian bistro)?

I got my answer last weekend.

I walked through the brick archway, past the familiar logo, and through the doors. I took in the tiled floor, the warm lighting from the globe lights, the dark wood bar, and the patined mirrors.

For a second, I was disoriented. This room was such an exact replica of the New York Pastis that a strong frisson of déjà vu ran through my body. Years of fond memories and sheets of homesickness washed over me as I started tearing up. This iteration of Pastis is so perfect, it's rivaled only by Taylor Swift's ability to re-record her music catalog in making a copy that's as good (or better) than the original version.

For those who wonder why the Miami Pastis isn't more "tailored" to its Wynwood surroundings, partner Stephen Starr explains. "Pastis is based on a timeless mythical restaurant in France," he tells New Times. Starr adds that Wynwood does remind him of Pastis' original home. "What drew me to Wynwood years ago was that it reminded me, in some Miami way, of New York City’s Meatpacking District. When I first started going there ten years ago, the area was filled with warehouses and artists. It was remote but had tremendous potential. When it came time to think about Pastis in Miami, that memory from years ago was still there. While the neighborhood had developed, it still had that off-kilter feel to it."
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Patis Miami's outdoor patio
Photo by Joshua Perez
A nod to Miami culture — and our damn fine weather — is Pastis' outdoor patio. Says Starr, "Part of the allure of Miami is its warm weather, so the only thing that felt appropriate to this city was creating a unique outdoor dining experience. We were fortunate to find a space where we could really build out a beautiful patio garden with its own outdoor bar." Even so, take a good look at the outdoor bar: instead of palms and bougainvillea, the small trees and vines are more suited to a vineyard in the Champagne region of France than a patio in Miami.

Though the restaurant had just opened about 15 minutes earlier this past Sunday, the dining room was already about half full, and we chose the last two seats at the indoor bar. Our bartender, Bo, placed down two placemats that serve as menus. Pastis serves a concise selection of bistro favorites such as oysters, moules frites, French onion soup, an oversize burger, and salads. The menu is large enough to make everyone in your party happy, and small enough to not take a year to peruse. The bar holds the same philosophy with a list of about a dozen specialty cocktails and a handful of wines by the glass. While perusing the menu, I ordered "Le Petite Pickle," a half-sized vodka martini garnished with a cornichon and pickled vegetable. The slightly briny, four-sip cocktail is the perfect starter to an evening without committing to a larger beverage.

Pastis Miami's executive chef, Neil O'Connell, executes the menu — which is nearly identical to that of the New York restaurant. The French onion soup was filled with sweet onions and topped with a crown of toasted gruyere cheese with the requisite cheese pull. The flash-fried artichokes, served with garlic aioli, were crisp on the outside, with a tender heart inside.

It's also easy to enjoy a meal here while frugal, unlike some other Miami restaurants with New York origins. The chicken paillard, which comes with a side salad and takes up an entire oversized platter, costs $24. An order of ravioli ($16) is listed under the hors d'oeuvres section and is easily large enough to serve as an entrée. That's not to say Miami ballers can't rack up a big bill with the grand seafood plateau ($195), but the most expensive entrée on the menu is the entrecôte, a boneless premium ribeye with frites for $72.

The service is also spot on. One bartender confided that he had been hired months back and had so much training that he felt like he had been here for years. Indeed, the water glass was refilled, silverware replaced, drink orders filled, and plates dropped seamlessly. The staff also seemed genuinely happy to be there. Another bartender said he was told Pastis was hiring months ago and wasn't familiar with the name. Once he Googled it, he knew he had to be a part of it. 

It also seems that, unlike some other trendy Miami restaurants, you'll be able to experience it within this century. Pastis accepts reservations through Resy, and if you don't mind dining early or later, you can actually find a table for this coming weekend. And, you can always show up and find a seat at the bar.

Stephen Starr says that Pastis has tapped into New York's zeitgeist, and he's betting that will translate to other cities. "Pastis –– and all of Keith McNally’s restaurants –– have in part created what is now New York popular culture. My hope for the future of Pastis in Miami is that it becomes as iconic as the one in New York has been." To that note, Starr says he and McNally are already planning to open Pastis in Nashville and Washington, D.C.

Pastis is the little black dress of restaurants: It's simple yet elegant. It's perfect for a glass of wine with friends, a romantic date night, or when you simply need a good martini after a long work day. You can dress it up with oysters and champagne or dress it down with a beer and a side of frites. And it works wherever it goes — be it Paris, New York, or even Miami.

After all, magic (and home) can be found anywhere there's good food, good drink, and a warm welcome.

Pastis Miami. 380 NW 26th St., Miami; 305-686-3050; Sunday through Wednesday 5 to 11 p.m., and Thursday through Saturday 5 p.m. to midnight.
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