Chef Ryan Martin quietly took over the Democratic Republic of Beer's location at 501 NE First Ave. about six months ago, changing nearly everything about the beer hall. That could explain the new name: 180 Degrees at DRB.
Martin explains that the beer-bar-turned-gastropub has retained its DRB label because of a standing partnership. However, the name and a good selection of beer are the only two things that the chef has kept around. "I bought the DRB in June, closed it, and reopened it as 180 in September. Instead of a dive beer bar, we're a gastropub with about a hundred craft beers."
Ask Martin about calling 180 Degrees a gastropub and you'll get a straightforward answer. "This is an actual gastropub instead of a restaurant that calls itself a gastropub in Miami.
"The term is used so loosely it makes me mad. If you break down the term, you end up with 'gastro' and 'pub.' That's food and bar. Basically, in my opinion, I wanted to open a gastropub about 20 years ago, before the term existed. I wanted to open a pool hall with incredible food because I was so sick of putting on a collared shirt to get good food. When it comes down to it, to me, a gastropub should really feel more like a bar than a restaurant."
Martin says "gastropub" has been kicked around by nearly everyone, but he stays true to the original term, made famous in the 1990s in London, when chef-driven pubs began popping up. "Almost all the gastropubs I walk into are really restaurants, not pubs. I think I've done a good job in staying true to the original vision."
Martin's gastropub fare includes a changing menu of shared plates, with burgers and sandwiches in the mix. "I call it global ingredients done my way. I'm classically trained in French cuisine, and there's some pretty heavy Asian and Latin influences." Menus change frequently based on what's fresh and what the chef wants to experiment with. At a recent beer-pairing dinner, for instance, all dishes were made with the East Asian citrus fruit yuzu.
The chef also employs many techniques and tools in his kitchen -- such as blowtorches, dehydrators, and liquid nitrogen -- to achieve the desired result. "I sous-vide a lot and make powders out of maltodextrin. I was planning on doing a high-end concept, but when I saw the courthouse and college nearby, I wanted to make items more accessible."
Martin explains that the impetus behind the creativity in the kitchen is a fear of sameness and complacency. "I don't want to get bored with my food, and I don't want my customers to either."
This creativity doesn't come with a high price, however, with most menu items costing less than $10, including pulled-pork or chicken sliders (two for $9). The chef also claims 180 makes the best burger in Miami. "Our 50/50 burger ($11) is made with chorizo and Angus beef, topped with queso frito and a fried egg. It's been a crazy hit for the restaurant." Veg heads can rejoice in the fact that Martin also serves a black bean burger ($9.5) that's equally delicious with a fried egg and smoked Gouda.
Of course, a gastropub must have a good beer selection. Martin has pared down DRB's original collection in favor of a curated selection that goes well with his concept. "The restaurant, for me, has always been about great beer and great food. I've been drinking craft beer for years and have a great palate for breaking down the flavors.
"When I bought the DRB, they had, I think, 350 beers. We now have about 100, which means there's something in the house for everybody. I can tell you this: I know the beer selection like the back of my hand. You come to my restaurant, I'm going to point you to one or two beers that are going to be perfect with what you're eating."
Martin hopes to expand the 180 Degrees concept. "I have big goals, and I'm trying to figure out a way that this restaurant can be done on a large scale while still retaining the quality of the original. I'd like to expand into about ten cities in the future."
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