Nearly two years after announcing it would open on NE Second Avenue at 84th Street, the Citadel is scheduled to debut sometime in February. This past weekend, the food hall celebrated its imminent arrival with a block party that brought street closures, live music performances, some of the city's best restaurants, and a group of protesters decrying the rebranding and gentrification of the area.
At the food hall inside the 60,000-square-foot development, the hungry and eager stood shoulder-to-shoulder in long lines for everything from Ashley and Franco Stanzione's pies — such as the truffle shuffle ($18), with cream, black-and-white truffle purée, and fresh mozzarella — to Steve Santana's benchmark tacos as well as dishes from Wynwood's Palmar, such as crispy shiitake-edamame potstickers, duck confit dumplings, and royal red shrimp with a fermented Fresno chili emulsion and scallions. Richard Hales' popular Miami mainstay, Sakaya Kitchen, will offer the restaurant's classic favorites.
Nearby, Vice City Bean dished out cold, hard caffeination while Antonio Bachour's pastries made their official grand return — with ultra-creamy, fluffy cheesecake and coconut and matcha macarons — after the chef parted ways with his eponymous Brickell bakery in 2017.
Filling out the hall's roster are Bianco Gelato; a revival of Coconut Grove's 33 Kitchen; Meet 'N Cheese; Society BBQ; Rare Burger; Il Nuts; Caribbean concept Manjay, serving conch fritters ($8), griot ($12), and vegan roti ($8); and a perfunctory bar.
The sprawling development also includes an eclectic flea market selling a variety of wares, including kombucha, clothing, leather goods, and jewelry.
Outside, NE Second Avenue was blocked off for a concert, which partially obscured the din of protesters standing opposite the development and in front of a building that was supposed to house a new location for Velvet Creme Donuts.
"This is Ti Ayiti — Little Haiti. This is not Little River, and this is happening over and over again as climate gentrification is happening throughout Miami. People are moving into communities, changing the name of the communities, and pushing the people who live in the communities out," activist Michael Clarkson said. "We're here to say we have no problem with Citadel coming in and providing jobs and building, but you can't change the name of the community."
The Citadel's owners and boosters have made a strong push to insist the complex is located in the City of Miami's Little River neighborhood, even as city lawmakers in 2016 codified Little Haiti's boundaries to include the area west of NE Second Avenue and south of the Little River canal, which is where the Citadel is located. Little Haiti activists have long decried the infiltration of developers into the neighborhood and their tactics of raising rents or not renewing leases in order to empty buildings ahead of redevelopment. Such was the case in the complex just south of the Citadel, an under-construction strip mall that once housed a Haitian travel agency, a botanica, and a small takeaway café.
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No doubt the Citadel will draw attention to their neighborhood in a way it's long deserved. Let's hope newcomers don't forget to pop into long-standing gems such as Kernizan Filiasse's Pack Supermarket & Cafeteria, located across the street, serving some of the city's best fried chicken.
The Citadel. 8300 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-908-3849; thecitadelmiami.com. Scheduled to open February 2019.