Short Order alum and the Federal's Aniece Meinhold can attest to the old adage of third time being a charm. First came Blue Piano, then popped up Phuc-Yea!, and shortly thereafter, the shuttering of the insanely named Vietnamese pop-up, The Federal Drink & Provisions was born in a matter of a month.
She and business partner (as well as life partner) Cesar Zapata struck gold with their unconventional yet comforting American fare that included jar-o-duck and pig wings from day one. And three years later, the same hype still buzzes amongst locals who flock to brunch every Sunday or sell out their monthly wine dinners.
In honor of this milestone, the Federal is taking the entire week (starting today) to celebrate, including the re-introduction of Sunday supper. "We did our friends and family January 12th, 2012 and opened the doors on 16th," she reminisces. "That entire time is this entire week, so it's only right to celebrate accordingly."
When asked about what expectations she had back in 2012 Meinhold told Short Order "I don't have any... it that bad? I'm just hoping for the best. At the end of the day, you know, it's an awesome experience to touch people with food." Three years later, she still feels the same way. "When we opened, there weren't any real expectations. It was kinda like, "Holy shit, we need to open this restaurant and we have four weeks to get 100k together in hopes that we'd have a great restaurant that would flourish."
After year one of growing pains, the duo realized that they were on to something special. "Eighty percent of all restaurants close within their first year; the risk of opening one is staggering." But theirs paid off, and got only better with time. "Year two is when we really said OK let's do something unique and compelling." Which is when all the ideas for the crawfish, clam bakes, and summer BBQs started rolling in.
"I know for damn sure that people weren't doing these family-style pot lucky type of foods," she says. "And that the kinda soulful food that we love to do." That out-of-the-box interpretation of American comfort food utilizing small and local farmers will continue to be The Federal mantra as it gears up for the next three years.
Speaking of local farms, the birthday celebration kicks off tonight, January 14, with an inaugural Snail Social for 2015. Paradise Farms, Harpke Family Farms and Seriously Organic have donated buckets of fresh produce from their farms so Zapata can bring them to the table. Snacks (TBA as they're getting ingredients in today) will be priced from $5-$8 and accompanied by bottomless bubbles at $15.
Tomorrow (January 15), the Fed will kick it back to the days of Blue Piano and Phuc Yea! with some real #throwbackthursday favorites. Think items like the McLuvvin' (ground sobrasada sautéed with aromatic, topped with a quail egg, chipotle aioli and scallions served on top of a buttered English muffin), Cheetos mac & cheese (four cheese mac and cheese, strozzapretti pasta, Cheetos crumble baked to ooey goodness, topped with fresh picked thyme for freshness) and brandied bread pudding with black truffle ice cream and foie gras snow.
"No one can say they are doing food like the Federal. When Cesar comes up with something he Google's the world to make sure there's nothing like it, and it's going to continue to go in that direction."
A tasting menu will also be available Friday and Saturday for $40 per person and consisting of the Federal's greatest hits (and them some) in addition to bottomless booze highlighting some of their new libations for $25 (only available with tasting menu). "These aren't just bellinis. We're infusing gins and making our own syrups." Thirty percent of alcohol sales are due to cocktails like the Southern Belle (gyn-infused Dolin dry vermouth, hibiscus rosewater syrup, fresh lime juice), Ani Palmer (fresh lime & ginger juices, grapefruit bitters, jasmine tea syrup, prosecco) and the Biscayne Cup(freshly muddled cucumber, orange, lemon, Dolin sweet vermouth, celery shrub, lemongrass syrup.
Not in the mood to drink without limits? Anyone who swings by to partake in any of the anniversary shenanigans will get a complimentary glass of bubbles to cheers to the past three years and to another great one, which already includes a national TV appearance on Bravo's reality cooking competition Best New Restaurant, premiering January 21 at 10 p.m.
"I have to say Best New Restaurant has to be the highlight of the past three years," Meinhold says. "It's one thing to try to always do well and exceed expectations, and with that comes the accolades and repeat customers, but the being included in this series we were honestly given the credit that we feel we've been fighting for."
"You have these top dogs and when they tell you that you're doing something special and something cool that's a big deal. It was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life." Well, after opening The Federal of course.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha