Todd Erickson on Haven's Third Anniversary: "Don't Rest on Your Laurels"

It's hard to believe, but Haven is celebrating its third anniversary this evening.

The restaurant, touted as a gastro-lounge, opened in May 2011 and what could have been a typical SoBe/douchebag mix of house music, videos, and cocktails was tempered by the talents of its executive chef, Todd Erickson.

As Lee Klein put it in his July 2011 review of the restaurant/lounge, "Haven flashes a bright young chef in Todd Erickson, whose gastronomic smarts make this place more than just a kick-ass 21st-century psychedelic lounge."

Now, three year later, chef Erickson is a major player in Miami's culinary scene, with the addition of Huahua's Taqueria and the continued success of Haven. We spoke with Erickson about what he's learned over the past few years, and what we can look forward to including more dinner-friendly seating, an updated menu, and an expansion of the brand.

See also: Haven: A Gastro-Lounge for Hipsters

New Times: How has the first year of Haven gone -- what were your expectations and were they met?

Todd Erickson: The first three years at Haven have been incredible. I think we have really been a great addition to the Miami culinary and entertainment scene. Mike [Boles], Ben [Arndt], Niloy [Thakkar] and I had the expectations of becoming the place that locals would call their own. Over the years we have become the go-to local's spot for incredible food and expertly crafted cocktails. Our expectations have been met, but now is the time to exceed them.

What's one thing you've learned since opening Haven?

Don't rest on your laurels, listen to your guests, and give them what they want.

Right before Haven opened, you had high hopes for Haven being a local's favorite, telling me, "This is your living room, I want you to come in, relax and enjoy it." -- Still true?

Ha! I had forgotten that until you had said it. I guess that meant I answered the first question very truthfully. Of course it still applies. We want every guest to come in and feel comfortable, relax, enjoy our food, drinks, and hospitality. We'll even do the dishes!

When Haven opened, you were relatively new to the Miami culinary scene. In three short years you've been on magazine covers and recognized at many events. How does that feel and is being visible a necessity for chefs in Miami to promote their restaurants?

All of the attention and accolades feel great. I think everyone enjoys being recognized for their hard work. I also think it is a necessity to get your name out there, to let your potential guests see that there is a name and a face attached to your small business. There are so many dining options in Miami now, and having the opportunity to be in the public eye, gently reminding people how amazing your concepts are never hurts.

There are some changes happening at Haven -- can you share them?

We are launching a brand new menu to go with our brand new tables and chairs by the end of the month. Mike [Boles] has designed incredible hydraulic tables for our dining room that raise and lower with the flip of a lever. So now from 6 to 11 p.m., Haven will look like a full service restaurant, tables at normal height, set with silverware and glasses. Then at 11 p.m. we lower all of the tables back to the lounge seating that our late-night guests have grown accustomed to. We're also adding 21 new menu items to compliment this major dining room change.

What are you looking forward to in the next three years?

More Havens and more Huahua's. Haven Fort Myers is currently under construction and we're currently scouting new Huahua's locations. I don't think we've shown all of our cards when it comes to new concepts either, we've still got a lot up our sleeve!

Tonight, Thursday, May 22, Haven celebrates its anniversary with a party to thank its "family and friends." Chef Todd Erickson will offer complimentary bites from his new menu, which rolls out soon, and Maestro Dobel and Wodka will sample cocktails from 10 p.m. to midnight. The celebration is open to the public and goes on through the night. Reservations are requested at info@havenlounge.com.

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