The Magic City is rich in culture and stories. It's a place where people come from around the world, lured by the promise of sunlit days and sultry nights. In the book that is Miami, there are many stories. Some are happy, some are tragic, but all are compelling.
This year, the culinary community suffered several losses, including the death of a man who forever changed the local bar scene. The city also made news, first when a TV prankster duped a food critic and then when an internationally known restaurateur served a dictator.
On the positive side, a cat café opened, and a beloved chef was nominated for one of the planet's top honors.
Take a seat and pour a glass as we look back on the stories that shaped Miami's food scene in 2018.
John Lermayer. In June, shock waves rippled through the local bar and restaurant communities upon news that John Lermayer was found dead in his Miami apartment at the age of 45. The New York native moved to Miami in 2004. When he created the cocktail menu for the Florida Room at the Delano, he started Miami's cocktail revolution.
Lermayer worked at the area's best watering holes, served drinks at the White House, and
Despite all of those career accomplishments, Lermayer will be remembered best for his humor and humanity. Generous with his time, he mentored bartenders and traveled the world spreading the gospel of the cocktail while raising a teenage son. Lermayer is mourned and celebrated as a good friend, a great father, a rabid New York Rangers fan, and the guy who allowed patrons to "pursue happiness" in a glass. Sweet Liberty Drinks &
Salt Bae. When restaurant owner and Instagram star
Salt Bae posted on Instagram a video of himself presenting a steak to Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and First Lady Cilia Flores. Though the meal was served at Salt Bae's Istanbul eatery, it prompted an immediate outcry from Miamians — many of whom have friends and relatives starving in Venezuela at the hands of the cruel leader. Among the critics was celebrity chef Lorena Garcia, who said, "In Venezuela, people are starving. There are no medicines, no necessities that people need. To see the irony of this
José Andrés. In a world that can seem chaotic and cruel, a handful of people shine in their words and deeds. One such person is José Andrés. The award-winning chef and his nonprofit group, World Central Kitchen, have traveled to disaster-stricken locales to provide the most basic of human needs: nourishment.
After Hurricane Maria plowed through the Caribbean, World Central Kitchen served more than 3.5 million meals. More recently, Andrés and his team fed first responders at the site of California's Camp Fire. For these and myriad other accomplishments, the chef was named Humanitarian of the Year by the James Beard Foundation, and New Times named him
Sacha Baron Cohen. In his Showtime series Who Is America
In one scene, Cohen, disguised as a British ex-con trying to rehabilitate himself as a chef, prepares a three-course meal for Bill
The Wynwood Yard. It was only a few years ago that Wynwood was an emerging neighborhood that attracted scrappy Miamians with the dream of opening bars, restaurants, and shops. One such person was Della Heiman, who launched the Wynwood Yard, a self-described culinary incubator and entertainment center in 2015, by persuading property owner David Lombardi of Lombardi Properties to lease her the vacant lot for ten months. "That turned into an almost-three-year run," she said in an interview with New Times.
The Yard quickly became a favorite among locals and in-the-know tourists for well-priced drinks, an ever-changing roster of food trucks, and live music. The venue experienced lows and highs, including being located in the area named ground zero for 2016's Zika scare and having Shakira serenade a surprised audience in 2017. The Wynwood Yard and the neighboring indie theater O Cinema are set to close this spring to make way for a mixed-use high-rise, but fans of the Yard can dry their tears: Heiman is working on Yard concepts in Doral and North Beach. The Wynwood Yard, 56 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-351-0366; thewynwoodyard.com.
Waffle House. It might be difficult to believe that a city on a 24-hour party cycle didn't boast one of the nation's most beloved round-the-clock breakfast spots. There was a time when Miamians jonesing for waffles at 3 a.m. had to travel to Broward County for their fix.
That void was filled last
Big Beer. In 2013, Miami welcomed its first craft brewery when Wynwood Brewing opened. In a short five years, South Florida has become a formidable region for locally made craft suds.
In 2017, Constellation Brands purchased Oakland Park's
Miami's beer scene is rapidly becoming big business. Veza Sur is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev; Concrete Beach is held by a division of the Boston Beer Company
Anthony Bourdain. Anthony Bourdain had the seemingly perfect job. The chef, author, and TV personality earned his living and the respect and admiration of the world by chronicling his adventures through food and travel. He showed us that the simple act of breaking bread or sharing a beer could break language and cultural barriers.
Though he traveled the world (and called New York City home base), Bourdain had a soft spot for Miami and Miami Beach. He was a frequent visitor to Mac's Club Deuce, got tattoos at Miami Ink, and shot several episodes of his shows here. He was also a frequent face at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. A Bourdain appearance at an event often meant an instant sellout, with fans clamoring to experience his rapier wit and antics.
So when word got out that the award-winning writer, TV host, and chef had died at 61 while filming an episode of his CNN show, Parts Unknown, in France, the planet dimmed. His death was ruled a suicide.
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South Beach Wine & Food Festival founder Lee Brian Schrager summed it up when he said Bourdain forever changed how we look at food and one another. "Anthony was a gifted storyteller. I think his book Kitchen Confidential changed the culinary world. Through his writing and his television shows, he took us on a journey of eating that most people would never get a chance to experience."
Cat Café. Sure, the tourist websites make South Beach look like paradise, but the city can be tough to live in, especially for stray cats. Celyta Jackson wanted to do something after she noticed a colony of kitties living by her condo, so she opened Miami Beach's first cat café. The 2,900-square-foot space offers coffee drinks and treats from local vendors such as Honeybee Donuts and Cindy Lou's Cookies, but it's also a halfway house for about 30 vetted felines that were saved from the streets and are awaiting "
After guests are done snacking, they're invited to step into "Purradise," a separate area where the cats reside. The beach-themed space, festooned with kitty-size lifeguard stations and sunny scapes, is designed for maximum cuteness. In the event you fall in love, you can adopt a cat ($75) or two ($125). All have been spayed/neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated. That's more than you can say about your last Tinder date. Cat Café, 1423 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; catcafesobe.com.