Cesar Morales is setting off in a new direction by channeling his past.
The owner of Miami bars Wood Tavern and Las Rosas is tapping into his childhood with the opening of Tayrona Restaurant + Patio in Allapattah.
Morales says the restaurant, named after a beachfront national park at the foot of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta range in northern Colombia, draws inspiration from his mother's Colombian restaurant. The menu takes traditional Colombian dishes and marries them to sushi and craft cocktails.
Morales tells New Times that the small kitchen influenced the decisions. "We had to be smart in our menu choices," he says. "We had to have Colombian finger foods like chicharrones, empanadas, and arepas. Then we channeled the coastal area where Tayrona Park is located and added sushi to the menu."
The sushi will blend classic items and rolls with twists incorporating green mango or sweet plantains.
"Everything is shareable and affordable," says Morales, adding that no item will cost over $14.
The cocktail menu will incorporate Colombian fruits, including passionfruit, lulo, and mora (which Morales describes as a tart, acidic version of a blackberry). The fruits will be paired with rums and Colombian aguardiente. Cocktails will cost between $11 and $13.
The 3,000-square-foot patio has lush landscaping and is accented with colorful Colombian pillows. The restaurant's décor, says Morales, is designed for a laid-back, bohemian, seaside vibe.
"A lot of Colombian restaurants look the same," he explains. "I wanted to go for more of a beachy, Tulum vibe."
Tayrona also offers free parking for about 50 cars — a bonus in Miami.
Morales says he has been working on Tayrona for the past year, along with a beer-and-pizza concept for Wynwood, and that when COVID-19 forced bars to close, he focused on the two restaurants.
"I rolled the dice. I didn't think bars would reopen until January," he says.
Of course, bars were allowed to open, and Wood and Las Rosas are operating at reduced capacity.
"We've been very by the book," Morales takes pains to mention. "People are socially distanced, and facemasks are required. I believe there's no point in putting people in jeopardy."
Tayrona Restaurant + Patio. 2927 NW Seventh Ave., Miami; instagram.com/tayronamiami. Tuesday through Friday 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., Saturday and Sunday noon to 3 a.m.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.