Sometimes changes are needed to help make a restaurant reflect not just its owner's dreams, but its diners' needs.
Forced to temporarily close the Spillover, his Coconut Grove restaurant, during the coronavirus outbreak, Matthew Kuscher revisited his aspirations for the project and opted to chart a new course. Instead of reopening the doors to his four-year-old eatery, the restaurateur opted to bring his eco-friendly gastropub concept to the area with Kush by Spillover. The new enterprise is set to debut next Wednesday, June 17.
“Spillover had an amazing run and certainly had its fans,” Kuscher tells New Times. “But looking at how the market is changing and what customers want in these crazy, stressful times, it was evident to me that the spirit of Kush — fun, casual, not taking itself seriously — was what was needed now.”
A third-generation restaurateur from Washington, D.C., Kuscher made his mark on the Miami dining scene in 2011 when he opened LoKal, a sandwich-and-burger joint in Coconut Grove that focused on Florida ingredients and Florida beers. In 2014 came cutting-edge Kush, a bar in Wynwood that became known for its expansive craft-beer selection and dishes like alligator bites and a Johnny Utah burger crowned with a hunk of hot pastrami. The Spillover came along in 2016, offering seafood and tart European ciders in an upscale atmosphere. A year later, Kuscher launched Vicky's House Milkshake Bar + Beer Store on Commodore Plaza, next to LoKal. And in the spring of 2019, his Kush Hospitality empire expanded yet again, with the reincarnation of Stephen’s Delicatessen in Hialeah, one of the city's oldest remaining Jewish delis. Also housed inside the space is La Cocina Cocteleria, a craft cocktail bar.
“Anyone who knows me knows I don’t do things in half-measures,” Kuscher says. “This new restaurant is far more than a new name and some menu items. It truly is a rebirth of the space and the concept, a lot of the great stuff about Spillover made edgier with Kush-like uniforms, music, décor, and artwork."
The menu contains Kush classics like a farm-style chicken sandwich ($15) and hobo Frito pie ($9), along with Spillover favorites like snapper scraps ($12) and a grouper Reuben ($18). And there are new dishes, such as fish and chips ($15), a chili burger with Jack cheese and white onion ($15), and a bowl of tortilla soup with chicken and avocado ($8). A “veggie corner” includes a black bean burger with sour cream and guacamole ($15) and a vegan "crab cake" sandwich with arugula, avocado, tortilla strips, and salsa ($15).
The hundreds of Old Bay cans that festooned the bar have been supplanted by VHS cassettes. Signature drinks include "Purple Drank," a mix of Ford's gin and Giffard crème de violette served in a Capri Sun bag ($11) and "120K," a concoction inspired by the banana-taped-to-a-wall art installation from last year's Art Basel made with rum, Giffard banane du Brésil, Coco López, and pineapple juice poured into a rocks glass along with a miniature replica of the artwork ($12). The beer menu has grown to accommodate locally brewed and rare craft selections, including the third beer in the proprietary Kaptain Kush series: Dime Piece, a blond ale made by Unbranded Brewing Company in Hialeah ($9). Happy hour will find "Moose Juice" on offer — a beloved classic from the now-shuttered Coconut Grove bar, Mr. Moe’s, served in an oil can ($5).
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Like the original Kush, the Coconut Grove concept's décor mixes pop-culture references and items from Kuscher's personal collection of memorabilia with newly commissioned art pieces, including Miami vs. Everyone, a mural by artist Camilo Rojas that adorns the dining room wall. The overhaul also included an expansion of the Florida room lounge to add a beer-only package store. Kuscher's alter-ego, Miami superhero Kaptain Kush, appears in a vintage Zoltar machine and as an official "safe distance practices" security-guard mannequin.
Kuscher says most of his staff is returning to work, and like him, are excited about the new beginning.
"It's a brand-new restaurant and still familiar. Walking into it feels like stepping into a makeover show," he says. "I’m happy that we have something positive to look forward to. We all need that right now."
Kush by Spillover. 2911 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove; 305-456-5723; kushcoconutgrove.com. Monday through Thursday noon to 10 p.m.; Friday noon to 11 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.