Brickell eateries open for lunch but stay for happy hour
By Jacquelyn Weiner
Brickell's round-the-clock customer base of residents, businesses and late-night partiers is feeding a growing-by-the-day dining scene.
From casual lunch spots to contemporary lounges, new area eateries say business is booming or on the way up.
Among those newly in on the action is seasoned restaurateur Abe Ng, founder and president of Sushi Maki.
The South Florida chain of Japanese eateries opened its Brickell location — its 12th site — at 1000 S Miami Ave. in March to "very strong numbers," Mr. Ng said.
"Business has been incredible."
Located in the former Fire Station No. 4 next to the Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita restaurant, Sushi Maki is renting the 1,200-square-foot space from the owners of the Dolores restaurant and is sharing kitchen and bathroom facilities with the larger lounge.
Adding to the collaboration, Sushi Maki plans to start offering its sushi to patrons at the Dolores lounge.
"It's a joint venture and a partnership in its truest sense," Mr. Ng said.
To differentiate the spaces, Mr. Ng said, Sushi Maki went with a "bright, colorful, fun, fresh" color scheme with a stand-apart entrance and signage.
"We really wanted to juxtapose it from the classical Mediterranean feel" of Dolores, he said, so "it wasn't a watered-down version of our Sushi Maki."
In looking to expand the brand, Mr. Ng said the company "felt we had to be in Brickell."
The area has a strong lunch presence with its office density and an "emerging dinner market with the residential in the area," he said.
"There are also in-between day markets" like late lunches and late-night dinners, he said.
"We just think there are so many opportunities."
With affordable prices and Miami-inspired offerings like mango in sushi rolls and "sushi tacos" — crispy gyoza skin filled with salmon, tuna or yellowtail and served with a spicy sauce — Mr. Ng said he hopes Sushi Maki Brickell becomes a favorite neighborhood spot.
"We're happy when people come in their flip-flops or with their dogs," he said. "We just really want to be a place where people come several times a week."
Another chain giving the Brickell market a try is Brix 46, which opened in January at 50 SW 10th St., said manager Munir Maloof.
Despite its name's closeness to "Brickell," Brix 46 is actually just a coincidence, Mr. Maloof said, as the chain is South American, as is its neighbor Archie's.
Both restaurants are under the same ownership and are Colombian franchises, he said.
Brix 46's burger-bar concept has done well in South America, Mr. Maloof said, so the Archie's owners decided to give it a try in what used to be Archie's bar/nightclub extension.
Business has been growing "little by little," he said.
"Word of mouth is probably the biggest thing that's been working out for us," Mr. Maloof said.
In addition to burger-centric offerings like Spanish and Mexican, he said, Brix 46 offers entrees under $20 brought to the table within 20 minutes for the business crowd.
"We're basically trying to have people come in and have a fast lunch," he said.
And when nighttime rolls around, Mr. Maloof said, the tables are pushed back at 11 p.m. to become a dance floor with live DJ music on the weekends.
"At night, it's really about the residents," he said.
Also targeting residents is JB Kitchen & Bar, which opened in February at 1250 S Miami Ave.
"We're looking to be the go-to bar for all the locals," said manager Joe Marino.
JB's happy hour is probably the cheapest in the area, he said, with $2.50 beers, $4 cocktails and $6 house wines from 5-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.
As for its menu, he said, dishes are a mix between continental and a little Peruvian.
Entrees like pan-seared salmon and bone-in filet mignon are served with truffle-parmesan fries or lobster macaroni and cheese, according to its website, among other offerings.
The ambience is also noteworthy, with space for 160 inside and out and a dining room outfitted with tall, tufted white booths and red, curved-back chairs.
"There's a wow factor when you walk in," Mr. Marino said.
Also new to the area is Barú Urbano at 1001 S Miami Ave., bringing Caribbean flavor to the area's dining mix.
The restaurant opened in February and has been "successful since the beginning," said manager Juan Gomez.
"Everybody loved our concept," he said.
The casual restaurant features a wooden outdoor deck, happy hour and $10 lunch specials that guarantee patrons will be in and out in 20 minutes, Mr. Gomez said.
The menu includes a variety of options, he said, such as fish, empanadas and arepitas.
And coming in June, Brickell can add Indian to its culinary offerings.
Mint Leaf Indian Brasserie, which opened its first location in Coral Gables two years ago, is to open at 1059/1063 SW First Ave. in early June.
Owner Ranjit Sood said he's simply following the crowd by opening shop in Brickell.
"It's the most happening place," Mr. Sood said. "There was a time when people used to go from Brickell to Coral Gables or the Beach. Now you can see people coming to Brickell."
With 2,300 square feet inside and 1,800 outside, the décor is to be "very modern," he said, "but it will still let you know that it is an Indian restaurant."
Prices will be $25-$30 a head for dinner with $12-$15 for lunch, Mr. Sood said.
The menu includes dishes like Tandoori lamb chops, filled-Indian crepes and fresh-baked nan bread.
The most popular dish is the chicken malai tikka, he said, which is cooked in a clay oven in yogurt, ginger and garlic.
Other restaurants coming to the area include:
nSushi Sake at 261 SW Eighth St., which was to celebrate its grand opening Wednesday, according to its website.
nLe Kabob, Zen Sushi Lounge and Kosta, which are under construction in a row at 1250 S Miami Ave.
nArgentine steak and seafood restaurant Puerto Madero, which is to open later this year in a 9,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor space at South Miami Avenue and Southwest 15th Road, according to a release.