Developer Avra Jain’s multimillion dollar renovation of Miami Modern (MiMo) landmark the Vagabond— a 1953 motel by architect Robert Swartburg (South Beach’s Delano Hotel)— is now complete with the opening of its eponymous restaurant.
Here’s why it’s buzzworthy:
1. It’s a little bit Jetsons and we appreciate that, especially since the cartoon’s prediction for a utopian future has yet to materialize. (This writer is still waiting for a three-day workweek a la George Jetson.) The design is very retro yet young, edgy and in the vein of a modern-day art gallery. Restaurateur Alvaro Perez Miranda selected works by 11 artists, mostly local, and even commissioned a graffiti mural by Trek6. Check out the wall near the kitchen where Guillermo de Yavorsky’s portraits of “contemporary Miami vagabonds” are positioned perfectly from floor to ceiling.
2. At the ripe of age of 25, Alex Chang reigns as the executive chef. His cooking style merges a mastery of international flavors with what he finds at South Florida farms. Though self-taught, Chang’s stints in world famous kitchens like Animal in Los Angeles, Pujol in Mexico City, Les Creations de Narisawa in Tokyo, and De Wulf in Belgium informed the creation of The Vagabond’s “casual fine-dining” menu.
3. Grasshoppers have arrived. A Miami chef has finally embraced crunchy Mexican chapulines, or fried grasshoppers. Chang sources the protein-packed insects from Oaxaca, where they’re a mandatory addition to tacos, and serves them in a small dish with sautéed peanuts, Szechuan peppercorn, fresh cilantro and lime.
4. Sitting center stage, is a sleek cocktail bar and lounge where guests can post up to have drinks solo or with a group. The cocktail menu features classic cocktails with a twist such as the complex “Bourbon Milk Punch,” which in this case is made with Rittenhouse Rye instead of bourbon, and boasts wintery flavors like vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, and orange with clarified milk. The Mexican “East of the Tracks” (Tequila Ocho reposado, smoked pineapple, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur) is another standout along with the graceful “Upper East Side” (Dillon’s Rose Gin, St. Germain, Dolin vermouth, cucumber and absinthe). Beverage director Jack Colombo worked with Chang to ensure the cocktails would complement his innovative style.
5. We hear that they have what could be one of the best liquor licenses on the boulevard— it’s 24 hours. For now, closing time regularly happens at 11 p.m. during the week and midnight on the weekend. But who knows what the future holds.