By Sara Liss
The goods: Miami welcomes the gastropub trend with the opening of The Smoking Rabbit. Loosely defined, a gastropub is a place where you can get upscale food in a relaxed pub-like setting. Local Armen Minasian (Leo boutique) and New York transplant Robert Fautz (Burger Joint) team up to offer South Beach scenesters a laid-back spot where beer and plaid take precedence over martinis and bling. Decor is British hunting lodge chic: wood paneling, hand worked tables, vintage photographs, oil paintings and Moose antlers. A back patio lined with plants offers outdoor seating and ocean breezes.
The grub: Old-fashioned recipes mixed with upscale takes on American and European comfort food executed by chef Marc Rosenberg (formerly of New York’s BLT Steak). Prices are in keeping with the plebeian aesthetic (at least for Ocean Drive). Bar snacks and small plates ($7-$17) can easily serve as a light dinner. Mains range from $15 for spaghetti "beeps," meaning with hot sauce, to $38 for the hand cut filet served with peppercorn sauce and Brussels sprouts. There’s Brit pub staple bangers and mash — sausages and mashed potatoes — and a fish and chips-esque Cider Jack-battered monkfish with rogue potatoes. Relive your childhood with American classics like grilled cheese with tomato soup and mac and cheese, although this one gets a haute cuisine upgrade with a topping of Japanese panko bread crumbs blowtorched for a crispy finish. A pumpkin salad is a hefty bowl of baby spinach, grilled chicken, goat cheese, hunks of pumpkin and pine nuts. Burgers are also represented (this one’s topped with Roquefort) and a side order of shoestring fries can sustain many a beer-fueled feast. Speaking of beers, the restaurant aims to offer two dozen varieties including domestic microbrews.
Desserts like the icebox cake made with chocolate and vanilla pudding topped with mint cookies or madeleines and lemon curd evoke 1950s housewarming treats.
The verdict: The atmospheric tavern is poised to become an ultra-cool enclave: the confluence of New York’s Lower East Side, Appalachia and a dash of South Beach levity. Intrepid hipsters will brave Ocean Drive’s touristy clutches for The Smoking Rabbit’s belly-filling ales and grub.
The Smoking Rabbit, 510 Ocean Dr., South Beach; 305-531-2100.