Downtown Miami welcomes its newest dining destination Wednesday (June 28) as City Hall opens its doors on Biscayne Blvd. The much-anticipated outpost pairs owner & general manager Steve Haas (chairman of the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau & former co-owner and operating partner of Soyka Restaurant) with executive chef Tom Azar (Emeril’s Miami Beach). The result? “Down-home, brasserie-style” destination dining – think 6,000 square feet of tuna tartare, wedge salads, pizzas, seared scallops, burgers, French fries and southern style collard greens. We talked to Haas 48 hours before opening about signature dishes, Miami hospitality and revolutionary French onion soup.
It’s two days before opening, how are you feeling?
Have you ever opened a restaurant? It’s just crazy to get the doors open. I’m making this deadline – it’s going to happen, I’m going to open my doors on Wednesday. It’s taken me six months to get the doors open – New Year’s Eve was our original goal, you can imagine the frustration level.
Tell me about the concept
City Hall (the official name is Steve Haas’s City Hall, the Restaurant) is the all-American bistro with a twist. We’re doing things a little different – our portions are large, our dishes are more flavorful and our presentations are extremely unique. The menu delays gave us a chance to really perfect the menu.
What’s your favorite unique dish?
Our unconventional French onion soup. We layer the bowl with melted cheese on bottom, place the onions inside wontons wrapped in cheese and present the broth tableside – it’s almost like an upside down French onion soup.
Why Downtown Miami?
The neighborhood is screaming for a local restaurant, there are nice little local sandwich shops like the Daily & a few Latin places, but nothing in the category of City Hall.
Presumably you’ll be catering to the Arena & Arsht Center crowds?
Absolutely. We’re remaining open 45 minutes after every game or show and we have televisions in all the rooms. In the main dining room we have a 150-inch Heat projector that will come down only for Heat games and special events.
You’ve described City Hall as a neighborhood spot – what makes a place neighborhood-y?
Friendliness. Making the locals feel comfortable, we’re not catering to tourists, we’re catering to the people who live here. It means recognizing people, embracing them when they walk in and making them feel like this is their home. We’re inviting residents from the local buildings to cocktail parties, we’re reaching out to crowds at the Arsht Center and the Arena.
In your involvement with the GMCVB you’ve spent a lot of time working to improve customer service in Miami – why is it so difficult around here?
It’s management, Miami has had a real lack of management, especially in the last decade. There just became this arrogance – we made people feel uncomfortable. I won’t accept arrogance, it’s about being warm & friendly.
Last question – describe your ideal meal at City Hall
A timpano to start for the table. Then the sesame-crusted tuna if I want something healthy and the fried chicken if not.