When the pandemic sent restaurants and bars scrambling for ways to adapt, Miami chefs and bar owners improvised by sniffing out forgotten outdoor spaces that had plenty of room for social distancing, and then set up wholly unique pop-ups. The resulting al fresco charmers, benefitting from the balm of Miami nights and the novelty of oddball locations, just might outshine their originals.
Margot at Nikki Beach
Last spring, Margot Natural Wine & Aperitivo Bar was poised to become the next star in a constellation of hip downtown boîtes, but had to postpone opening. In response, the owners—the duo behind BarLab and the beloved Broken Shaker cocktail bar—found a forsaken, palm-laden storage lot at longstanding beach club Nikki Beach on South Beach, and transformed it into a dreamy open-air wine bar replete with vintage surf tunes, parachute canopies, ocean breezes and a rotating roster of 55 natural wines, such as the murky, skin-contact Calcarius Orange Puglia. "Our variety of fun, easy-to-drink natural wines pairs perfectly with the outdoor weather in Miami,” says BarLab co-owner Gabe Orta of the serendipitous move.
Drinking Pig BBQ
When James Beard semifinalist Kyu went on hiatus, head chef and St. Croix native Raheem Sealey took advantage of the downtime. “I’ve always been fascinated by barbeque,” he says, “so I started experimenting.” He and his partners picked up a smoker and some picnic tables and started operating out of his business partner’s home in North Miami Beach (which is actually on the mainland). Word has spread fast among locals, and the operation is such a success that there’s now talk of an eventual brick-and-mortar spot. Most orders are take-out, but you can sit at one of the tables, BYOB and enjoy Sealey’s spicy Caribbean take on Southern low and slow. Offerings include massive beef short ribs, home-made sausages, 16-hour crusty brisket, pork ribs and pulled pork. Be sure to order ahead during the week for pickup Friday to Sunday.
Sonny’s Someday Steakhouse
When the pandemic hit, the team at Jaguar Sun, a much-ballyhooed downtown Italian-ish nook with an outsized bar program attracting a hip clientele, looked north and found an outdoor event space in a former industrial strip. Noting that folks were looking for a real night out, they whipped up the space into a “steakhouse,” albeit one with no roof and a massive banyan tree in the middle. They brought in picnic tables, built a bar and fashioned a wood-burning grill for succulent hanger steak, 40-day aged ribeye and whole yellowtail snapper from the reefs off Miami. The bar program specializes in Manhattans, including the Elephant Gun, made with bourbon, rhum, Bonal, Cynar and Mexican angostura. Of the new digs, co-owner Will Thompson says, “Every now and then we’ll have a guest say, ‘Oh, I think I went to a rave here.’” Attendees are still raving, but now it’s about the rib eye.