On his way to work every morning, OTC owner Michael Sullivan would smile and wave to Tomas Prado, three doors down. Prado was running the show at My Ceviche. Every afternoon after work, Prado would pull a chair up to the counter at OTC, order a happy hour Jai-Alai, and swap stories with and give advice to Sullivan, an ambitious restaurateur who opened OTC when he was just 25.
Despite being competitors in providing the Brickell crowd fresh food served fast, Sullivan and Prado became friends.
Sullivan, a Miami native, returned in 2012 after working in the New York restaurant scene for three years. He wanted to bring a fresh, casual, over-the-counter lunch spot to Miami and he opened OTC in November 2012 to do that.
“One thing I loved about New York was that it had a million different concepts and foods being served,” Sullivan says. “I really loved fresh casual, which was essentially taking a limited style of service and pairing it with a high quality product.”
His idea didn’t exactly pan out. Although OTC did well, the concept wasn’t taken seriously.
“Serving over-the-counter was new to Miami, and I don’t think it resonated with the neighborhood,” Sullivan says. “People assumed the quality of the food was average, when in fact we were using fresh, local ingredients.”
OTC moved to sit-down service, and Sullivan began considering overhauling it entirely.
“At first I just wanted to change the menu,” he says. “I wanted to focus on local ingredients from Miami and create dishes that really allowed those flavors to shine.”
When Sullivan told Prado he was ready to make some changes, Prado was intrigued. Although he joined My Ceviche as chef and general manager, tasked with
designing the menu and opening additional stores, over time the role became much more corporate and Prado was a chef at heart. After years working in kitchens across Miami, from Daniel Boulud’s DB Bistro Moderne to Jose Andres’ The Bazaar in South Beach, Prado missed getting creative with food. He was intrigued by Sullivan’s approach to dining.
“We had the same vision,” Prado says, “and the concept just clicked.”
“I needed a leader, someone I believed in, who knew exactly the idea I wanted to run with,” says Sullivan.
The pair went from working together on a re-design of the menu to going all in: OTC would be transformed from a get-in, get-out lunch joint to a brunch and dinner sit-down spot, with Prado as the executive chef. Changing the name was the last step.
“A huge part of the concept is sourcing local ingredients and keeping the staff educated on what’s seasonally available in Florida,” Sullivan says. When they stumbled across the golden fig, a sweet, brightly-hued fruit that few know is native to Florida, they knew the restaurant had a new moniker.
“It was basically staring us right in the face,” Sullivan said.
Today Golden Fig serves pasture-raised meats, fresh local fish, and simply dressed vegetable dishes from the same spot that used to house OTC on Brickell’s South Miami Ave. The menu changes with the season.
“We’ve changed the menu three times in the last six months,” notes Prado, who sources from local operations like Swank Family Farms and Little River Cooperative.
With the menu, Prado opts for simple and savory over ruefully overdone.
“We want to be approachable while also serving high quality ingredients,” he says. “And we’re very ingredient driven. We don’t see anyone else in the neighborhood doing that.”
With seasonal offerings like roasted heirloom carrots and pork belly sourced from Palmetto Creek, Golden Fig is the refreshing local hideaway in an area that’s constantly mislabeled.
“When you say Brickell now people’s eyes kind of roll,” Sullivan says. “That’s about to change.”