This year was a tough one for local businesses, especially restaurants. About 100,000 restaurants nationwide, nearly one in six, closed long-term or permanently as a result of the pandemic according to the National Restaurant Association.
Trying to keep a restaurant open this year wasn’t easy; neither was trying to start a new one from the ground up.
There was a lot of heartbreak in 2020, but there was also a lot of tasty, triumphant new starts to be enjoyed. With that preamble out of the way, here are some of the most notable openings and saddest restaurant closings from the past year.
😋 El Bagel was a bright spot of Miami life in 2020. From creative topping combinations to new spins on old favorites, the Biscayne Blvd brick-and-mortar injected new life into both an old favorite and everyone who ate there.
🍗 Rosie’s smothered Overtown in southern comfort with its selection of down-home favorites like fried chicken and fish and grits.
🇬🇷 Mediterranean food goes by a new name in Miami, and it’s Mr. Mandolin. This MiMo haunt tucked away in the Vagabond hotel features the Greek staples that made its sister restaurant and predecessor Mandolin a must-eat along with exclusive dishes you won’t find elsewhere.
🍔 Matt Kuscher and his team at Kush Hospitality have a good grip on what makes Miami salivate, so it’s no surprise the new Cafe Kush situated at the Selina Miami Gold Dust motel is a winner. Fans of the original Kush and Lokal will find plenty of familiar burger and salad favorites in addition to fresh French touches like — you guessed it — French onion soup and coq au vin. And the waterfront view isn’t half-bad either.
🍜 Itame kicked things up a notch with its recent move to a more permanent location in the Design District. The Nikkei restaurant headed by chefs Valerie, Nando, and Fernando Chang has quickly climbed the Miami culinary ranks with its deft blend of Peruvian and Japanese food.
😎 Mamey is the latest offering from Chef Niven Patel, who’s no stranger to flavorful Miami dining. The restaurant sits at the THesis Hotel in Coral Gables and leans into its tropical aesthetic with dishes including conch fritters and yellowfin tuna tostones.
🐟 Ruby Dee’s at MIA Market was spotlighted within this very space by Geoffrey and Dianne of Miami Food Pug. The local food bloggers sung the praises of the Design District spot’s salt-roasted beet salad and hamachi tartare in their latest newsletter takeover.
👋 We’re cheating a bit here by shouting out The Doral Yard and the many delicious food vendors hosted within, but it was a joy to have a new open-air space where Miamians could eat, drink, and make merry in a safe outdoor environment.
🦀 Cake Thai Kitchen closed after six years with a heartfelt message of gratitude on Facebook, prompting a fond remembrance from Miami New Times for the MiMo dive’s chili crab and drunken noodle dishes.
☕️ David’s Café Cafecito closed in August, writing “unfortunately with this global Pandemic we tried to the best of our abilities to hang on. Sadly, this chapter has been written for us and we will be closing our doors.” But they also vowed that they’re “working hard to come back bigger and better.”
🌴 After 21 years in business, tropical spot Ortanique on the Mile closed with a parting message expressing sadness that “the Covid 19 pandemic has taken down a Coral Gables institution.”
🍽 Cuban sandwich and empanada spot Oasis Cafe shut its doors in June.
🎣 Obra Kitchen Table shut down in June but reminded us that “Obra will forever live in our hearts, and of course, our stomachs.”
🙁 Ember and Kaido — both located in the Design District and headed up by acclaimed chef and James Beard award finalist Brad Kilgore — were forced to close permanently due to pandemic-prompted hardships.