The Best of the “Unofficial” South Beach Wine and Food Festival events

On Thursday the South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicks off its 16th year of bringing celebrity chefs, world-class eats, and many drinks to Miami Beach.  The festival, which brings in 65,000 people, has gotten so large that much like Art Basel,  a ton of “satellite” events have popped up around town for people to enjoy outside of – or in addition to – the main attraction.

While many of the city’s top chefs are taking part in official festival events, they’re also throwing their own parties and bringing in chefs from around the country to cook inside their Miami restaurants.

Jose Mendin, founding partner and executive chef of The Pubbelly Group, is hosting four events in total, and told us that as a local, he loves to fully utilize this time of year by adding unique experiences to people’s visits. He especially likes to take friends, other chefs, and festival visitors to other part of town so they can see Miami beyond the festival.

It works out: local restaurateurs can show off their eateries to the culinary royalty and out-of-town chefs, while residents are happy to commemorate closer to their homes, extend their foodie evenings into the wee hours, and potentially pay a few less dollars to take part in multi-day festivities.

“For us on the beach, it’s great to see people come in before or after an event. It brings excitement in the restaurant. Usually on the night of our event, there are other guests who are coming to eat at Izzy’s anyways, or coming back from Tacos after Dark, Burger Bash, or Oyster Bash, and they just want to stay and continue with great food, drinks, and a good time,” says Jamie DeRosa of Izzy’s Fish & Oyster (see info on his event, below).

The satellite events also allow chefs to join in even if they don’t meet festival requirements on issues like seating – Mendin of Pubbelly says there’s a 100-seat requirement that his restaurant doesn’t meet, which is why he does his own events at his restaurants.

Here are some of the best “unofficial” parties and dinner happenings around town.

Thursday, Feb. 23

Kick it off with Pubbelly

Pubbelly, one of the first restaurants to garner national attention for the Miami food scene, is going big both in and out of the festival this year.  The Pubbelly Group, which started with a small South Beach eatery, now has six restaurants in Miami, two in the Caribbean, and one on Norwegian Cruise Line.  Mendin will serve up his wares at Friday’s Burger Bash, but he’ll also be at the original SoBe Pubbelly (1418 20th St., Miami Beach) on Thursday for a “Childhood SOBEWFF Memories Dinner.” In collaboration with Darren Brass of Miami Ink (and the show’s clothing line, Ruthless & Toothless), Mendin will cook up dishes inspired by his childhood memories, alongside partners Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette, both James Beard Award winners from Boston. 8 p.m. $85 a ticket. Tickets and more information here.

Tiki bar

As participants of the Art of Tiki SOBEWFF event, LDV Hospitality’s Regent Cocktail Club (the Gatsby-style bar located inside The Gale Hotel at 1690 Collins Ave, Miami Beach) is bringing the tiki vibe back home. From Feb. 23 to 24, the throwback cocktail lounge will be transformed into a Polynesian paradise, adorned with tropical décor and an island-style cocktail menu handcrafted by Regent’s talented team of bartenders. The menu includes fun drinks like the Jungle Bird with Rum Campari, pineapple, and lime;  the Planters Punch with dark rum, pineapple, orange, lemon, and grenadine; and the Pain Killer with light rum, dark rum, pineapple, creme de coconut, and orange.

Guests can also enjoy a live musical performance by the soulful talents of Cleveland Jones. Entrance and performance are free and open to the public.

Made in Dade Chef’s Cookout

They started with a cult favorite pop up, and now Phuc Yea (7100 Biscayne Blvd. Miami), the beloved Vietnamese outpost, is presenting the first annual “Made in Dade Chef’s Cookout” at their new MiMo restaurant.   Local chefs Michael Beltran from Ariete, Rene Reyes & John Gallo from Pinch Kitchen, Niven Patel from Ghee Indian Kitchen, and Cesar Zapata from Phuc Yea will come together to cook up dishes like a Viet Cajun seafood boil, glazed caramel pork spare ribs, crispy oysters and Pig-nics (Caja China roasted hams). Tickets are $34 to $50 and available here.

Editor’s note: We corrected the date for this event after publication.

Rooftop drinks

Later that night and across town, Pubbelly’s Beverage Director Will Rivas is hosting the SOBEWFF After Party at downtown hotspot Pawn Broker (located in the recently renovated Langford Hotel, 121 SE 1st St., Miami).  Lady bartender Yael Vengroff  (a rarity in this industry) of LA’s The Spare Room will be pouring plenty of Avion Tequila, while music plays late into the night. No tickets necessary. 11 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Friday, Feb. 24

Happy hour with a red carpet

Leading up to the weekend’s festivities, The Ritz-Carlton (1 Lincoln Road), South Beach is welcoming visitors and festival guests to a “Golden Hour” in their lobby from 5 to 9 p.m. Complete with a red carpet and step and repeat, attendees will toast Moët Impérial and Dom Pérignon to kick off the food-filled weekend.

Ping Pong, Pizzas, & Peroni

Legendary French chef Jean-Georges (JG) Vongerichten (his group now owns roughly 30 restaurants around the world) is personally “serving it up” at his second annual “Ping Pong, Pizzas & Peroni” event at the Edition Hotel (2901 Collins Ave, Miami Beach).  Cooking and “ponging” alongside the hotel’s Matador Room executive chef (and recent Top Chef winner Jeremy Ford), JG will welcome guests for a super fun event from 10pm-Midnight at the Market at The Edition. For only $40, attendees can enjoy a vast Italian spread of Market’s most popular dishes like oysters, signature pizzas, and imported Italian cheeses and charcuterie; all to be washed down with Peroni beer and Negroni cocktails, then topped off with sweet desserts! It’s not often that you’re served pizza by one of the world’s most famous (and charismatic) chefs, or can challenge one to a match of ping pong. Link to purchase tickets here.


Late Night Ramen

The Pubbelly boys aren’t done – on Friday, they’ll be hosting Late Night Ramen at Pubbelly Sushi (1421 20th St., Miami Beach). If you’re someone who bemoans Miami’s notorious Ramen-shortage, this is the night for you.  The deliciously salty noodles will be made by Mendin and outspoken co-chef Richie Nakano, who made a name for himself serving up the famous Chinese dish in San Francisco, as well as dishing out some opinionated tweets (a fun one to follow if you have a few minutes).  A DJ will be on-hand to mix up beats to go along with the eats. 12 a.m. to 3 a.m. No tickets necessary.

Saturday, Feb. 25

Like it raw?

Izzy’s Fish & Oyster (423 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) is going raw, with their “Oh Baby I Like It Raw” guest chef dinner featuring the aforementioned award-winning chefs from Boston, Jamie Bissonnette and Ken Oringer. Izzy’s Chef Jamie DeRosa welcomes his northern friends for the second edition of this fun event, starting at 10 p.m. The Bostonians will put their spin on scallop crudo and tuna tataki while Jamie will keep it local with Florida citrus and white soy ponzu dressed oysters.  Just $25 gets you a selection of raw dishes, two (2) signature cocktails from Izzy’s and bottomless Rosé. Guest DJ YSL will be spinning beats throughout the night. For reservations, please call 305.397.8843.