By Mitchell Nover
Keep it simple, stupid. That might as well be the motto at Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill (2 NW 29th St, Miami) in Wynwood, except there’s nothing stupid about it. Simple, yes. But in a good way, in a creative way, in a way that lets the venue, food, and drink tell the story that you want to share with your guests. No frills, just quality and simplicity. What a concept.
Created by renowned Miami caterer and restaurateur Ken Lyon, Charcoal is an exciting new restaurant that is bringing even more heat to the Miami summer, along with a unique design and gastronomic approach to our city’s ever expanding culinary scene. Located at The Wynwood Yard, Charcoal is the first full-service restaurant onsite and the only one in Miami to be built completely from modified shipping containers, executed by the talented team at Little River Box Company.</p style=”text-align: justify;”>
Menu highlights: The limited kitchen size at Charcoal restricts the complexity of the menu; leaving the team of chefs to churn out the best simply grilled, locally-sourced, ‘off-the-industrial-grid’ foods available. The menu is centered around a pair of Josper grills, state-of-the-art Spanish enclosed grills that burn 100% charcoal and can reach upwards of 800º Fahrenheit, resulting in dishes that have a deep, developed, and pure flavor profile.
The menu also rotates twice per season, so don’t get too attached to any one dish (either at the restaurant or in the post below) because it might not be there during your next visit. But that’s what keeps things interesting, right? Anyway, here’s what I ate:
My meal started with the cutest little amuse bouche of Heirloom Carrots, a welcoming, light, and brite bite to set the tone for the meal to come. I followed that up with a beautiful pair of Cheese & Charcuterie Boards, featuring American farmstead cheeses and artisanally-cured meats, dried fruits, assorted nuts, marinated olives, and grilled bread. To be honest, these bad boys could have been my entire meal, but alas there was more to be explored.
Up next was the Charcoal Grilled Octopus, which is slow-simmered before being grilled and basted with green olive oil and lemon. I accompanied the tentacled treat with a delightful side of Vegetable Fruits served en casserole. The exact ingredients may change from day to day, but generally include some combination of eggplant, zucchini, yellow peppers, red tomatoes, fennel, and herbs de provence.
Finally, for dessert, I went with the Individual Berry-Rhubarb Pie. Bringing berries and rhubarb, pate brisee, and vanilla ice cream, this pie is probably enough for more than one person, despite the word “individual” being in the name. But, I’m a pie lover, so waistline be damned!
Standout dish: Sticking with simplicity, the true standout of my dinner experience at Charcoal was the Sausage Plate. What could be more simple than a trio of house made sausages served in a cast iron skillet with with beans, charrred onion, and rosemary? This dish instantly transported me away from my surroundings, back to the woods of Maryland where I used to camp with my dad, brother, and friends. And if a transformative experience isn’t a true sign of a standout dish, I don’t know what is.
Are we boozing? Yeah, so this is where the simplicity falls by the wayside… And I’m not complaining. The bar program at Charcoal is most definitely not something you would expect to come out of a shipping container, with a variety of craft cocktails that range from light to strong. As the day turned to night, I followed along, knocking back mixed masterpieces like the Lugano Spritz (Aperol, prosecco, and sparkling water), the Froze (rose wine, grapefruit sorbet, and soda water), La Marigot (12-Year Reserve Rhum Barbancourt, Smith & Cross rum, hibiscus syrup, fresh lime juice, and milled allspice), and the Charcoal Oaxacan (Santiago Matatlan mezcal-tequila blend, activated charcoal agave, bitters, and burnt orange zest).
Check this place out if you like: another new Josper Oven lovin’ restaurant, Lightkeepers at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne. The concepts of these two restaurants couldn’t be more different, but their use of this new, trendy cooking machine will no doubt have you seeing a few similarities across their menus.
Mitch’s take: If you’re willing to brave the heat and humidity of the Miami summer for an outdoor dining experience, Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill should definitely be on your new-restaurants-to-try shortlist. In my mind, there’s nothing like a simple dining experience, surrounded by the sights and smells of the great outdoors — even if you’re sitting amongst a bunch of shipping containers in Wynwood. But, don’t worry… If you can’t stand the heat, Charcoal also has a new retractable shade that makes dining outdoors super comfortable during these sultry summer months and the indoor conservatory is also air-conditioned.