It's now been almost two weeks since Tongue & Cheek opened up. It all started with the time Jamie DeRosa and Michael Reginbogin announced they'll partner up for a restaurant, then they teased us with weeks of tweets and strange photos, and finally, finally they opened those doors on April 15. This week, Eater asked DeRosa about how Tongue & Cheek's first week went down, what it's like to own his first restaurant, and what's in store for the future. Here's what he had to say:
In what ways does it feel different to be in your own place?
Having my own place gives me the opportunity to be more creative and inventive menu-wise than I have been in the past. It gives me the freedom to experiment. It also gives me the chance to work with my team at our own pace. I enjoy arriving early at the restaurant every morning to work with chef de cuisine Lisa Odom, Sous Chef Kyle Cook and Pastry Chef Ricardo Torres. Together we review the menu, the daily family meal, discuss upcoming events and plan new menu items. When we are ready to launch a dish, I know that we have taken the time, done the research and tested the recipe until it has met our expectations.
Overall, how did the first week go?
While most of us were probably distracted by the awful situation in Boston, my wife's home town, we were unexpectedly busy. The staff was energetic and eager, emotions were running high and for the first time, what was once only a dream became a wonderful reality.
What's the feedback so far on Tongue & Cheek?
We are very happy to have hit the ground running with the local market. It's a great feeling to be welcomed into the "SoFi" neighborhood and Miami Beach. The locals have really enjoyed the Family Meal offering – gives diners at the bar a taste of what we prepare for the staff meal along with a soda for $10. Dinner service has been successful as well and it seems we've been getting thumbs up for our price points and menu. Fingers crossed we continue to keep the customers happy and exceed everyone's expectations.
What's been the best part?
The best part for me has been the opportunity to work with such an amazing team. We are very fortunate to have such a caring group of professionals on the floor, at the door, behind the bar and in the kitchen. I enjoy the time we spend together, developing our own little family here and mentoring those in the kitchen who continue to inspire me everyday.
And the worst part?
Worrying! I've always prided myself in being an operator who treated each restaurant as it were my own. But with Tongue & Cheek, I find that I'm more alert and aware of every nuance of the business. I think most who know me would accuse me of being "O.C.D." before Tongue & Cheek and now there'd be no doubt.
What's been the biggest surprise?
The welcoming response to T&C. Michael and I couldn't be happier to feel part of such a great city.
Does it feel like it's been a week?
We set out to create Tongue & Cheek back in November of last year. So for us it definitely feels longer then a week. When I look back at the last seven days it seems surreal to think of how much work and effort it took to get to opening day. We know we have a long road ahead of us and can't wait to show you more of what we have planned!
If you could travel back in time and give yourself advice for the opening, what would it be?
"There are some things you just can't control so stop making yourself sick with worry about them, it's unproductive."
What are the most popular dishes so far?
We have menu items for foodies and for those looking for something more approachable. Our Fried Chicken, Beef Cheek Burger and Meatballs sell as much as our more culinary driven dishes like the Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Veal Tartar and Beef Rib Cap. Our big dessert sellers are the "Puddin' Pop", Cracker Jack Milkshake and our rendition of cheesecake with Camembert cheese and apple sorbet. It's kind of amazing, if I do say so myself!
What lies ahead?
Right now we are focused on brand identity, consistency and building relationships with our customers and the community as a whole. With the summer approaching and locals coming to relax at the beach, we want to be a place they want to hit. Who knows, I may even start delivering beef cheek burgers with fries and Kentucky Coloadas to you while you lie on your Tommy Bahama beach blanket. Time will tell.
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[Photo Courtesy of Andrew Mead]