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Managing Partner Oscar Morales on Running an Eatery Off The Beaten Path

Oscar Morals dishes on what this past year's been like at The District Miami, challenges, future plans and more.

Tell me a little bit about how The District came to be.

Well, basically I guess the food concept, it's Pan American, we wanted to establish a culinary journey from North America all the way to South America that's why our cuisine has a lot of North American influences, but also a lot of South American dishes from Peru, Brazil, Colombia and so forth. So, we wanted to come up with that culinary journey because as we know living in Miami and we have people from all over Central and South America and we wanted to have a menu that is varied in flavors, so that's how the food came around. As far as The District Miami, the restaurant, we stumbled upon the space, it's an old house from the 1940s and we stumbled upon space and we really liked it. In addition to that, we felt like if we ever wanted to bring the concept to other places, The District could really be brought to other cities you know, The District Miami, The District New York, The District L.A. It would make sense if we brought the concept to other cities, even neighboring cities.

Can you remember what opening day was like?

Hectic [he laughs]. It was just like a lot of openings. A half hour before we were still painting the last piece of wood and nailing the last molding, literally a half hour before we opened. We opened actually probably a week or two before I thought we would open. So, we opened a restaurant that was finished but literally right up to the minute. I was hoping that nobody leaned against anything that was painted and nobody did and to the people that came it looked like a finished restaurant. It was a great event. A lot of people came out... it was a great opening.

How was the restaurant initially received?

I think extremely well from the onset. I think a lot of people are excited about all the things that are happening in the Design District and they just wanted to come see what else is knew, where this is going. And I think we were received great. There's a couple of restaurants that were there and that had been there for a while and we were like the new kid on the block and people were excited to come see us.

Overall, how has the first year been?

It's been an amazing journey in the sense that we have so many local people that have become regulars. I think that our food is extremely incredible and I think it's only gotten better. We're good at listening to what people want and listening to advice. I think it's really important to listen to what your customers like and what they like better and then improve on that.

What have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced this year?

Well, when we opened we didn’t have a liquor license. We had to apply for rezoning and then that came about. It’s great because now we have amazing cocktails. At the end of the day it wasn’t so much a challenge as a set back and we were able to rezone and get the liquor license and created all these great cocktails. Also, we’re a little bit off the beaten path. It’s not a place where there’s lots of walk through traffic. At this point at least, in the future there will be once the Design District really takes off, being a little bit off the beaten path it’s just going to take a little longer and a little more effort to let people know that we’re out there.

What, if anything, has changed over the past year?

Over the past year, I think that we've honed in on what it is that our guests wants. We've added some items to the menu just because people asked for them. We also launched lunch and brunch. Brunch has become one of the most popular days of the week, we actually serve Saturday and Sunday and both days have become really popular. Initially, we just opened for dinner and after a lot of feedback and people asking when we're open for lunch, we opened for lunch and then brunch came after. It's been a big hit. Throughout the course of the year we've added menu items, brunch staples, a burger, tacos- these are a big hit.

Does it feel like it's been a year?

No. It actually feels like it's been two! I just feel like we've been here longer than we really have.

What's in store for the future, you mentioned expansions?

Well, that's something that's not necessarily in the near future. I believe in perfecting something before further expansion and there's a lot of great things that we still want to do with the restaurant and the menus are also going to be changing pretty soon in November for the next season. So we're excited about that. I just feel like every day there's a lot of new people that still haven't heard about us so I feel we need to concentrate on showcasing what we currently have, new items that are coming in the near future and focusing on introducing the restaurant to a whole group of people that still don't know we're out here.

The District Miami

190 NE 46th Street, Miami, FL 33137 305-573-4199

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