This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables in Miami.
[Photo Courtesy of Seth Alexander and Sol Alvarez]
Meet the Dynamic Duo, though you probably already have. They're two brothers, Seth Alexander and Sol Alvarez, who've been on the scene for the last decade opening up various reputable restaurants like Prime 112, The Forge and The Dutch. They're also the guys behind the ropes at the recently opened New York import, Lure Fishbar. We spoke to general managers Seth and Sol about what it takes to get into the buzzy Lure, their favorite gatekeeper tools, and working together as brothers. Read on.
Lure has been packed since you opened. Tell me a little bit why that is and how you're handling it.
Sol: Thankfully, with a great partnership with the Loews, our New York branch in Soho has done a wonderful job over the past 10 years really establishing a foothold in the New York scene and the popularity and the regular guests that travel in between Miami and New York ... that was the first immediate draw. A lot of the Miamians and the winter birds and bluebirds all know of the Lure brand, so we're excited to have it open up in Miami.
Seth: The tenure in new york is fantastic, you know, it's very hard to keep a restaurant going and in New York for just 5 years and obviously the SoHo location has been there for about ten. Plus, my brother and I have been locals here for about 15 years and we've opened probably some of the best restaurants, so we have a pretty loyal following within that, so I think that those two things come together create kind of a perfect storm. So we're able to get the real kind of true Miami locals as well as the loyal clientele that we have from New York as well as the great guests of the Loews Hotel.
It's 7 p.m. on a Friday evening, what's the wait like?
Seth: You don`t wanna know [he laughs]. Well, you know, our restaurant is multi versatile being that we have tons of outside seating. We have a beautiful outdoor terrace under the stars - sits like 95 people - however, when it rains it tends to make our wait a little bit larger, so without a reservation on a Friday at prime time you're probably looking at around 45 minutes to an hour if the weather's there and with reservation, unfortunately sometimes you're still getting like a twenty-five minute timeline, but it's well worth the wait, we tend to take care of our guests.
Sol: I think seth really hit on the head though because we have so many different room options within the restaurant, a lot of our guests are insistent about sitting outside … I think what Lure offers is very rare, where the ambiance and the buildout of the interior of the restaurant matches or rivals what is the great outdoor dining that Miami offers. So, that's an interesting aspect that most restaurants don`t get to have. Our outdoor seating is just as entertaining as our indoor and vice versa.
Is there anything guests can do to make their wait shorter?
Sol: well we obviously love to encourage all our guests to make a reservation whether that's online or to call the restaurant where there's always somebody there, willing and able to take the reservation with any specific needs and requests. We obviously honor everything that we possibly can. That's definitely the way to go. Other than that, you know, come in and be a cordial guest and we'll accommodate every single person.
What is the best or the favorite seat in the house?
Sol: Well, it depends. the outdoor terrace is probably the most sought after on a beautiful night and inside, I mean what, do people seriously give like table numbers? You know honestly this is a thing that's very different ... my brother and I, we've opened to a lot of very trendy restaurants - this restaurant is a little bit different, every seat is probably a very good seat. This is more about the food as opposed to being seen and I think that our dining room, the way that's is set up, is that you can be seen at every table, so you can really just focus more on ... instead of where you're seated, what you're eating and who you're with.
Do people ever offer gifts or bribes to speed things along?
Seth: It's collateral damage of the business, however we've been in the business long enough to realize that's more of a short term game, we're here for longevity. Our guests who are waiting, we try to shower them with love and make the wait as comfortable as possible.
Sol: I would like to add at that point ... say that you are a guest walking in without a reservation and you'd like a table at that power hour, you know that seating hour on a Friday or Saturday, thankfully what we also offer is an exciting, interactive beverage program. In most restaurants a wait may be boring or you're surrounded by a bunch of people and we offer great product while you're waiting if that would be a cocktail at the bar or an appetizer while you're there, we obviously do everything we possibly can. Grab a drink at the inside bar and walk outside ... I definitely think that we offer a great product during your wait.
Seth: But in terms of bribing, you get more with a smile than you do with a Benjamin Franklin.
What's the most outrageous request you or the kitchen has received so far?
Seth: Give us a second to ponder. Alright, I have one: a guest wanted a freshly squeezed pineapple juice which is, as you know, impossible to do. You can't squeeze a pineapple. We're not talking about a muddled pineapple, we're not talking about a juiced pineapple … we were told that in her last restaurant someone "freshly squeezed" a pineapple for her and you know, being the guest-driven restaurant that we are, we set up a little station and tried to do like a "how to" and obviously it did not work. But that's probably the most outrageous I've had in a couple of years.
Sol: Yeah, just to add that a guest request it's something that at the start of a restaurant and bringing together a team and a chef and front of house, back of house operations, you collectively decide how you're going to honor the requests, whether it`s via beverage or specially, you know for our restaurant…… whatever the request is, if it's within our reach or means, we're going to try to do anything we possibly can to make it happen. So as far as the other requests are concerned and this being a gatekeeper interview, you know I've been asked to build a table in the hallway of the restaurant so the guests can dine there, I mean, people want to sit where they wanna eat and that's just what it is.
Have there been any requests that you couldn't accommodate so far, besides the fresh squeezed pineapple juice?
Seth: No, I don`t think so. I think the cool thing about our restaurant is that we've gone from chef-driven to nightlife-driven, which is great. Here, we consider it to be a guest-driven restaurant. Our chef, our back of house, is not one of the places where if you come in and there's no changes, no substitutions, no deletions you know, this is the way that the chef wants to do it so you`re our guest, you should want it the exact same way. No. Our premise and our philosophy is if we can do it, we do it. You know, if someone says, "hey listen, I know you guys have fresh dourade, I know you have tomatoes, I want you to take them, slice `em up, sauté and pour olive oil on them, no problem, we do it. If it's in our capabilities, we'll make it, we`re gonna charge you for it. Guest wants an omelet, I'll make you an omelet, it just might be, you know, priced accordingly. But we`re not one of those restaurants where it's our way or the highway, we realize that what makes people successful is our guests, like the guests are basically what create the longevity of a restaurant and I think we have big shoes to fill being that the New York Lure was there for 10 years, so we`re trying to adopt that same philosophy and I think that the Miami clientele really enjoys that being that a lot of the restaurants in Miami are secondary properties from New York or London, or L.A., where they have certain ways of doing things and they stick to it no matter where the demographic is. And I think that`s something that the Miamians were kind of sick of. We`re one of those places where if we wanna go to a fine dining restaurant in jeans and a t-shirt, that `s what we want to do. If you wanna order chateau margot with our oysters, we`re gonna do so, even if it`s not something that you might do in New York or L.A., that s what we do here and that`s why people come to Miami.
Sol: Well said.
Any celeb sightings at the restaurants?
Seth: Our chef happens to be a celebrity, so … let's mention celebrity chef Josh Capon on that note [he laughs]. Yeah we can keep that a little bit more on the quiet side. That's one of the greatest things about Lure, it doesn't matter who you are, you just have to want good food. We have a huge relationship with the New York property, so we tend to get a lot of the celebrities. Sol and I have been in the Miami market for a long time being with the Prime group for years, so we know a lot of the Miami Heat guys, so if you come in on a Friday, Saturday night you'll probably see a familiar face, but we're not gonna post it online or anything like that.
What's it like working together as brothers?
Sol: Because it's a tried and sort of tested relationship and brotherhood, throughout the years we've been able to hone in on what each individual, professional is passionate about and great at and similar to yin and yang, you kind of breathe out and I breathe in kind of thing - we've just been able to create that relationship in a professional environment where everything is always covered, nothing's left unturned, nothing's left unchecked. It`s more about understanding and trust and knowing that that the pressure of opening a little restaurant ... you need to have more than one person there and we're able to expedite the process of this because we work together and I really think that because of that that over the years we've been able to accomplish so much and open so many restaurants. I think we`re up to ten restaurants as of right now. From that relationship we've been able to start our own small consulting and management team [BAM Consulting] and it's exciting.
Seth: I also think that people like it because it takes the business away from it, it becomes family. Our clientele, they followed us from restaurant to restaurant being that, they like the synergy. You know the same way that you walk into a mom and pop shop as opposed to walking into a corporate restaurant. Everyone loves the Zuma, everyone loves the Milo's, they come into those restaurants and they see it … it's fantastic, you know, huge paintings and marbles from Italy and all those great things but then when you walk into something like Macchialina where you see Michael and Jen behind the lines and they're working together ... people like that type of synergy and they feel it's more family oriented, they feel like they're part of something genuine and that's kind of like our basis of hospitality, we call it genuine hospitality. So having like a brotherly team, it's really just about having a good time enjoying your experience and you know, walking on happy.
· All Coverage of Lure Fishbar [EMIA]