Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
Miami will never come up short on high-wattage, wallet-draining dining: The city's genetic code demands glitz and excess. But in the last few years, several Miami restaurant groups have emerged with smart, mid-scale restaurants to help counterbalance the glitter factories—including Miami Beach successes like Pubbelly (gastropub meets Korean and other Asian cuisines) and Yardbird (unabashed Southern cooking with fried chicken as the showpiece).
Who kicked off this trend? Michael Schwartz in 2007. The Philadelphia native had cooked in South Beach restaurants for years but decided to migrate to Miami's then-transitional, now-luxe Design District to launch Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. He grilled whole fish in a wood-burning oven and made lilting salads out of vegetables culled from area farms. That may sound typical to many parts of the country; in South Florida, Schwartz's approach was radical. More than any other chef, he introduced the local-seasonal ethos to Miami. Crowds mobbed the place. The city's restaurant industry took notice.