Next year when Miami’s much anticipated Brightline train opens for business, its expansive 50,000-square-foot food hall Central Fare will debut with it. Tapping big names both locally and nationally to set up shop at Central Fare, the flagship restaurant, Monger, will be run by Top Chef alums Bryan and Michael Voltaggio.
Eater Miami sat down with the duo to find out more about the restaurant and what they have in store for us when it opens next summer.
How did this all come about? Have you guys been eyeing the Miami market for a while? How did that all begin?
Michael: The operations director here [Central Fare], we used to work together in
South Florida. Actually at the Ritz Carlton about 15 years ago. David McIntyre and I worked together. He was actually my boss. I reconnected with David in Las Vegas about six years ago and we always talked about doing a project together, and then David presented us the opportunity to come to Miami with this particular project and it just made a lot of sense for us. Plus, our family, our parents live here as well. My mom lives in Mount Dora. Our father lives over in Tampa so we are in Florida quite a bit already.
As opposed to just going into a market and dropping off a restaurant, we have some roots here and it's sort of a homecoming if you will. I just makes sense. We will actually physically be here so that's a lot different than just going to some of these other cities and just dropping our brand off.
Speaking of the concept, how did you guys come up with it?
MV: I was actually in Whole Foods watching people eat and watching how people navigated their way through the store and just thought to myself, this could be a restaurant somehow. As chefs we have a tendency to develop a dish completely through from starch to veg to protein and so forth. We wanted to separate all of those things and allow people to do that on their own. The menu was put together in a way where you can do that and much like when you're in the grocery store, you see seafood and fish, then you see meat and poultry, then you see the dairy section of the store, the grains and all that sort of stuff.
If you think about all these restaurants where it's small plates meant for sharing. It's not unlike that in a sense that there's a lot of plates of food coming to the table throughout the experience. The idea now is to order a couple things that you would want to eat together. It's not first course, middle course, main course, dessert. There aren't any rules.
And it’ll be full-table service, right?
MV: It's a full service restaurant. We plan to provide real hospitality in this space for sure. It's just the way the format of the menu is laid out, it's as if you were shopping for your own ingredients at a grocery store but they'll be prepared. Our technique, our sauces, our sort of vision for those individual ingredients but it's up to you how to put together.
A lot of restaurants today say, at the bottom of the menu, we do not allow any substitutions for our food. We thought we should offer an experience that contradicts that whole idea and allow guests to, I'm going to be very generic, if you want mashed potatoes with your chicken, you can do that tonight even thought somebody else might want mashed potatoes with their salmon. The idea is to have a list of all the dishes and side dishes, or proteins and sides, I should say, split up in the sections so it's very easy to find and then you just order them as you wish.
And there will be different stations dedicated to different items?
MV: The actual stations themselves, for instance, the meat and poultry station has a case, a glass case, that's in the direct view of the dining room. If guests want to stand up and go look at the ingredients and say, I want that rib eye right there, there's nothing preventing them from being able to do that because it is a very visual dining experience in the sense that it's an actual open, open kitchen. The visual of the kitchen is very much incorporated into the dining space.
Now are you guys going to have a bar component at all or is there just going to be a bar component in Central Fare?
Bryan: No, we're going to have a full cocktail bar and lounge space in our space here but then there's also another component, another bar component as part of Central Fare too, in the middle. When you walk into the restaurant there will be 20-30 seats at the bar. There will be a small lounge and then you'll have a view from the kitchen at that point there. It will be full cocktail service and we're also going to be offering beer and wine. We haven't gotten into writing a menu and the small details of the bar itself but that's forthcoming.
How frequently do you guys plan to be at the restaurant?
BV: The great thing about this situation is, not only did we say earlier that we family in South Florida but I'm already here on the east coast. Michael's is going to be planning on spending more time here too as well. For me it's a two hour jaunt, a two hour flight so it's not that big of a deal. That's why we're really excited about this. We love South Florida. We like being here. It's a very small component of it but it's actually cool to actually like where you're going to be opening a restaurant.