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Ortanique and Balloo Were 2020 Saddest Restaurant Closures

Friends of Eater Miami share what restaurants they’ll miss the most

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Balloo Restaurant
Giovanny Gutierrez/Chat Chow TV

As we (finally!) put a cap on 2020, Eater surveyed a group of friends, writers, and all around experts for their take on the past year. We asked them ten questions: from top standbys to top newcomers, from best meals to restaurants they’ve broken up with. All will be answered by the time we turn off the lights at the end of the 2020. Responses are related in no particular order; all are cut, pasted, and (mostly) unedited herein. Responses do not necessarily reflect the views of Eater and Eater Miami.

Laine Doss (Miami New Times): Right now, it’s Mai-Kai. Fingers crossed they’ll open again. I’m a tiki girl and that one hit hard. As for permanent closure, I’d say Ortanique. That restaurant had such soul and Cindy and Delius put their hearts into everything they did there.

Belkys Nerey (WSVN 7): It was sad to see Balloo close. The food was fantastic and the restaurant opened to such great buzz but I know Chef Timon will be back soon. His talent and positive energy will see him through. Can’t wait!

Amber Love Bond (Eater Miami contributor): We’ve lost so many good ones this year! I don’t think I can pick just one. It’s really hard to grasp how much the restaurant landscape has changed in less than a year.

Giovanny Gutierrez (Chat Chow TV/Eater Miami photographer): Ortanique On The Mile. So sad to never sit at that bar again and imbibe one of Miami’s best Mojito.

Matthew Meltzer (Thrillist Miami): Definitely Lil Hoolies. I mean, yes, the rancid chicken strip and stale-chips-and-salsa void will somehow be filled in South Dade. But flip night pretty much got me through college, and I’m not sure where else I’ll be able to see my friend Ryan’s 80s cover band play now.

David Rosendorf (Food For Thought): I’ll name two: one quite long-lived, the other unfortunately quite short. Ortanique was a Miami institution which was way ahead of the curve in bringing Caribbean flavors to a “fine dining” environment. Cindy Hutson and Delius Shirley had a remarkable run of more than two decades, but it’s still sad to see it come to a close. My other choice had a Caribbean thread running through it as well, but had only been open a few months before COVID came along and spoiled everything. Balloo was one of the most exciting new openings from late last year, a poignantly personal - and incredibly delicious! - rendition of chef Timon Balloo’s Trini / Indian / Afro-Caribbean / Chinese heritage in restaurant form. My very last restaurant meal before the shutdown was there - I’ll miss it but I’m expecting great things from Timon in the next year. An honorable mention to Cake Thai Kitchen, which I will also miss very much.

Stacy Moya (Eater Miami Contributor): I was quite saddened to see Coral Gables staple, Ortanique close its doors.

Virginia Gil (Time Out Miami): All of them? Balloo was a huge bummer. Its opening signaled a positive shift toward small, locally-owned restaurants and I fear its demise will push us in the other direction. We’re already seeing an uptick in nondescript, investor-backed spots. Though, to counter my own argument, I was also sad to see Upland go. I’ll really miss those carrots.

Alona Martinez (Eater Miami Contributor): Obra. Adored the entire concept of this eatery from talented Venezuelan chef Carlos Garcia, from the intimate wrap around bar connecting diners to the kitchen to the stunning black and white portraits lining the wall to the exceptional fare prepared with lots of love and care. I’ll miss watching culinary creative sparks fly and land as memorable dishes on my plate.

Sara Liss (Author of Miami Cooks): My last restaurant meal before the shutdown was at Balloo and though I was a bit late to the party I was so glad I got to experience it as they are now (sadly) closed. It was such an avalanche of flavors with a story behind every dish. We need more Balloo’s in this town.

Jennifer Agress (Freelance restaurant writer): Le Sirenuse! I loved having a piece of Positano here in MIami. As a native Miamian, I’m also sad that long-standing places like John Martin’s and Ortanique went down with the plague.

Kelly Blanco (NBC 6): Brad Kilgore’s Spots

Olee Fowler (Eater Miami): I’m still in shock that Ortanique shuttered for good — I had been going there since high school! Balloo was also a favorite that I was sad to go. And of course, Brad Kilgore’s departing from the Miami Design District they were so beautiful and tasty.