An Artful Meal at The District
by jordan melnick
Local artist Juan Rozas was commissioned to add movement and energy to the interior of The District.
Lying 13 feet above sea level, a lofty perch in flat Miami, historic Buena Vista got its name from the “good view” of Biscayne Bay its early residents enjoyed. A new restaurant in the neighborhood now aims to give its customers an equally satisfying glimpse of Miami’s internationally influenced culinary landscape.
Dubbed The District by managing partner Alexander Ringleb, the restaurant fuses Pan- American flavors in a menu crafted by Executive Chef Horacio Rivadero, named Best New Chef for the Gulf Region by Food & Wine magazine in 2012. The meal starts with a plate of soft, subtly sweet, biscuit-like corn bread, served warm in a napkin repurposed as a pouch. From there, highlights include Vuelve a la Vida, a perfectly tart and salted dish of raw octopus, clams, and crab, one of three ceviche options. The tuna tacos, in shells of baked malanga and served with creamy chunks of avocado, are another treat off the “Antojos” section of the menu.
“That’s a huge seller because many people like to eat tacos, but they have problems with gluten,” explains Rivadero. “So we make them with the [gluten-free] malanga shells.”
Executive Chef Horacio Rivadero.
This accommodating approach stems from a desire to make The District Miami a regular stop for locals. The wood-slat walls, brick columns, tufted leather booths, and concrete floors combine for a casually hip atmosphere with a masculinity softened by constellation-like chandeliers, curvy white chairs, and vivid floral arrangements. Above it all is The District’s standout feature, a mixed-media ceiling installation by artist Juan Rozas that looks like a chalk drawing but is actually a digital collage.
“For the ceiling, I used architectural references you can find all over the American continent such as cupolas, plafonds, cathedrals, mixed with Mayan and Aztec temples, old American theaters, modern and contemporary North American architecture, hand-carved indigenous wood artifacts, and some local fruits to represent the neighborhood,” says Rozas, a Buenos Aires native who has lived in Miami for 20 years.
The dark ceiling is complemented by four color-flecked paintings (two by Rozas, two by Domingo Zapata) that remind you you’re near the epicenter of Miami’s art scene, Wynwood. “It feels like a home,” says Ringleb. “We didn’t want it to be cold or stuffy or pretentious.”
Cast-iron octopus with quinoa, roasted eggplant purée, and a black-olive vinaigrette, from the “Around the Table” menu section.
That idea imbues The District’s three-part menu. After the Antojos, there’s the “Around the Table” section, a selection of small plates that ranges from light—a salad of roasted beets and pickled raspberries (both from Orlando) garnished with goat cheese mousse—to the hearty Boxer, a luscious but subtle pork belly dish.
The District’s entrées carry on Ringleb’s homey intentions while reflecting Rivadero’s passion for the flavors of the Americas. The cobia has a coating of Caribbean jerk adobo rub, and the lamb ribs are drizzled with smoked pomegranate sauce. The humblest entrée of all, The District Burger, puts the “America” in a Pan- American menu with a prime Angus patty, a thick slice of bacon, grilled onions, and heirloom tomatoes—even the melted Brie is from Vermont.
Its food and décor combine to make The District a good fit for a rising restaurant scene. It’s located next door to the delicious and decidedly relaxed Buena Vista Deli and around the corner from Greek restaurant Mandolin Aegean Bistro, Asian bistro Shokudo, Italian eatery Lemoni Café, and Buena Vista Bistro, one of the neighborhood’s culinary pioneers.
“Overall Miami is becoming a restaurant town with so much diversity,” says Ringleb, who picked Buena Vista because “it gives you the feel of getting out of town, [without] the big towers and stress—a relaxed, laidback place.” Ringleb and Rivadero are betting The District and its offerings—both ambience and culinary—will earn them a place in the neighborhood’s promising future. 190 NE 46th St., Miami, 305-573- 4199.
photography by gary james (rivadero); julio martinez photography (interior)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.