Haute Bites at Crumb on Parchment
by arielle castillo
It was during her early-2000s tenure at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental that Miami celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein first turned out the approach that would make her famous. Marrying Latin flavors with those of the Pacific Rim, she went unabashedly haute, serving items such as poached sea urchin and fish drowned in “truffle milk.”
Sure, Bernstein grew more casual with her later Miami restaurants, her namesake Upper Eastside bistro Michy’s and her now-defunct Design District tapas spot, Sra. Martinez. Still, these venues remained decidedly upscale—diners might get a deceptively simple steak frites at Michy’s, but it’s also the kind of place where they could hand-pick oysters by the dozen.
All of this, then, is what makes Bernstein’s latest success story seem like such a departure. At Crumb on Parchment, the one-and-a-half-year-old café and bakery she runs with her husband and business partner, David Martinez, good manners still reign, but silverware is optional. That starts with the name, which references the paper on which selections are served. The menu centers largely on feel-good sweets and overstuffed, savory sandwiches, and the atmosphere is similarly relaxed.
Occupying the atrium of the district’s Melin Building, Crumb has a feel that’s decidedly breezy and eclectic, but still elevated. It’s literally surrounded by high-end refinement such as Marni, Maison Martin Margiela, and luxury home-goods line Janus et Cie; the new Louis Vuitton pop-up is a few doors down.
As such, Bernstein wisely caters “casual” food to cultivated palates. Sure, diners can order the classic turkey-and-cheddar combo here, but they can also find crispy pork belly on ciabatta bread, dressed with kimchi and queso blanco. A veggie melt, meanwhile, skips the usual boring peppers and tomatoes in favor of broccoli rabe, roasted eggplant, and chilies under melted mozzarella. Chicken salad is given a Latin twist with Peruvian huancaina sauce in lieu of mayonnaise.
The concept, similar to Michy’s, is to marry the various influences from Bernstein’s heritage—Jewish on her father’s side, Argentine on her mother’s, and multicultural by marriage and residence—but done comfort- style. “It’s very haimisch,” she has said to describe the feel, using the Yiddish word for “homey.”
As for the furnishings, no more than two chairs match, and diners will find napkins and utensils in metal buckets. And though surrounded by high fashion, a gauntlet of caloric temptations beckons from the order counter. Nearly foot-high cakes, scones, chewy cookies, biscotti, monkey bread, and the occasional red velvet cupcake sit piled high on vintage platters and stands, all created from nostalgic recipes by Bernstein’s mother, who supplies the layer cakes herself.
And though the Design District’s full-service restaurant scene continues to heat up, Crumb on Parchment boasts important bragging rights: It’s the only place in the district’s walkable core to properly execute the classic café concept. Open from morning through late afternoon, customers can stop by for breakfast, lunch, or just a coffee or pastry and Wi-Fi, and even the most lavish meal spread will ring in at about $20 or less.
With the Design District’s boom, Crumb has fed in-the-know celebrities, including the likes of Alonzo Mourning, Donald Sutherland, and Vera Wang, who strode in when Bernstein happened to be covered in flour. It has also built a rabidly loyal following among fashion, design, music, and media types with frequent business up and down the Biscayne corridor. “I first heard about Crumb after attending a Social Media Week event at the Adrienne Arsht Center a few months back,” says Jona Araujo, an interactive media and marketing manager with MMG Nightlife. He quickly got hooked on Crumb’s French toast with whipped cream. “It’s definitely not the standard local café shop around the corner.”
Crumb on Parchment is a prime spot for a quick refuel when hitting one of Art Basel Miami Beach’s satellite fairs on the mainland. Just come hungry, and, of course, leave room for dessert.
photography by GARY JAMES (CRUMB ON PARCHMENT, sandwich, skateboard delivery, dog, cookies); MICHAEL PISARRI (BERNSTEIN)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.