Morgans on the Beach Updates a Classic
By Brett Graff
Morgans on the Beach, in the Purdy Avenue space previously occupied by Joe Allen
|TOP: An update on a classic: Morgans’ jumbo lump crab Cobb salad. BOTTOM: Table 5 affords a view of the bar while maintaining a degree of privacy.|
Here in Miami, we are well-accustomed to watching restaurants open and close. But we typically welcome the new and memorialize the old with offhand verbal crumbs such as, “Oh, it’s where Tuscan Steak used to be.” But when Joe Allen Restaurant shut down to make way for Morgans on the Beach, it was definitely cause for pause. After all, to call Joe Allen’s legions of regular patrons “devotees” is an understatement. Publishing magnate Philip Levine, who lunches there daily, pleaded with new owner Barclay Graebner to please keep the La Scala salad on the menu. And the early birds practically unified in protest until the new incarnation agreed to continue serving calf’s liver. “I don’t want to make them angry, so if it pleases them, they can have it,” says Graebner.
What has happened here at 1787 Purdy Avenue is that a rising star of a restaurant (spawned from an original location in Midtown) has replaced an aging icon. But even though much in the kitchen is the same (including the chef, some of the staff, and the pizza ovens) and the regulars continue to occupy their favorite tables and bar stools, Morgans on the Beach is, quite simply, transforming the Miami Beach lunch experience. The attitude here is now more relaxed, the décor brighter, and—despite the few favorite plates that were successfully salvaged by an elite group of regulars—the menu has evolved. And while change is always tough, it’s since taken very little time for the locals to get excited, all things considered.
“I loved Joe Allen because it was the anti-South Beach establishment,” says Vanessa Poskanzer, a vice president at PR firm Harrison & Shriftman (which doesn’t represent the restaurant, but does have an office located on nearby Lincoln Road). “But it was old and stale at times. They were smart to keep some Joe Allen favorites. But the feel is refreshed.”
To start—for better or worse—families are more welcome now, and casual white paper covers the tables, a handy element when business-lunchers find themselves in sudden need of materials on which to jot ideas. Says Graebner, “No one is better than anyone else, and everyone is welcome. People can come in a bathing suit or workout clothes. There’s no dress code.” (Although you might want to look presentable.)
photographs by bill kearney (exterior); greg clark (mussels, portrait)