Morgans on the Beach Updates a Classic
By Brett Graff
|The cocktail menu features a lemon basil margarita, made with Don Julio tequila, Grand Marnier, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and basil.|
The space, however, is certainly dressed up. Walls are coated in a calming lavender, and support pillars are squared and mirrored. Lucite chandeliers above the bar are wavy and modern, serving to light up an ornate custom wine rack. The place still serves liquor (don’t panic) and lists cocktail specials on all menus, including those for breakfast and lunch.
The meals here are comfortable and eclectic, prepared by chef Paul Suriel—who has returned after spending a year at Soyka and has skillfully managed to steer the fare in a direction that is somehow both familiar and fresh. He has added new pizzas and has gone back to basics with sandwich offerings such as pulled pork sliders, gooey mac and cheese, and popcorn shrimp. He steps it up with Prince Edward Island mussels, a jumbo lump crab Cobb salad, and a tuna tartare with avocado. For dessert, the decadence includes buttery Rice Krispies treats and hot beignets.
“It’s the way I think food should look,” says Graebner. “Fresh, big, and good for you… well, maybe not the desserts. But we make everything right here, even our stocks and sauces.”
|Chef Paul Suriel|
Graebner is a mother of five who entered the South Beach restaurant scene nearly 16 years ago, at age 19, with the opening of The Blue Dog Café on Española Way. After selling it in 2002, she launched a dessert and pastry business, delivering fresh-baked goods to the dozens of hotels lining Collins Avenue, but she eventually grew weary of the 1 am wake-up time for morning deliveries. Morgans Midtown followed, located in a renovated 1930s residence with an expansive front porch that’s usually spilling over with patrons. Its new sister location on the Beach has a completely separate menu (Graebner didn’t care to compete with herself), which has her Wynwood loyalists complaining. “They want to know why they can’t get cornbread at the new place,” laughs Graebner.
Situated on Purdy Avenue just off the Venetian Causeway and a stone’s throw from the bay, “the location is off to the side,” says Miami restaurant consultant Mel G., who’s lent a hand on projects ranging from Scala and Miss Yip’s Chinese Café to Wynwood’s forthcoming Bloom under Four Seasons Hotel Miami chef Joey Tuaez. “But assuming the food gives folks a mouthful to talk about, the newer restaurant’s future will surely be bright.” Without the foot traffic of Ocean Drive or Lincoln Road, the place will depend entirely on locals. Art collector and entrepreneur Michelle Rubell says she much prefers to park at Sunset Harbor and stroll those sidewalks than tackle any of the hightraffic tourist destinations on the beach. “It’s a niche area,” she says. “I see it as a place that can grow. And even if it doesn’t, you have a homey restaurant with good service. People will go.” 1787 Purdy Ave., Miami Beach, 305-397-8753
photographs by bill kearney (exterior); greg clark (mussels, portrait)
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.