Garcia's Fresh Seafood
By Suzy Buckley
While quick to admit his family’s namesake business—Garcia’s Seafood Grille & Fish Market—is in “the most random location,” Luis Garcia can’t argue with success. The laid-back haunt his father, Esteban, established on the Miami River has wowed discriminating pescephiles since it opened in 1992. These days, Luis and brother Esteban Jr. are taking business to the next level, adding an indoor, upstairs bar and dining room in addition to the waterside oversize picnic tables that made the place famous. Garcia’s is best known for its bustling lunch scene, but also serves its day-caught seafood and sumptuous sides to an early dinner crowd. (It turns out there really aren’t that many fish in the sea, so they close up at nine.)
THE LAST NAME IN MIAMI SEAFOOD: “My dad left Cuba in 1958 when the government asked him to turn over his fishing boats. When he arrived in America, he worked as a fisherman and planned to open his own seafood restaurant one day. He saved up money, set up shop and eventually bought the land. We’ve been here [first with the fish market] in the same spot on the Miami River for the past 44 years. When my father became ill, my brother, Esteban Jr., ran this place like a champion every day. In 2005, I decided it was time for me to assume some responsibility as well. I wake up in the morning and feel an unbelievable obligation: After all, it could be called the Miami River Fish House, but it’s not. My dad gave it the Garcia name.”
LESS IS MORE: “I hire good people and I catch great fish—lobster, snapper, grouper, stone crabs, yellowtail snapper, shrimp, all the local fish. As my dad used to say, ‘When it’s fresh, keep it simple.’ You’ll eat it grilled or fried, but trust me: You’re not going to want to add too much to it.”
MOM’S HOMEMADE: “My mom, Maria Luisa Garcia, is in the kitchen every day. Nothing here comes out of the box, in a bag or frozen. My mom is grumpy until the crunchy tostones, yellow rice, sweet plantains, mashed potatoes and coleslaw come out just the way she wants them to come out. She’s the heartbeat of this place.”
GROUND ZERO FOR GOURMANDS: “In 20 years, I want my [future] kids to say that their dad was busting his ass and made it this far. The greatest compliment is when I see [Miami chefs] Michelle Bernstein and Michael Schwartz having lunch here. That means a lot to me. You’re ultimately measured—and validated—by your colleagues.”
FRESH OFF THE BOAT: “I’m very blessed. I get to work and our own boats are bringing me fish that was in the water 20 minutes ago. All you have to do is come to Garcia’s, eat our fish, and you’re going to say, ‘I get it! I know why this place is still around.’”
IMAGE: Second-generation restaurateur Luis Garcia is maintaining and expanding his family’s classic fish house on the Miami River.
Potograph by gio alma
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