In an era when chef-driven restaurants are leading the pack, Jonathan Eismann, owner of the legendary Pacific Time, has decided to diversify and bring to Miami’s food scene two simple and easy restaurants with great personality and vibe: Q American Barbeque and Fin. Eismann’s new ventures stray from the high-end dining experience he is known for, focusing only on delivering a fun time and serving great food at reasonable prices. His goal is to make “the west end of the Design District,” as he calls it, the place to be: Pacific Time, Fin, Q and Eismann’s Pizza Volante are all within a one-block area. It will no longer be about “whose flavors I want to have today,” but more “what I am in the mood for today.”
Adjoining spaces Q and Fin share a kitchen and a creator, but their flavors and appearances couldn’t be more different from each other. The look of Fin is Nantucket-meets-Key West. Vibrant oranges and greens stand out against a white beadboard background, starfishes and seashells rest against the wall, and black-and-white pictures of Miamians fishing in the bay are displayed throughout. Its concept is very simple yet particular: If it wasn’t caught within 48 hours, it will not be served. Eismann makes use of his expertise in seafood preparation and offers a local-only menu, resulting in a consistently rotating selection. The flavors are fresh and dance in your mouth, with dishes like “Caught This Morning Off South Beach” yellowtail in lemon curry with coconut water, “Last of Season” Chokoloskee stone-crab cake with a mustard and horseradish rémoulade and “Today’s” amberjack with broccoli rabe and ruby red grapefruit.
By contrast, Q has an old-American feel, from the blackboard listing the schedule of the Southern rock ’n’ roll bands playing there each week to the deliciously sweet smell of the smoker. True to its name, Q American Barbeque offers regional flavors from Texas to the Carolinas. This is comfort food like no other: pit wings with a guava pasilla-chili sauce that you can’t help but pour on everything; inventive sandwiches like North Carolina-style pulled-pork sliders, Brandt natural-beef and -andouille sliders, and brisket sloppy joes; Kansas City baby-back ribs with a peanut sauce; and corn bread and Texas pit beans. And don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and dig in: This is down-home barbecue at its best.
Fin versus Q: “The idea behind Fin is simple. It is a restaurant serving fish caught in the past 48 hours. That’s it. On the other hand, Q has a deep personality. It transports you. Q is such a Southern thing, while Fin is a Miami thing.”
Coast-to-coast BBQ: “I am neither a historian nor an expert in barbecue. However, I am a great cook, understand the cooking process and have the best equipment. We are calling it American barbecue because it is not just one style—it’s everything. I’ll take the liberty of saying that it’s OK to group a lot of these barbecues together because it is now a regional American cuisine.”
Smokin’: “I want that man from the Carolinas who knows how to make a mean barbecue to come into my kitchen totally suspicious. Then he’ll see that we have built a legit barbecue kitchen! We have an Aztec wood-burning grill, I built my own cold smokehouse in here and we have a Bewley barbecue pit. It’s beautiful.”
Rib ticklers: “Q to me is ribs, ribs and ribs. The dry-rubbed spareribs that we make with a secret molasses concoction are absolutely delicious. We also put a little bit of glaze on them. They pull off the bone easily and are real meaty and juicy. I love them!”
Get ’em while they’re fresh: “I garnered much of my reputation by being an extremely good fish cook with a light touch. So at Fin I am going to serve four types of fish per night, which will depend on what my local guys bring in. The dishes will probably change as the day goes by and we run out of a particular fish.”
Head trip: “I bought some bay shrimp this morning that were still kicking in the ice. They just pulled them out today off of Key Biscayne. When we popped their heads off—because we are serving them popcorn-style—the heads were still moving. That is fresh!”
Small is beautiful: “Fin has only 32 seats; it follows the trend of small box restaurants with a lot of attention. I have two cooks who work with me at this restaurant and don’t do anything else. They clean the fish, cook it, tell me if something doesn’t look right, and make sure that everything is ready. That is all they have to do. Fin is about simplicity, attention and freshness.”
Flavors of Fin: “Since we have the Aztec wood-burning grill we’ll cook some things there, like the salmon. But we will mostly be steaming and sautéing. We sauté slowly and don’t pan-fry. All sides will be organic and local: potatoes, broccoli, local greens. Most everything will be cooked with organic butter, great olive oils, lemon and herbs. It is not complicated. The fish is the star.”