Prism Tastes: Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill
April 24, 2017Pola Bunster
When we think about Miami, we think about something outdoors. Something welcoming and open to vibrant and natural surroundings. It seems pretty ironic that there are actually few representations of that in this city, and the search for a good “hang” is eternal. When The Wynwood Yard opened in 2015, Miami gained a gem whose level of friendliness has been unmatched. That same community-style magic has expanded to Charcoal Garden Bar + Grill, its back-to-the-roots neighbor.
You can either stumble upon the eatery by way of The Wynwood Yard’s garden or off the street through the doors of a shipping container, standing alone in a lush urban space. Immediately you notice something different. The Josper grill-led establishment is both low-key and high-class, if that’s even possible. The atmosphere is the kind of breezy, trendy, comfortable spot Miami needs more of. What really surprises you is how the complexity of their menu is brought down to a level of innate understanding, with some of the friendliest staff around–Ken Lyon himself walks around, apron and all.
It’s Miami’s new home for comforting, classic flavors and a Mecca for anyone who loves sauces–with 17 different condiments, each one named after the place their taste emulates. Their seasonal menu reads “late spring” with an upcoming season that will bring unlikely pairings and bursts of flavor. The whole image of a gathering place where everyone has a seat at the table, where trained palettes can converge with soulfoodies–it’s everything you want from a fresh concept, and the difference here is that it actually hits the mark.
You make your way to the bar, one of four shipping container structures designed by Little River Box Co., and the blend of artisanal tile and painted steel intrigues you (if you haven’t been already). Other local collaborations to brag about include Zak the Baker, Florida-raised meats, Proper Sausages, daily fish caught in the keys, JoJo Tea, and more. Your drinks will feature hand-picked herbs from the shared garden, and the bartender will give your cocktail a shake with a smile. We started our meal off with Le Marigot–a dainty and colorful coupe, the classic Pimm’s Cup–my personal favorite, and the Charcoal Oaxacan–a light and smokey drink that detoxes you while you get intoxicated.
We then moved on to the feast to end all feasts. Starting with a duo of Cheese and Charcuterie boards, we drooled over their cornbread Skillet Bread–dripping butter and all, and the Smoked Fish Dip with house-made saltines–pro tip from Richard Mejia, Charcoal’s Bar Director: make sure to add the pickled onions to your cracker once dipped for the perfect bite. It must be noted here that although the menu isn’t brimming with the next generation of mind-boggling gastronomic creations, just because something is simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Simple means approachable. Simple means a deep understanding of the essentials in life that we all can share in. Simple is equal.
After that sympathetic culinary epiphany, we moved on to the main meal starting with their House Specialty, a light and airy version of an Egyption Kosheri with jasmine rice, cinnamon, and cardamom. I must say, for a restaurant that pushes their grilled meat options, it’s the veggies that really do the trick. Sizzling skillets of roasted Spring Greens, Vegetable Fruits oozing with juice and drizzled with addictive bread crumbs, and a house salad with flavorful local bacon. The Tiger Prawns are the size of your face, but it’s the Heritage Chicken and its perfectly crispy skin and tender meat that were branded into my mind hours after feasting.
We paired the aforementioned family-style delight with some of their distinctly unique condiments, highlights include: the Jalisco Mexico with chili d’arbol; the Catalonian, a Romesco; and the Spanish with saffron aioli. To top it all off we dove head first into the Deconstructed Key Lime Pie, a mason jar version of the South Florida favorite; and a beautiful Organic Strawberry and Rhubarb Pie as a palette cleanser. We got there ready to discover some new tastes, but left there feeling like we found a new home.
Photos by Fujifilm Girl.