Prism Tastes: Sherwoods Bistro & Bar

June 19, 2017Pola Bunster

From the lush, chartreuse oaks of Buena Vista to the vibrant hues of Little Haiti, the shifts in landscape along NE 2nd Ave make a lasting impression. As you make your way into Little River and its hugging neighbor of El Portal, you’ll notice a few stark changes. First, the former Federal Reserve Bank that has sat untouched for years as a remnant of the area’s bustling 1950s past is now deep into becoming Miami’s first food hall, The Citadel. But most notably, just across the street from the action is another key player in the neighborhood–a beacon of what the entire city should have more of: Sherwood’s Bistro & Bar.

When walking into the new endeavor by the powerhouses behind Ace Props and Harivel Studios, and the culinary minds behind Morgan’s Restaurant, the first thing that strikes you is how, after less than a month, they’ve managed to make the place feel as though it’s been a neighborhood mainstay for decades. Maybe it’s the breathtaking interior or the unparalleled warmth of its staff, but Sherwoods’ charm oozes out into the the streets and welcomes you as one of the family.

History is a key player behind the concept, the former Notre Dame Medical Center being transformed into a bistro that wouldn’t be out of place in New Orleans or even Brooklyn. Hues of green and various woods blend together under the collection of artifacts transplanted into the restaurant by Harivel Studios. Floor tiles from the French embassy in Portugal, wood columns from a house in Nantucket, tin ceilings from a Kentucky school, Belgian bathroom fixtures, and the shutters, furniture, and even the round ceiling lights (which were once on a train) are from France. All this beauty that spans across oceans and decades is coming together perfectly under one roof. What they do isn’t design, it’s magic with soul.

Everything at Sherwoods has a story, urging you to create your own epic tale. It’s a case study in preservation, from the space to the people behind it. Harivel Studios has been committed to working with the same craftspeople, from upholsters and welders to sign painters, for the past 20 years through their various projects at Ace Props. They’re devoted to not only keeping our city’s history alive, but unearthing the vibrant attributes that are entirely specific and encapsulating of Miami. With a profound respect for the area and the city’s past, every surface and square-foot they touch is thoughtfully curated to show that Miami is already at the caliber of uniqueness we’ve been hoping to eventually become.

Fawn over the “Bird Room” dedicated to the bird sanctuary as you walk in, and get drenched in natural light from the large and inviting windows. Help yourself to some complimentary cheese at the larger-than-life Parmesan wheel, make sure to pick up a piece (or four) of the freshly-baked baguette drizzled with honey. As you settle into your spot at the Magnolia Bar, you’ll immediately notice something missing. There’s not one big liquor name in the house, only a collection of small batches from around the world–and it shows. The cocktails are perfectly balanced and not too adventurous. Rightly priced (Did somebody say $6 happy hour Old Fashioned?) and refreshing, it’s one of the best parts about Sherwoods and of those there are many.

Now onto the food. If you haven’t picked up on it already, Sherwoods is entirely inspired on the neighborhood, making nods to El Portal and Little River everywhere, even donning the same name as a nearby forest. One place this really shines is on the menu, where shared plates are billed as “For the Tribe”–a tribute to the Native American burial ground just a few blocks away and, like the Dylan Egon mural on the entrance wall, an appreciation of the surround Tequesta history. It may be seen as a quirky alternative to “family-style” but its ties to local history like these that can’t go unnoticed. The fare itself builds off of the classic dishes that can usually be found on neighborhood bistro menus, with fresh ingredients and cheeky alterations.

Once you’re cheesed out, kick off the meal with the Daily Crudo, which is always refreshing and bursting with flavor. The Garden Quesadilla is all character and no meat, and the Little River Ramen is exactly what you need on a rainy day. We’re big fans of the Chiefs Bowl whose curry flare enlivens the soul, and the Roots & Shoots for a filling veggie-friendly option. The Bistro Burger is perfect as is, just the way a classic should be, and the All Day Dinner is a great roast for a big (and hungry) group. The cookies are really where it’s at, mostly because we’re addicted to anything gooey and filled with chocolate chips, but also because Barclay Graebner is a culinary master and her incredible baked goods are made fresh every day and they taunt you in display cases when you walk in.

With our city’s current creative renaissance, everyone is looking for the identity Miami is poised to own. It’s funny how the answers about our future can all be found by taking a deep dive into the past–and what a beautiful one it is. Thanks to Harivel Studios and places like Sherwoods Bistro & Bar, Miami will always have a connection to what has helped define it culturally. They’ve created a space for locals and travelers to appreciate it and ensure its survival for decades to come.

Photos by: Fujigilm Girl.