Taste of Brickell: Hey, Guys, Why So Many Chains?
The fest is a great idea. But while checking out the list of participating restaurants, I couldn't help but notice a large portion of participating establishments are either part of a big chain or are owned by a large restaurant company -- usually with corporate headquarters outside Florida.
It's really not the fault of the Taste of Brickell organizers, who should be lauded for curating a list of restaurants solely in the neighborhood. It's that the area itself seems to be a magnet for chains.
Yes, there are some wonderful little restaurants in the Brickell area. Perricone's Marketplace & Café, Baru Urbano, and Dolores But You Can Call Me Lolita quickly come to mind. There are also some beautiful fine-dining establishments, such as Azul and Edge Steak & Bar. And, of course, there's Tobacco Road, the poster child for independently run establishments.
But there's also an inordinate amount of chains. You have to look only at Mary Brickell Village's directory to find P.F. Chang's, Rosa Mexicano, Blue Martini, the Oceanaire Seafood Room, and Fadó Irish Pub. Even restaurants that many people think are local are part of a much larger picture. Take, for example, Balans. It poses as a neighborhood café, but its corporate office is in London (home to ten other Balans locations, by the way).
Take a stroll down Brickell and you'll be able to dine at the Capital Grille, Morton's, Truluck's, and Gordon Biersch.
One can argue that the cost of real estate has made it tough for independent restaurants to pay the rents that Brickell commands and that only large chains can afford to thrive there. But that argument doesn't really hold water when you consider there are so many fine independently run restaurants turning out great food in Miami Beach and midtown.
But there is hope for the area. Altamare chef/partner Simon Stojanovic is working on a tapas-influenced restaurant in the neighborhood, and favorite local hangout Burger & Beer Joint opened a Brickell outpost. We're hoping other local Miami chefs follow that lead.
Though there's nothing wrong with larger chains, we should all strive to support our growing (and fantastic) independent and local restaurant scene.
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