Distinct American eateries draw crowds

Posted May 3, 2013


Gastropubs, or small local establishments that serve beer or food, are quickly making their way to the Magic City. The Federal, Food Drink and Provisions and Whisk, though both distinct eateries, have sprouted on south Florida’s neighborhoods during recent years, and simultaneously share some characteristics of gastropubs.

Roasted chicken

Roasted chicken

In several of the best gastropubs of the nation, which are typically found in large cities like New York City or San Francisco, emblematic entrées on the menu include some sort of mashed potatoes, at times, chicken and waffles, and biscuits.

Many of these eateries include variations of the same theme, but, at the same time, these locations usually contain surprises for restaurateurs to enjoy.

At both The Federal and at Whisk, visitors can enjoy similar environments and atmospheres, but still expect to find some surprises on the menu. The food offered at these venues, though distinct, does provide rich flavors that are representative of gourmet American restaurants.

And, while Whisk does not specialize in alcoholic beverages, its dishes can be comparable to the other aforementioned establishment.

Tucked away in a dimly lit strip mall located off Biscayne Boulevard sits a local, award-winning establishment, named The Federal Food, Drink and Provisions.

Though the location, not physically impressive or otherwise notable, has an outdoor terrace decorated with vines and sparkling yellow lights. It seats about 20 people. The wooden, rustic tables are decorated with plain paper tablecloth and lit with small votive candles. That rustic, almost Southern style of decorating is typical of these gastropub-like, Southern American-dish loving eateries.

The Federal opened its doors in late 2011, but is just recently appearing on the radar for foodies all over the city.

Inside, the rustic atmosphere continues to lure new and old visitors with its New Orleans’ bayou-style charm. The indoor seating area has both booths and tables alike, matching those located outdoors.

If the restaurant is serving a large crowd of people, which is usually the case, even on weekdays, stop by the bar. It surely won’t disappoint, as it’s loaded with an extensive array of selected wines and exquisite, fine crafted beers.

It’s not unusual for the owner to greet you at the door, alongside the hostess. The serving team at The Federal, comprised of no more than a few waiters and a host or hostess (depending on the shift) always greets visitors with a friendly smile and cheerful demeanor.

Given the recent popularity for gastropubs, particularly those similar to The Federal, reservations are highly recommended. Step inside the restaurant on a Tuesday night and be ready to wait some time, unless you have made reservations beforehand.

After being seated for a late-night dinner at around 9 p.m., I ordered a variety of small plates as starters to share with my party of four.

Jar o duck

Jar O’ duck

Among those small appetizers ordered was the Jar O’ Duck ($12) and the Buttermilk Bizkit ($5 each). Both plates, considered “Federal Classics,” tasted so pleasantly different.

The Jar O’ Duck contained a jar filled with duck pâté. The jar, carefully arranged on a wooden cutting board, was well accompanied by the following diverse items: small, toasted bread pieces, a smudge of roasted marshmallow fluff and a few small slices of roasted, candied sweet potato.

The biscuits, on the other hand, were served alone. They were toasted to perfection, however, and were warm, fleecy and happily buttered on the interior.

As an entrée, I selected a typical American dish – roasted chicken. At The Federal, the roasted chicken is also known as the Roast Toasty Airline Chicken Breast ($18). The plate contains two small pieces of chicken, served on the bone. The two delicate chicken breasts are placed on a bed of applewood smoke creamed kale. For someone who dislikes kale, it surely complemented the chicken well. The Federal’s version of the roasted chicken was another representation of a delectable dish.

Still, despite all these dishes, I left some room for dessert. My group and I ordered several small dessert dishes, including the S’Mores jar ($9), and the goat cheese cheesecake ($10). Both were fantastic options. The goat cheese cheesecake had a subtle taste, and wasn’t too strong or creamy. On the other hand, the S’Mores jar contained several surprises, including a thick graham cracker crust located in the center of the jar.

Jar of smores

Jar of smores

The service of the location is impeccable – waiters are always tending to your needs, and they often provide their insight into menu options.

Prices are reasonable, ranging from $15 to $20 for large, family-portioned plates that each serve about two to three people.

There isn’t a specific dress code required for this restaurant – the laidback location allows for customers to come as informally or formally dressed as they wish. A wine and beverage list is located behind the food menu. A dessert menu is available upon request.

The restaurant is also open for brunch on Sundays. The location, however, is closed on Mondays. Still, it’s a great spot to check out if you’re looking into experimenting the typical American cuisine with a twist that seems to be appearing on the radar all around the country.

A similar restaurant, Whisk, opened its doors to the public in late 2010. Whisk, nestled in the heart of South Miami, is perhaps the area’s best-kept secret. The location is small, and opened after its owners’ catering business proved a high enough demand for a restaurant. Still, the establishment seats approximately 60 people.

Though the hosts or hostesses (all depending on the time and the person’s shifts) are nowhere near as sweet, polite and helpful as those that work at The Federal, they do their best to seat the large amount of customers they receive as quickly as possible.

This restaurant, though not exactly a gastropub, does share some of the same characteristics of Antebellum, old-southern charm that The Federal enjoys. Whisk, more of an American tavern, seems to make South Miami, even for the duration of a meal, seem like it’s really a city in Alabama instead of a South Florida suburb.

The outside of the simple building is adorned by two classic wooden rocking chairs, which are key to demonstrating the plantation, southern-feel the entire establishment boasts.

Take a step inside and witness the “whisk” chandeliers: light fixtures adorned with whisks right inside them. There’s a simple bar area, where customers can comfortably enjoy a meal, and there are also three long community tables that can seat parties of up to 12 people. You don’t have to visit the restaurant in a large group to sit at these tables, though. On days when the restaurant is especially full (which usually happens on weekend nights or at lunchtime on weekdays), you can choose to sit there and enjoy a meal alongside a stranger.

The craftsmanship of Whisk’s plates can be witnessed by the chefs’ attention to detail. A classic favorite dish of mine, as an appetizer, is definitely the bacon wrapped, Gorgonzola stuffed medjool dates ($6.95). The dish brings four delectable dates, wrapped in bacon, held together by toothpicks. They’re irresistible: tangy, sweet, salty and sour, all at once.

As a main course, I almost always decide select one of the location’s classic, yet innovative salad options. I choose the roasted turkey and dried cranberry salad ($12.95, regular portion, or $8.95, appetizer portion). The salad is accompanied by several garnishes, not only including the obvious roasted turkey and dried cranberries, but also glazed walnuts, goat cheese and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

The service at Whisk, though not really that remarkable, is still somewhat acceptable.

Prices at this location, too, are extremely reasonable – the most expensive plate on the menu costs about $23. At this casual spot, it’s not uncommon to spot a college crowd enjoying beers over a couple of bacon-wrapped dates. So, therefore, a dress code is not enforced.

A dessert menu is available upon request, too, but none of the options on the menu are really worth trying. After approximately 15 visits to this location, I can say that none of the desserts served at Whisk really are worth the calories.

The restaurant, unfortunately, is closed Sundays. Therefore, reservations are recommended for Friday and Saturday evenings.

Parking at this hotspot is generally difficult during its peak hours. Expect a wait time to find a parking spot and a wait time to land a table to accommodate your party. The restaurant does not accept reservations and the parking lot does not offer valet services, unlike The Federal.

The eatery, despite the aforementioned downsides, is definitely a must-visit location. It’s a hidden gem, because despite its seemingly obvious popularity among the crowd that’s usually gathered at the location, many people don’t seem to remember it exists. But, it’s a great spot to catch lunch or grab a casual weekend dinner with friends.

WHAT: The Federal Food, Drink and Provisions
WHERE: 5132 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, Fla. 33137

  • Mondays closed
  • 6 to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
  • 6 to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
  • 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.

PHONE NUMBER: 305-758-9559
PRICE RANGE: Dishes range from $5 to $28. The brunch menu contains similar pricing.

  • The location accepts credit cards.
  • Parking is free. Valet parking is available on the weekends.

RATINGS (out of five stars):

  • SERVICE: 5


WHAT: Whisk Gourmet Food and Catering
WHERE: 7382 SW 56th Ave., South Miami, Fla. 33143

  • 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
  • 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Sundays closed.

PHONE NUMBER: 786-268-8350
PRICE RANGE: Dishes range from $5 to $23.

  • The location accepts credit cards.
  • Parking is free.
  • The location does not accept reservations.

RATINGS (out of five stars):

  • SERVICE: 3.5