The Vagabond: Cocktails, Food and Conversation

This article should really be entitled, 30under30eat30dishes, as that is basically what when down in a four-hour time period at The Vagabond restaurant. If you have been living under a rock, you may have missed the buzz surrounding this new hip eatery in the 1950’s Miami Modern Hotel, The Vagabond on 73rd and Biscayne.

Opened less than 4 months and under the artistic direction of restaurateur/partner, Alvaro Perez Miranda and the creative and innovative chef, Alex Chang, The Vagabond is a true foodie destination.  MIAbites featured The Vagabond ( read article here ) while the restaurant was still under construction, and the finished product is true to it's Mid- Century roots. Check out some Before and After pics below.

MIAbites had the opportunity to experience The Vagabond with 30 under 30 influencers, Mandy Baca, 27, passionate Miami history buff and author of two books, The Sizzling History of Miami Cuisine, and Discovering Vintage Miami, Chef Bradley Kilgore 28, of past exec chef turns at Azul and J&G Grill and currently helming his hot new restaurant, Alter in Wynwood, and Chef Alex Chang, 25, formerly from LA, subject of documentary, PALADAR, and doing some pretty innovative cooking at the helm of The Vagabond.

It was a spirited evening, indeed, as conversation bounced from the Mango Gang, to current food scene to the future of Miami’s fast changing food landscape.

The food and creative cocktails (wonderfully curated by Vagabond beverage guru, Jack Colombo) kept flowing as we basically ordered everything on the menu, rudely reaching across the table with our forks and laughing about how obsessive foodies eat.   And while this is not a traditional restaurant review, we were impressed by each and every dish, for it’s inventive combinations, and presentation.  (View complete Flickr gallery by GourmandJ ( )

Stand outs included: The fresh zucchini salad with pistachio and tarragon, Peanuts and Chapulines, a spicy snack featuring grasshoppers in lime juice, salt, scallion and cilantro garnish.  

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Roasted Baby Carrots lightly glazed in butter over a hazelnut mole, Pan seared Beef heart marinated in sake, soy sauce and mirin and accented with a warm egg yolk.

The Buttermilk fried quail and the sweetbread Milanese with mustard frill.  Even dessert was impressive with a decadent chocolate torte and a light and puffy cloud-like pistachio cake with fennel panna cotta. 

The insightful conversation began when I asked each to pick three words to describe their thoughts about Miami.  Mandy, who grew up in West Kendall, the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants jumped at the chance to laud Miami for being a melting pot, ever changing and really coolBrad, who moved here to work as sous chef at Azul 4 years ago before moving on to be executive chef for Jean George’s J&G Grill, felt Miami was fun, growing really fast, and being from the Midwest, called out the wonderful weather . Alex, the “newbie” of the group, being from LA and here less than a year, was still awed by Miami’s scene, felt it was fun, young, and Latin.

I asked Brad about what he learned working for big restaurants and big names.  He said he valued his experiences both at Azul and J&G, and how it took a year before he was able to add his personal touch to the J&G menu,  get “Real Estate on the menu” is how he phrased it.  He is excited to be opening his own concept at Alter and not be limited in his creatively developing the menu.  He is enjoying the down time before the opening and is appreciating being able to experiment on his own time.  He also stressed that today’s chefs, with challenges to train and mentor the mid-level talent in the kitchen, really have to be a teacher as much as a chef.   I glanced over to Alex, who was positioned in front of the open kitchen at The Vagabond, speaking encouragingly to the line and checking each and every dish before it was served.  He was the conductor of an orchestra that numbered 7-8 assistant and sous chefs.   So young, yet so confident.

Mandy chimed in that she felt the food scene had grown more in the past four years than in the past 20 years and credited innovative chefs like Kris Wessel, Timon Balloo and Michelle Bernstein with setting the bar for this growth even a few years before that.  She also felt that this community of chef’s….encouraging and supporting each other would propel Miami into a food destination the likes of Portland, LA and even NYC.

Even Miamians were leaving the city or the beach and heading to the suburbs for great food, she cited Finka Table and Tap, Oishi Thai and Chef Adrianne’s as two examples of   “will travel for food”.

Alex, when he could briefly step away from the kitchen (the restaurant was full) ,said  that Miami felt authentic and proud of it’s emerging food scene.   He felt that Miami diners appreciated chefs who took chances, who challenged themselves with ingredients and combinations.  Brad, agreed, feeling that the young chef community were passionate about trying new things, taking risks with ingredients, and could actually be looked at as artists.

A profound moment settled over us as Brad then said, “ There are many people that are artists in this world,  yet very few have the opportunity to create a living from this artistry… what other professional artists have the chance to show their work everyday? “ .

We all sat silent for a moment, taking this in and reflecting that yes… we were in the presence of young Miami influencers that were passionate about their craft and on a mission to work together to grow Miami into a world-class food destination. 

The Vagabond Restaurant at The Vagabond Hotel 

7319 Biscayne Blvd.

Miami , Fl.  

( Photo Credit: Javier Ramirez- GourmandJ and Paula Echevarria )