Caribbean Culture and Cuisine both come together in Miami, Florida.
Floribbean food that reflects the traditions of the Greater and Lesser Antilles can be found everywhere in the city. The miles of beautiful coastline that spans all of Miami Beach could almost rival Caribbean white sand beaches on islands like Aruba, Barbados, or Saint Lucia.
Great weather and beautiful tropical scenery also means that rum cocktails are popular in the city. The mojito may have been invented in Cuba, but some say that it was in South Florida where the art form was perfected and it’s easy to find authentic and exciting variations in most bars.
With so much Caribbean flavor in Miami, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Florida borders both Alabama and Georgia, two States that are well-known for country-style Southern cooking. It’s possible to find traditional Southern classics all across Florida, but finding any in Miami Beach has always been a challenge.
Local celebrity chef Richard Hale decided to change that when he opened Bird and Bone, a Southern-styled Restaurant at The Confidante; a luxury boutique hotel at Mid-Beach.
The restaurant is a collaboration between the hotel and the chef, designed to allow guests to experience quality dining in a unique setting.
Hales’ claim to fame is actually Asian cuisine. His midtown Miami restaurant was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where host Guy Fieri sampled his sous vide duck and declared that “Chef Richard is the Ninja of Flavortown and Sakaya Kitchen is the Dojo”
His other restaurant Black Brick serves Miami-influenced Chinese classics like General Tso’s Floridian gator as well as bao buns and dim sum with fresh Florida produce.
Chef Hale honed his skills in Asia after graduating from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. Spending months exploring Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Korea, Hong Kong, China, and Japan he would often work in kitchens for free just to pick up the local culinary traditions.
Moving from Asian Fusion to Southern-Inspired is strangely logical since spicy fried chicken is a favorite across both cultures. One of the signature items at Bird and Bone is the Nashville Hot chicken sandwich; the result of a journey across the South, from “Savannah to Asheville to Nashville to Austin and Dallas” in search of the perfect recipe.
An invitation to dine at The Confidante meant that I could sample some of Richard Hales’ fare while also exploring the hotel’s beautiful Art Deco interior, backyard and beachfront area.
The Confidante is part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt; it’s a seaside hotel inspired by both a friend’s beach house and Miami’s glamorous past.
The outdoor seating at Bird and Bone makes perfect use of the hotel’s patio area; Cool and constant breeze blows in, and the two heated pool and beach-chic cabanas are just a short distance away.
The restaurant is designed to resemble a countryside farmhouse, and the ingredients used are all sourced from small independent farms and organic butchers.
The cocktail menu keeps it country by making extensive use of American Whisky. Both the Ginger Peach Sangria and Apple Cider Sangria use moonshine, and the Blackberry Bourbon Iced Tea swaps the white whisky for Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
After a refreshing cocktail by the pool it’s time for a Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich! The most famous place for this sandwich is also the place where it was invented; Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. Legend has it that the girlfriend of Thomas Prince III made him fried chicken that was purposely too spicy as a way to get revenge! He went on to create a recipe that’s considered the gold standard for Nashville Hot Chicken.
Just like with pizza in New York City, the best hot chicken can be found in Nashville, but Bird and Bone was listed by Food Network as having some of the best of this Nashville-Style poultry outside of the State.
Zesty chicken tenders that are perfectly crisp yet juicy on the inside sit on a brioche bun from Zak the Baker. This Wynwood based bakery was called the best in the city by the Miami New Times shortly after opening, the accolades have been rolling in ever since.
Local honey, crunchy pickles, and creamy comeback sauce keep every bite interestingly complex. Sweet and tart notes perfectly compliment the spicy chicken tenders.
After trying a Bird and Bone specialty, it’s time to see Richard Hales’ take on Florida’s most famous sandwich. Historian Glenn Westfall calls the Cuban sandwich a dish “born in Cuba and educated in Key West.”
What started as a humble ham and cheese sandwich made for Cuban workers in Key West in the 1930s is now the official sandwich of Tampa and the unofficial sandwich of the entire State of Florida.
The Bird and Bone take on this sandwich is called the Cubano Grilled Cheese. Both slow cooked ham and pulled pork are generously layered on medianoche bread along with pickles, Swiss cheese, pickled red onions and house mustard. Simple and delicious!
The spiky-haired mayor of Flavortown called Richard Hales the ninja of Flavortown, Bird and Bone also shows that he might just be the Samurai of Sandwichville.
Let the North argue about New York City hot dogs vs Chicago hot dogs. These sandwiches from the south are much more fun!