This post was produced by Open Media Miami a community news partner of the Miami Herald.
On the freshly painted grey wall of Blue Collar, a new comfort food restaurant opening in the MiMo District on Jan. 13, hang six old and beat up metallic lunchboxes, the kind used by construction workers in the 1950s.
They may not look like much to the casual diner, but for chef and owner Daniel Serfer, who found and ordered each box off the Internet, they represent everything his new—and first—restaurant is about: capturing that relaxed, spontaneous feeling of happiness that comes with sharing a meal with family or friends.
“I wanted a place just to be the kind of place that is super casual, with the kind of food that you would expect at the best restaurant, where you can go and feel really comfortable,” said the 31-year-old chef.
Serfer says the name of the restaurant comes from conversations he had with friends. He describes himself as a “middle class Jewish kid that grew up in Miami,” and said that in his peer group, everyone was expected to become doctors, lawyers or accountants. He tried that route, and even got a bachelor’s degree in political science, but decided to pursue his passion for cooking while studying for the Law School Admission Test.
When all his white collar friends would start talking about their careers, he would grow bored, and quickly veer the conversation in a different direction: “I would try to be a little sarcastic and obnoxious and be like ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about I’m just a blue collar cook.’”
The career change ended up being the right move for Serfer. In just two years working under chef Allen Susser at Chef Allen’s in Aventura (since closed), he was running the whole kitchen, developing the menu with Susser and hiring the staff. Before opening Blue Collar, Serfer was working as executive chef at the restaurant inside the posh Tribeca Grand Hotel in New York City.
Serfer’s goal at Blue Collar is to create an intimate space where people can “bring their flip-flops and their friends” and share a good meal.
Blue Collar definitely has the “cozy” factor going for it; the restaurant is about the size of a South Beach studio apartment. Located on a storefront of the Biscayne Inn motel, in the former space of the American Noodle Bar, Blue Collar’s décor looks sleek and modern yet manages to retain the warmth of a diner: an open kitchen, varnished wood-like tables, retro white mod chairs, laminate wood floors, and of course the vintage lunchboxes. Seven tables comprise the inside seating area, with a few more tables on an outdoor patio facing Biscayne Boulevard.
Serfer hopes the food, coupled with the warm and inviting atmosphere will make Blue Collar a neighborhood gathering spot.
“For me food is one of the most powerful ways to attract memories,” said Serfer. “When I eat a really good prime rib, it takes me back to when I was a child and my mom used to make it for me, I can remember feeling so happy and satisfied—that’s the type of feeling I want people to experience at Blue Collar.”
As for the menu, Serfer brings to the table his Jewish background with dishes like the homemade apple sauce-slathered Chanukah Latkes (fried potato pancakes), along with some of his childhood favorites, like ribs (which are available as baby back, short rib, prime rib or spare rib, depending on the daily special) and some of the Latin cuisine that influenced his cooking style, like tostones topped with vaca frita.