Conceived as a way to jump-start dining out during the post-9/11 economic downturn, particularly in the slow summer months, Miami Spice has evolved from a way to market the local culinary scene to visitors to a promotion that largely caters to residents.
“Miami Spice is part of the local lexicon,” Aedo said. “Everyone knows what that is, and thousands of people look forward to it.”
(Miami Spice is so much a part of the lexicon that it’s the name of the city’s new, undefeated Bikini Basketball Association team. “That’s flattering,” Aedo said with a laugh.)
The growing number of participating restaurants prompted an upgrade of the program’s website, ilovemiamispice.com, which now features a searchable database of restaurants as well as menus, chef biographies, food photos and links for reservations.
The restaurant promotion has spawned a number of “ Miami Temptations” offshoots like spa month (July-August), golf month (April) and live-music month (November).
“Obviously we still want to focus on showcasing Miami’s restaurants to visitors, but when we can get locals excited about our food and chefs, they become the best ambassadors for our region,” said the convention bureau’s Aedo.
Like Sisk at the Social Club, Edwin Mendez is using Miami Spice as an opportunity to roll out new menu items at Spartico at Coconut Grove’s Mayfair Hotel, where he is food and beverage manager.
Mendez said he hopes locals will take advantage of Miami Spice to try out Spartico chef Dario Correa’s new pastas and other Italian plates.
“We are changing 80 percent of our menu on Aug. 15, right in the middle of Spice,” he said. “We think it’s a great chance to let our regular customers check it out, and hopefully they’ll be back for more.”