Biscayne Tavern bills itself as downtown Miami’s latest neighborhood gathering spot.
Accessible only through the sleek, white-marble lobby of the b2 hotel, with picture windows overlooking Biscayne Boulevard, its preppy, warm wood interior does promise a place where everybody might know your name.
A square wood-grain bar commands the center of the room, surrounded by chunky wood booths and tables. A blackboard lists a fine selection of craft and seasonal beers, from Tampa’s Cigar City Maduro to Jupiter’s Monk in the Trunk amber ale. Waiters in vests and jeans are courteous and quick. Flat-screen TVs play obligatory sporting events.
Noted restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow (China Grill, Asia de Cuba) recruited Will Biscoe, formerly chef de cuisine at Hollywood’s Westin Diplomat, to run the kitchen, which turns out “local grub” referencing the latest trends in glamorized pub chow.
Chicken wings are grilled with Korean barbecue sauce. Potato chips come with blue cheese fondue. Salads pay tribute to the iceberg wedge and our new fascination with kale.
The fare, however, suggests that fancy bar food may have met its point of diminishing returns in Miami.
Breaded crab cake sliders with pickles on generic white buns are more carb-on-carb than seafood. Eggplant fries are nice and crispy on the outside, but mushy in the middle, with an overly sweet, jelly-like tomato jam on the side.
Along with burgers, pot roast and meatloaf on the heartier side of the precise menu, there’s a respectable Saturday special of slow-roasted prime rib au jus served with a cheesy, stuffed baked potato.
More fragile fixtures, however, like the sesame-crusted seared tuna on top of a pineapple-cabbage slaw, arrive limp and not so fresh.
Most disappointing, the shrimp and Cheddar grits were a soupy, gooey glob of flavorless cheese with chunks of seafood, ham and green onions.
For dessert, a dry chunk of bread pudding with dried cherries, whipped cream and cinnamon syrup did little to redeem one evening. But two big chocolate chip cookies — soft, warm and slightly salty on a rectangular plate with a carton of old-school white milk — brought smiles all around.
Opened earlier this year, Biscayne Tavern will have to work harder than cafeteria cute to get beyond the airport bar vibe dogging its eating experience. Working, playing and living in downtown Miami is taking off; so should downtown dining experiences.