Not until his mother walked through the door did Matt Kuscher realize how perfectly he had designed his new Coconut Grove milkshake shop to look like her 1980s kitchen.
“Oh my God,” you can hear Vicky Kuscher saying in the video as she clutches her chest and cries and hugs her son, holding the camera.
Here, along one wall of Vicky’s House Milkshake Bar and Tasting Room, is the orange-and-gold flower wallpaper copied from old photographs. There, creamy yellow Formica counter tops are artfully worn to brown scuffs on the edges to mirror age. Colorful magnetic letters hold a copy of his report card from Rockville, Maryland’s Ritchie Park Elementary in place on the tan top-and-bottom refrigerator where he stores the craft beer.
And all around the room, more authentic touches from their home of more than 30 years ago: the brass chandelier from her kitchen; her old cuckoo clock; the exact Norman Rockwell poster; a family portrait with Matt as a baby, and, above the entrance, the etched wooden sign reading, “The Kuschers.”
“She got pretty emotional. You know, she’s an emotional Puerto Rican lady,” Kuscher says standing in the doppleganger kitchen.
The milkshake shop, which opens Friday, started out as an idea for a waiting room for his popular burger and beer restaurant, Lokal. He created a botanica-themed waiting room for his Wynwood restaurant Kush. For this one, his wife Priscilla suggested recreating his mom’s kitchen and serving milkshakes.
But that house and that life is long gone, Kuscher said, so he needed a way to transport his customers through time. That’s why a phone booth in homage to “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” serves as a doorway from Lokal to Vicky’s House.
“I wanted you to time travel to a different era,” he said.
Walk through and you can hear Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl,” playing through the speakers. Their playlist is loaded with kitschy ’80s music: Cindy Lauper, Aha!, Oingo Boingo — “It’s got to be cheesy. There’s no Bruce Springsteen. He’s too good,” Kuscher said.
The calendar on the wall reads May 1986. Rattan stools with plastic on the seats line the counter. There’s not a false note to be found.
“I wanted you to have the feeling of walking into your childhood. Well, my childhood,” he said.
Past the back wall is a recreation of Kuscher’s ’80s family den, with a classic Nintendo Entertainment System and games (Tecmo Bowl, anyone?) and a standup Galaga arcade machine that he laments he didn’t actually have. (“I’d have been the coolest kid in the neighborhood,” he said.) Even the bathroom is adorned with touches from his childhood: a youth league basketball jersey and the actual dresser cabinets from his and his older brother’s room with his nerdy glasses and his brother Paul’s school picture.
This is Kuscher’s gift, creating restaurants with a tightly honed concept, from burgers and craft beer at Lokal and Kush (Wynwood) to craft cider and seafood you eat with your hands at his newest spot near the Mayfair, The Spillover.
“I’m probably the proudest of this one,” he said. “It’s one thing to make a place cool. It’s another to recreate a vibe, a feel.”
Most will sit at Vicky’s while they wait for a table at Lokal, reaching into the fridge for cans of craft beer or bottles of wine or into a Harvest Gold washing machine filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon beers that Kuscher, a craft beer fan, all but gives away for $2.
Others will come here as a destination, for milkshakes that range from basic $7 vanilla, chocolate and bananarama to over-the-top $14 creations using artisanal ice cream from the upcoming Wynwood shop Dasher & Crank. The recipes are the brainchild of Kuscher’s director of operations, Laurie Grasty. These include the E.T. Goes to the Movies to Watch the Goonies: Milk Dud and buttered popcorn ice cream with chocolate frosting, caramel corn, whipped cream, chocolate syrup, Reese’s Pieces and mini Baby Ruth candy bar.
Kuscher hopes if nothing else, they’ll come for the nostalgia. He does. After hours, when he’s not at Spillover, he find himself on the tartan avocado-brown-orange couch in the mock den, playing Duck Hunt and Super Mario Bros. on the wavy-screened CRT television.
“I’m not going to lie, it feels really good to walk in here,” he says, his feet up on the couch.
What would Vicky say about that?
Vicky’s Milkshake Bar and Tasting Room, 3190 Commodore Plaza, Coconut Grove, 305-442-3377