Let us guess: You haven’t been to the Rusty Pelican in awhile.
In fact, you may have a little trouble remembering the last time you went to the Key Biscayne icon. A wedding or a graduation? Maybe an anniversary party or bridal shower? You probably didn’t go for a simple dinner. You went for an event that required you to buy a new dress or suit and buy a gift.
Visiting the Rusty Pelican for such an event may still be on your agenda, because it’s one of those places where Miami people go to celebrate major life occasions.
But here’s the thing: Rusty Pelican also really, really wants you back for the everyday non-occasions. When you’ve got a craving for Florida seafood or a steak (or both). When you need a relaxing wind-down into the weekend. A boozy brunch with friends. To counteract a debilitating case of the Mondays.
Or simply because tuna tacos and a cold one by the bay are all the proof we need that we’ve made good choices by remaining in Miami.
Several years ago, the Rusty Pelican underwent a renovation. The old restaurant wasn’t really known for its great food. Now, pleased with its updated menu under former executive chef Jimmy Pastor, the restaurant has promoted Pastor to eastern regional chef for parent company Specialty Restaurants Corporation. It has improved its wine profile, and though it still looks like the Rusty Pelican you remember, it’s undeniably a different dining and drinking experience.
Here’s why you should consider a return trip.
The wine game got an upgrade
The glass cube cellar at the front of the restaurant is impressive – it houses an inventory of more than 300 bottles curated by Master Sommelier Michael Jordan (not that Michael Jordan). But even more striking is the Rusty Pelican’s new requirement that restaurant staff and managers must successfully complete Court of Master Sommelier Level 1 training. This means all the servers, under the guidance of lead Certified Sommelier Szabolcs Herczeg, can help you find the right wine, which you can order by the bottle or the glass. You can even try a rare wine by the glass. Warning: this will not be inexpensive. But you can do it.
The menu is not what you remember
Ask Pastor what his favorite item on the menu is, and he’ll immediately point to the grilled herb marinated octopus with fingerling potatoes. There are also lamb rib and ceviche appetizers, plus a raw bar and sushi menu. As for the entrees, the must-haves include the lobster risotto ($39), the pistachio-encrusted scallops ($34) and the short rib surf and turf with lobster and truffle mac and cheese ($48). Seriously, people. This is good stuff.
You can eat more affordably at happy hour
There’s no denying the dinner menu isn’t cheap. So check out the Pelican’s happy hour, where you can order sliders for $6 or tuna tacos for $8. Or get fancy and spend $12 on a braised boar shank with rosemary rainbow potatoes, duck confit or steak tartare. Try a house margarita or mojito for $7 or a specialty martini for $8 (lychee, cucumber or spicy passionfruit). Happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m. Monday-Friday in the bar only.
Speaking of drinks: Mixologist Oscar Amaya runs the show. If you’re feeling adventurous and non-thrifty, try one of his concoctions ($15), like Miami is Not Plastic (Bacardi Superior, violet liqueur, Midori, pineapple juice, sour mix and cream).
Or you can ball out with caviar service
OK, so you’re in the mood to spend. If you are so inclined to show off for a date, a client or you just really want to do this one time before life’s last call, order this caviar service for $95 at brunch, lunch or dinner. It comes with a half bottle of Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve paired with 10 grams each of Sasanian Imperial, Sasanian Royal Osetra and Sasanian Osetra Supreme served with the usual -creme fraiche, scallions, egg and toast.
Don’t know what you want? Ask the server for a sampler. You’ll get something wonderful like this.
The view is always magnificent
Sunset on the water, anyone?
The Rusty Pelican
3201 Rickenbacker Cswy., Key Biscayne
Hours: Lunch and dinner daily; brunch on weekends. 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thusday; Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-midnight.
Contact: 305-361-3818 or www.therustypelican.com