Restaurateur Matt Kuscher has restaurant concepts ready to go
Past abuelo’s front yard, underneath a red luminescent sign for Ñooo Que Barato, is a heartfelt homage to Hialeah.
That is Matt Kuscher’s goal with the La Cocina Cocteleria. The new Hialeah-themed bar is attached to his revitalized Stephen’s Deli in east Hialeah. It has become Kuscher’s staple to squeeze two disparate concepts next to one another to give diners a reason to stay longer.
And like his other concepts — La Botanica craft beer bar next to Wynwood’s Kush and Vicky’s House milkshake bar, which you access through a “Bill and Ted’s” phone booth from Coconut Grove’s Lokal burger spot — La Cocina goes hard for its theme.
The outside of bar is painted to mirror the neighborhood across the street, East 10th Avenue. It looks like a place you would hang out drinking beer at Abuelo’s house, while watching a lechón roast.
But through the door, it’s a Hialeah explosion. The Ñooo Que Barato sign casts a red glow over black-and-white Cuban tile floors that span to a wall paneled with boards from La Caja China roasting boxes. Beneath it are leather banquets with pillows printed with black and white photos of local stars like John Secada.
Ana Maria Polo settles the People’s Court-style cases as the Spanish television show “Caso Cerrado” plays on a loop. The restrooms La Cocina shares with Stephen’s Deli are themed, too. The men’s room is inspired by a local who dresses up like a superhero, the Hialeah Spider-Man, and the women’s is an altar to the astrologer and Latin cultural icon Walter Mercado.
“It’s all Hialeah pride,” Kuscher said. “What makes Hialeah unique from every other place, that’s what I wanted to do.”
And so it goes with the food and drinks, too.
Each of the 12 cocktails was designed by a different Miami-area bartender, including Beaker & Gray co-owner Ben Potts, the Real Havana Club brand ambassador Gio Gutierrez and Brickell bar Better Days Miami co-owner Will Thompson. Prices range from $11-$13.
Gutierrez’s Ñooo Que Bueno with rum and a shot of cold-brew coffee has a lemon peel stamped with F*ck Fidel. Other drink included the Ya Tu Sabes (rye whiskey with mango and bitters), El Burrito Sabanero (vodka, ginger beer, passion fruit) and Brujeria (tequila, grapefruit soda and rosemary, an herb commonly used in Santería).
A pair of drinks are even made with classic Cuban sodas made by Cawy in Miami, the Piñaso (Jupiña, vodka, lime) and the Leeeteraly Lucy Lopez, a hat tip to the Hialeah-born radio DJ. One is named the Pata Sucia, a derogatory term for someone who walks around barefoot.
Food is a fusion of Kuscher’s Puerto Rican-Jewish background and Miami flavors. From Reuben croquetas and pastrami nachos to a Jewban (Cuban sandwich with pastrami in place of roast pork) sandwich. A Tremendo Charcuterie board pastrami, corned beef, homemade pickles and Hialeah-made Gilda crackers.
The bar opened quietly over the weekend as Kuscher says the staff is learning to iron out the kinks and will open fully Wednesday.
La Cocina Cocteleria
Address: 1000 East 16th St., #305, Hialeah
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight. Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sundays, noon to 11 p.m.