When the partners at the upcoming Grails sports bar and next-door lounge Spanglish decided to spend $11,000 on one pair of sneakers for decoration, they didn’t care that it sounded crazy.
By the time they designed a display to make Marty McFly’s rare Nike Mags levitate as a tribute to the character’s hover board in “Back to the Future,” they had accepted their madness.
“We’re going all in,” Miami chef and co-owner Giorgio Rapicavoli said. “It’s definitely something no one has seen before in Miami.”
Rapicavoli, a James Beard award semifinalist and “Chopped” winner, has teamed with the Cocktail Cartel bar team to open a pair of unique concepts set to open the first week of November.
The first is Grails sports bar, on its face simply a classic sports bar with a plethora of televisions (60, if you’re counting) at the site of the defunct Pride & Joy barbecue spot in Wynwood.
But that’s where Rapicavoli steps in, designing a menu with the kind of quality ingredients his diners are accustomed to at his Eating House in Coral Gables and Glass and Vine in Coconut Grove.
Think carbonara poutine instead of just cheese fries, crispy queso blanco with a hot local honey dip, Buffalo cauliflower, crispy pork “wings” with hoisin sauce and crispy chicken wings which he perfected with his Eating House chicken and waffles.
And the scenery: kicks. Rapicavoli is a devout “sneaker head,” a collector of rare (and often fabulously expensive) sneakers. Grails is named after a term for a collector’s most-prized sneakers. They make up the decorations, along with bright graffiti and commissioned sports art.
“We just want to sit and watch the game in our shorts and sneakers,” Rapicavoli said.
Along with local craft beers, Grails sports a specific drinks menu designed by Cocktail Cartel. Among them, Satisfy Your Sole, a spin on a Moscow mule served in a ceramic Air Jordan 3.
Grails will share a kitchen and cocktail skills with the next-door Spanglish, where Rapicavoli designed the food and the drinks are the domain of his partners, Cocktail Cartel’s Hector Acevedo and Eddie Fuentes. They designed the drinks at Glass and Vine as well as several other bars around Miami-Dade.
Spanglish may share a wall, but it’s a world apart from Grails. Moody and tropical, it blends white-washed graffiti and sleek forest green banquets, gold fixtures. The music, the vibe and the menu (designed separately by Rapicovoli) intend to be a representation of Miami’s intertwined American and Latin-American cultures.
“Spanglish — that’s who we are. Those are our roots,” Acevedo said.
Rapicavoli is a Miami boy, through and through. Born in Westchester to an Italian mother and Argentine father, he grew up eating his mom’s homemade pasta pomodoro during the week, his dad’s Argentine asado on the weekend, and popping into Casa Larios for Cuban and Arbetter’s for hotdogs. Acevedo grew up in Puerto Rico, moved here in 2006 to train bartenders and never left.
They wanted Spanglish and its bartenders to exude the best of Miami attitudes.
“These guys aren’t wearing a monocle and a handlebar mustache,” Rapicavoli said. “Our goal was to create a hangout that represents our city as much as possible.”
With Spanglish and Grails, Rapicavoli hopes to capture the alternating sleek and laid-back Miami vibe.
“We love food and sports and sneakers and beer so we figured, let’s put that all together,” Rapicavoli said. “This is a culmination of everything I love.”
Grails sports bar
2800 North Miami Ave., Wynwood. Opens Nov. 1. Hours: noon-1 a.m. daily
Spanglish cocktail bar
2808 North Miami Ave., Wynwood. Opens Nov. 7. Hours: 4 p.m.-1 a.m. daily