One day they would open their own steakhouse, friends and dining partners Carey Hynes and Will Thompson told each other.
It happened a day earlier than they expected.
The coronavirus forced them to temporarily close their downtown restaurant and cocktail bar, Jaguar Sun, in the summer of 2020 and come up with a new idea. The future, they decided, was out there.
So, four nights a week, they applied their culinary experience to creating the only type of restaurant they felt comfortable running. They transformed the Little River Lot 6 outdoor event space, with its brick pavers and sprawling banyan tree at its center, into a place diners could return to — an outdoor dining area with the kind of cooking Hynes learned at Per Se by Thomas Keller and by David Chang. Momofuku, paired with Thompson’s flair for cocktails and impeccable service.
The restaurant still exists almost two years later.
Sunny’s Someday Steakhouse has gone from a pop-up with tacos and beer to picnic tables to white linen tablecloths and dishes as expertly cooked as you’d find in a Miami restaurant with four walls and a roof.
They’ve ditched “Someday” and announced plans to build a permanent indoor lounge area (for those sweltering or drenched Miami nights) this summer. Meanwhile, they have reopened Jaguar Sun – completing a restaurant expansion they never saw coming during a pandemic.
For two restaurateurs who admit to loving steakhouses, they built a steakhouse for people who hate traditional steakhouses.
Forget red leather booths and burled wood in a space where your eyes need to adjust to the dark. Here, as dinner time approaches from Wednesday to Saturday, the sun sets like a darkened dining room and the fairy lights glow like fireflies. Pillars and limestone walls shelter the 120 guests like a secret landscape of Biscay. Music, from Drake to Bruno Mars, animates the court.
And a log fire floats through Hynes’ kitchen, separated from the dining room by a black steel grate, like a “Peaky Blinders” setting.
All of this together creates a feeling – a feeling unlike any steakhouse you’ve visited in Miami. It’s outdoor adventure, scrupulous interpretations of familiar dishes (some with surprising flourishes), and a staff that seems as thrilled as the diners to be there.
And Sunny’s leaves you with a feeling. Not just a big bill (although there is) but a feeling of an out-of-the-ordinary big night out in Miami.
But first, cocktails
Sunny’s is the kind of restaurant that encourages you to come in a group, ready to share — and early (sorry, Miami). But only because the bustling court is at its best on a crisp, clear night in Miami where Thompson, the two’s drink expert, creates an intricate pre-game drink menu.
Thompson blends flavors that act as an appetizer, like the Cynar Flip, which combines Italian artichoke liqueur with Jamaican rum and sherry. Or even something as simple as a Spritz uses a Cappalletti aperol with elderflower liqueur and fresh grapefruit juice.
No one is stopping you from ordering a hangar steak, a side of decadent duck fat potatoes with a playful French onion dip, a side of Perigord sauce to brush on top and keep for yourself. Sunny’s is still a steakhouse in the traditional sense.
But it would be a shame not to share a variety of skillfully cooked dishes, a choice of confectionery sauces, well-thought-out side dishes and generous starters.
It starts with indulging in raw bar. Sunny’s selection of Kusshi and beausoleil oysters were dressed in separate, specific mignonettes, with a spicy flavor, which brought out the clean, briny flavors of fresh oysters.
The serrano chili Wahoo crudo was one of many dishes on the menu that skillfully adds heat with acid and salt – flavor never fails in any of Sunny’s dishes. A flawless pair of stone crab claws assuaged an indulgent craving.
And they’re thinking about how to add that flavor. The Caesar salad uses salty, umami-rich Cantabrian anchovies in the sauce to pack the flavor without the creamy glop to weigh down the long individual romaine leaves. But he dresses the salad with chunks of sweet white boquerone anchovies and a dusting of breadcrumbs instead of block croutons.
This attention to detail—to bring out flavor and texture—shows in many of Sunny’s dishes.
The Rohan duck is chosen specifically for its thin layer of fat and is air-dried and aged for two weeks. The result is rich flavor and crispy skin like potato chips.
A 16-ounce Kansas City strip loin steak is cooked so perfectly it almost reads like bluefin tuna and just as buttery. Don’t miss the chance to drizzle it with peppery salsa verde sauce or truffle-rich Périgord. A korobuta pork chop, especially when topped with tangy pineapple habanero sauce, accentuates its tanginess; Unfortunately ours was cooked beyond tender.
A word here on bread: Sunny’s delights in making her own. And you will enjoy eating it.
Parker House rolls, baked and massive – splendid – glisten with a poppyseed caramel crust. You will order seconds. You can, as we did, order a pair to go, especially with whipped honey butter that you mix yourself at the table.
Strong and sweet finish
Nearby, Frice makes the ice cream (espresso or banana with bits of blondie that day); Sunny’s makes it even more special by topping it with Haitian rum whipped cream and salted caramel.
The sleeper, however, is the passion fruit mousse with macerated strawberry, sprinkled with a whole towel of foie gras that has been frozen and microplaned on top. Again, the blend of flavors – umami, sweet, sour – is a final reminder that Sunny’s doesn’t take your big night for granted.
The Miami Herald’s food editors dine impromptu at the newspaper’s expense.
Address: Lot 6, 7357 Northwest Miami County, Little River
Hours: 5pm-midnight, Wednesday-Saturday
Prices: Appetizers $4 to $19; raw bar $4-$45; most dishes between $22 and $89; sides $10-$12.
More information: jaguasunmia.com