Sunny’s Steakhouse has gone from pandemic pop-up to local favorite in Miami

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Many Miami dishes, menus, restaurants and pop-ups are out of COVID. With lockdowns and isolation came a deluge of innovation, with everyone from novice chefs to seasoned professionals pursuing their dreams by thinking outside the box.

Among them, Sunny’s Steakhouse stands out.

Regulars know it as “that place with the tree” in Miami’s Little River neighborhood. Here, amid an open space where a single banyan tree serves as both natural canopy and eye-catching centerpiece, an open-air restaurant has become one of Miami’s most beloved establishments.

And it wasn’t even planned.

Sunny co-founders Will Thompson and Carey Hynes — also the masterminds behind the Jaguar Sun lobby bar spot — will tell you that their upscale alternative take on the contemporary steakhouse is, and always will be, a work in progress.

What started as a laid-back taqueria to accommodate customers suffocated by the pandemic has slowly transformed into one of Miami’s most enticing establishments, with a menu that runs the gamut from Parker House rolls and fluke crudo. to hanger steak and a strip of Wagyu.

“This is not a restaurant that was conceived, planned and funded in a singular or linear fashion,” Hynes said. new times. “When we opened, we didn’t know what it was supposed to be. With Jaguar Sun, we had to work pretty hard to convince people that it was fun to hang out in a hotel lobby. With Sunny’s, we ended up showing them a steakhouse could be more than a dark room with expensive meat.”

Sunny’s started as an “aha” moment in the midst of pandemic-related closures: it was a way to sell take-out food and drink. But Thompson and Hynes quickly realized that the physical manifestation of their vision and passion was not to connect with consumers as was the case in their intimate salon, Jaguar Sun.

Jaguar Sun opened in downtown Miami in late 2018, a cozy 14-seat restaurant and bar tucked away in the lobby of X Miami Apartments. Popular for its small menu of pasta and crudos alongside expertly crafted cocktails, it quickly became a favorite with locals and industry professionals alike while winning awards like Bar Eater of the Year 2018 and a nomination for Best New Bar at the Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards.

“The concept was really driven by our physical constraints, from a kitchen that was once a storage space to a dining room that was designed as a hall,” says Thompson.

Where Jaguar Sun has taken underutilized interior space to create something special, Sunny has done the same with what was once empty land.

As with Jaguar Sun, the duo say many of their decisions about their new establishment aren’t down to a lack of space, but the lack of a proper kitchen. At Sunny’s, a real fire enters the steakhouse equation, cooking meat and fish, including half a chicken, duck, striped bass and, of course, the steaks.

Over the past few months, Sunny’s has matured from pastel-painted picnic tables that embraced pandemic social distancing to comfy banquettes and tables covered in white tablecloths for a more refined restaurant experience.

The menu has also matured, with prices to suit everything from an affordable dinner to an extravagant night out. A $5 basket of Parker House rolls and a $15 Caesar salad pair well with the $34 hanger steak or $22 cauliflower steak, while oysters or stone crabs priced at market present a luxurious prelude to aged rib eye at $156. The cocktail list includes martinis, several versions of the manhattan, and even an ice-cold tequila libation, all priced at $14 to $17.

“There are many ways to interact with the restaurant,” adds Thompson. “We love when people come over for a martini and oysters one night and then a big night out with a few bottles of wine and some appetizers to share with a group. We’re not trying to be everything for everyone, but it’s is the type of place where you can have a different type of night – from a casual night out to a great steak dinner.”

Here, it’s the little things that make a meal worth savoring. Examples include a delicate endive salad accented with strips of tangy grapefruit and topped with a dollop of fresh ricotta, then finished with a tangerine-flavored olive oil and crushed pistachios; and condiments including a truffle-flavoured Périgord and homemade spicy pineapple-habanero sauce.

“Our clients want a sense of consistency that is often hard to find,” summarizes Hynes. “But we keep growing and finding new things, and continually making Sunny what Miami wants and needs.”

Sunny’s Steakhouse at lot 6. 7357 Northwest Miami County, Miami; jaguarsunmia.com. Wednesday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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