The first words that come to mind when one thinks of Miami aren’t “rustic”, “patriotic” or “nostalgic”, but that’s exactly what the newest addition to the Biscayne restaurant scene is trying to change. The Federal, a self-described “modern American tavern” opened its doors in January and has already become a neighborhood staple to the locals. It’s comfort food at its most historic, with dishes featuring such eccentric eats as elk chili, ear of pig and fried “wabbit”.
Even before reading the menu, The Federal’s décor hints at what’s coming out of the kitchen. Hanging taxidermy line the walls, where moose and reindeer don’t show the slightest awareness of their exotic climate and a fireplace seems totally inconspicuous. The atmosphere hearkens back to an earlier time in a place much farther north – a daring reinvention by head chef Cesar Zapata and conceptual designer Alejandro Ortiz. A supersized mirror framed with mismatched wood slats which seems to have been chopped in the backyard anchors one side of the dining room while a huge country store pantry edges the other. Tables dimly lit with candles in massive mason jars add a little drama to the cozy country ambience.
While The Federal does not accept reservations, its hearty pub food is worth the wait. Its menu, designed with a shared table in mind, is separated into categories based on size, including “Bits,” “Big’Uns,” “Cravings & Accompaniments,” and “Sweet-ums.” Don’t be shocked when the “Crispy Niman Ranch Pig Ears” (which are delicious) are placed right next to the fries. Other flavors you’ll find here are maple-barbeque beefy bits, wild-boar sausage with gravy, horseradish mustard on a lamb burger, butter-pecan squash, and a nightly selection of farmstead cheeses and artisan cured meats. For dessert, there’s the super-rich Sticky Buns, fresh fruit cobbler and a lemon meringue potted pie that’s also available in minis. Fans of spending their Sundays in a food coma won’t want to miss the weekly Revelers’ Brunch, where you’ll find “Wabbit & Waffles”, red velvet layer cake, sticky buns, and best of all, bottomless mimosas for just $14.
The patriotism soldiers on with the beverage selections. About half of their 60 wines are domestic, with about 15 available by the glass. The beer rotates between 25 American craft brews, six of which are on draft. Designed by “Bar Wench” Anièce Meinhold, The Federal’s drink offerings are just as warm and comforting as the heartier fare.
Miami has much to offer when it comes to dining out, but for those tired of the beaten track, head to the dimly lit strip mall where The Federal waits like a quaint little time machine, permanently set to the Olde Days of Yore, whenever that was.
5132 Biscayne Blvd.