On a bustling block on South Beach’s Collins Avenue you’ll find Upland, the newest restaurant to sweep the burgeoning Miami dining scene. It's the brainchild of restaurant impresario Stephen Starr and chef Justin Smillie, the duo behind the original Upland in New York and SoHo hot spot Le Coucou, easily 2016's most celebrated fine dining restaurant.
With the success of their New York outpost, which has hosted Barack Obama, Oprah, and Gigi Hadid, to mention just a few, they decided to move their venture to a warmer climate. Diners like Courtney Love, Karolina Kurkova, and famed DJ Diplo have quickly caught on since they opened in December.
The restaurant is named after Smillie’s hometown of Upland, California, where he first got his start in his mother’s kitchen as her sous chef while overseeing their vegetable garden. Since then, he has helmed the kitchens of New York’s hottest spots like Il Buco Alimentari and Barbuto. For Upland, he has devised a menu inspired by his travels around the world, particularly in Japan, Italy and France. While you’ll find many dishes were carried over from New York to Miami, such as the smoked branzino and the coal roasted short rib (the chef’s two favorites) he also added new dishes exclusive to the Sunshine State, such as rainbow carrots and the roasted salmon with grapefruit and pickled beets.
Smillie partnered up with Philadelphia-born Starr, best known for New York cult spots like Buddakan and Morimoto, who said he gravitated to South Collins Avenue for its neighborhood feel not overrated party-going atmosphere. “It feels personal and we see a lot of the same faces, which makes it seem like an extended family,” Starr said.
Design-wise, their focus was on elegance and warmth. Industrial-style copper shelving and interiors accentuated with back-lit jars of preserved lemons evoke the essence of summer, not to mention a certain Floridian je ne sais quoi. Persian blue leather tufted banquettes line the space, interspersed with oak dining tables and chairs. “All of my restaurant concepts are very different,” Starr added. “I enjoy working with different foods, collaborating with different chefs, designers and places.” What they all share, though, is that coveted status as a hot spot.
If it's Florida, you must have palm trees, and Upland has them lined just outside their entrance on Collins Avenue.
Upland is located on a quiet corner of Miami Beach, far, far away from the hubbub of mid beach in what's colloquially known as SoFi, or South of Fifth, which means the crowd here is made up of savvy diners whom you might also spot at local favorite Joe's Stone Crab.
FoodWith a menu that's meant for sharing, order the roasted short rib or the mouth-watering homemade cacio e pepe bucatini. For dessert, consider the chocolate mousse with dark chocolate shavings–the chef’s favorite.
Pièce de RésistanceThe feature that has become an Instagram favorite are the backlit of preserved lemons, which evoke a very Floridian vibe.
BasicsStarters such as the wahoo crudo start at $15, mains like the cacio e pepe at $19. Beer and wines at $8, cocktails at $14. Open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Friday through Saturday from 5:30 p.m. to midnight.
Emma Stone, Matthew McConaughey, and Amy Adams Remix "I Will Survive"