When Michelle Bernstein and her husband and business partner David Martinez closed their Miami flagship Michy’s in July 2014, they needed a change—and so did their nine-year-old restaurant. “I had evolved, the neighborhood had evolved, but the restaurant hadn’t,” says Bernstein.
Miami’s so-called MiMo neighborhood that Michy’s calls home was a bit sketchy 10 years ago, she says, but now is booming with young professionals, families and commercial activity. It was time for the restaurant to be more “now,” Bernstein says. The goal was to bring in a younger local crowd without losing loyal guests who saw Michy’s as a dining destination.
The couple took five months off to hone their “vision,” she says. “I wanted to cook lighter, earthier dishes with local ingredients, and get away from a ‘fine dining’ label,” Bernstein says. Renovations took another five months before Michy’s reopened in May with a new kitchen, menu and name—CENA by Michy—and a new casual vibe.
In the kitchen, the old 12-burner stove was replaced with a six-burner model, since sauteing no longer is the primary cooking technique. The newly installed plancha, rotisserie and immersion circulators focus on grilling, roasting and poaching, allowing Bernstein to prep ahead and cook more quickly. Tables now turn in 90 minutes instead of 2½ hours, and the small-plates-centered menu means the average check is about $10 lower—$62 to $65 rather than $70 to $80.
In the dining area, pipes were rerouted to run underneath the restaurant, providing a water source up front so the bar could be moved from “a funky area in the back,” says Bernstein. That switch, along with a glass barback with a view out to the street, promotes interaction, she says.
The response from the neighborhood to the “rebirth,” as Bernstein calls it, has been amazing, she says. Former customers also are enthusiastic, although some ask after the old menu. To make them feel welcome, Bernstein is happy to prepare a former signature of hers.
Concept: CENA by Michy
Footprint: 2,700 square feet
Seating: 62 indoors, 20 on patio
Key features: Six-seat chef's counter with tasting menu, open kitchen with rotisserie, menu of 22 appetizers and six to eight entrees