After working together in Grant Park for six years, Firepit Pizza Tavern owner Leslie Cohen and executive chef Shaun Whitmer were ready for a new challenge. So they secured the 3,000 square foot building next door and will open on January 30th. Bird cage (519 Memorial Drive Southeast), a family-friendly Latin restaurant with bold flavors and even bolder design.
“(THE) Aviary is one of my favorite films. It’s based in South Beach and is very showy and flashy,” says Cohen. “It’s also a play on words since we sell chicken.”
The duo hired Cohen’s partner Nikki Bachrach of Bachrach Creative to create a fun, playful and flamboyant interior design inspired by the 1996 film, starring Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a bar-owning couple drag racing in South Beach. “It’s a grown-up, classier version of something you’d find in mid-to-late ’90s Miami,” Cohen says. The 90-seat space is marked with a pink neon sign outside. Inside, it’s a mix of what guests will notice first: emerald tiled walls, custom bird wallpaper, birdcage lanterns or pink feather chandeliers. There are pink doors with Moroccan tiles, a terrazzo bar top that seats 25, and plush mauve and mustard bar stools. Want to bring your puppy? The patio is dog friendly.
“There is a relaxed atmosphere, ideal for drinking, meeting or hanging out on the terrace,” explains Cohen.
As for the food? “We’re well aware that we’re Gringos opening a Latin-inspired restaurant,” Whitmer says with a laugh. “It’s this love letter to the people I’ve worked side by side with in the restaurant industry. It’s super authentic with Latin flavors but not specific to any particular region.
The menu will feature six small plates, including sweet potato bravas with pink sauce, crispy red chicken tinga tacos, squash sofrito with pepitas and queso fresca, and a shrimp Michelada cocktail. There will be three “large salads with Latin flavors”, a few soups and five proteins served a la carte. Expect adobe citrus chicken, agave-lime short ribs, picanha steak and Argentine red shrimp, with sides like beans, rice and sweet plantains sold separately. Everything is meant to be shared. A children’s menu will be available for more discerning palates.
Alli Estadt, Firepit’s beverage director, will also lead the Birdcage bar program, putting a lively twist on film-inspired classics. The “Look at Your Pinky” cocktail, made with vodka, prickly pear, aperol, lime and bubbles, is named after a movie quote and has a “south of the border vibe.” The “Shining Starina” – spiced rum, ginger, coffee liqueur, espresso and tiki bitters – is a play on a Spanish carajillo and is named after the star of The bird cage(played by Nathan Lane)’s Drag Club. Two frozen drinks will be available year-round to enhance the South Beach vibe. The wines come from Spain, Portugal and Latin America, while most of the beer will be local. Gluten-free and gluten-free options will also be on the menu. “We want to do something for everyone,” Estadt says.
Birdcage will serve lunch and dinner daily. Cohen and Whitmer have additional concepts in the works, but declined to reveal details at this time.