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 on January 30, they’ll open Birdcage (519 Memorial Drive Southeast), a family-friendly Latin restaurant with bold flavors and an even bolder design.
“[The] Birdcage is one of my favorite movies. It’s based in South Beach and is very showy and flashy,” Cohen explains. “It’s also a play on words since we’re selling 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 movie, which stars Robin Williams and Nathan Lane as a couple who own a South Beach drag bar. “It’s a grown-up, chicer version of something you would find in the mid-to-late ’90s in Miami,” Cohen says. The 90-seat space is labeled with a pink neon sign outside. Inside, it’s a toss-up what guests will notice first: the emerald-tiled walls, custom bird wallpaper, birdcage lanterns, or pink feather chandeliers. There are pink doors with Moroccan tile, a terrazzo bar top with space for 25 and plush mauve and mustard-colored barstools. Want to bring your pup? The patio is dog friendly.
“It’s got a laid-back vibe ideal for drinking, gathering, or hanging out on the patio,” Cohen says.
As for the food? “We’re well aware we’re Gringos opening a Latin-inspired restaurant,” Whitmer says, laughing. “It’s this love letter to the people I’ve worked side-by-side within the restaurant industry. It’s super authentic to Latin flavors but not specific to any one region.”
The menu will feature six small plates, including sweet potato bravas with pink sauce, crispy red chicken tinga tacos, sofrito squash with pepitas and queso fresca, and Michelada shrimp cocktail. There will be three “big Latin-flavored salads,” a few soups, and five proteins served a la carte. Expect a signature adobe citrus chicken, agave-lime ribs, picanha steak, and Argentinian red shrimp, with sides like beans, rice, and sweet plantains sold separately. Everything is meant to be shared. A kids menu will be available for those with a milder palate.
Firepit beverage director Alli Estadt will also lead the Birdcage bar program, putting a lively spin on classics, inspired by the film. The “Look at Your Pinky” cocktail, made with vodka, prickly pear, aperol, lime, and bubbles, is named after a movie quote and features a “South of the Border vibe.” The “Shining Starina”—spiced rum, ginger, coffee liquor, espresso, and tiki bitters—is a play on a Spanish carajillo and named for the star of The Birdcage‘s drag club (played by Nathan Lane). Two frozen drinks will be available year-round to further the South Beach feel. Wines come from Spain, Portugal, and Latin America, while most of the beer will be local. Zero-proof and gluten-free options will be on the menu as well. “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—yet.