Written By Laine Doss | Originally appeared in Miami New Times
Dirt, the fast-casual eatery that features fresh locavore dining, opened for business yesterday. The restaurant, with perhaps the most bizarre name in local history, is located at 232 Fifth St. in Miami Beach. It serves a much-needed roster of affordable vegetable-forward items, although meatier options are also available.
Executive chef/co-founder Jonathan Seningen has partnered with chef de cuisine Nicole Votano for this restaurant, a move Seningen says is unique. "It's not often that you have two chefs with executive-level experience working in a restaurant, and it's unheard of to find two working in a counter-service restaurant like Dirt." Seningen says both chefs worked diligently on shaping the menu to be both healthful and delicious. "We're very focused on wellness, but every aspect of the menu, from our breakfast bowls to our sandwiches — even our beverages — have been designed by Nicole and me to give the guest a satisfying experience." Jeff LaTulippe rounds out the team as co-founder and general manager.
That means vegans, vegetarians, paleos, and regular people can all find something to eat at Dirt, according to Seningen. "We do not adhere to any one dietary restriction. Because Nicole and I participated in the vegan Conscious Bite Out dinner in June, many people have gotten the impression that we're strictly vegan. We are vegetable-centric with many vegan and vegetarian options, but we also offer sustainable proteins like grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs, pasture-raised poultry, and wild-caught fish. If you do have a dietary restriction or preference, we also have separate vegan- and paleo-only menus to make it easy for you to order."
Dirt will also offer nutritional information on menu items and will feature a large display showcasing its vendors, taking the chalkboard listing of farms where ingredients are sourced one step further.
Votano explains how she chooses vendors. "We support the local farm community as much as possible. I have personal relationships with all of our farmers and only choose ones who share Dirt's same passion for food that is packed with flavor.
"We're currently sourcing from over 20 farms and purveyors based in Florida, many of which are located in South Florida. We choose to work with so many farmers because we like to choose the best of what each farm has to offer — that way we can support as many as possible. A few farms we're currently supporting include Sun Fresh Farm & Ranch for cage-free eggs, lots and lots of produce from Swank Farms, and Little Haiti Community Garden for arugula, collard greens, and spinach. Our sous-chef goes to the farm twice a week at 5 in the morning to pick up produce. We're also working hard to put together a variety of events with local farms and vendors." Dirt also sources other products locally, using JoJo Tea, Argyle Coffee, and Zak the Baker.
Votano, who was most recently chef at Fooq's, is excited to collaborate on the menu with Seningen. "Jonny had put together a great menu before I joined the team. Since I have come onboard, it has evolved a lot, and it is in a place right now where we both feel really excited about it. We ultimately collaborated on every item, but there are definitely specific dishes where you will be able to pick out our culinary styles. I really enjoy working with him — both coming from fine-dining backgrounds with a French backbone, we have very similar philosophies of how to develop flavors in our food. Our time cooking together is always full of lots of laughs, and it always ends with deliciousness."
The menu will change according to what's available, and the menu will also incorporate the suggestions of local people devoted to keeping Miami healthy. Seningen explains," Our menu will be highly seasonal, and each season we're going to partner with a different member of the wellness community to bring Miami something fresh and new. Right now we're featuring the "DIRT xLululemon" salad by our friend Cristina Ramirez, the community ambassador from Lululemon on Lincoln Road. It includes Cristina's favorite fall ingredients, like spiced lentils, avocado, green apple, roasted sweet potato, a fig-and-oat crumble, and apple cider vinaigrette on a bed of baby lettuces, torn herbs, sunflower sprouts, kale, and spinach."
Though offering healthful options, the menu remains full of flavor with dishes such as the purity bowl ($12) — filled with açaí, strawberries, chia seeds, goji berries, almond and Brazil nut mylk, kiwi, banana, and granola — and the detox salad ($9), which starts with a base of grains or greens and adds roasted beets, shaved fennel, orange wedges, goat cheese, and toasted hazelnuts. Add a protein like grass-fed beef tenderloin ($7), free-range orange-basil chicken ($5), or quinoa-crusted day boat fish ($7).
The restaurant has also established a relationship with Feeding South Florida. Dirt will donate 1 percent of sales to the organization and give healthy grab-and-go items to support Feeding South Florida’s Backpack Program, which provides food packs for children who don’t have access to meals on weekends.
Dirt is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.