Depending on whom you ask, the two glass buildings perched between South Dixie Highway and 73rd Street in South Miami may best be described as modern or unusual. The two buildings, recognizable to many University of Miami students, house Root & Bone and Mi’talia Kitchen & Bar.
Both are owned by former “Top Chef” contestants Janine Booth and Jeff McInnis, a husband-and-wife team who opened the locations in early 2019. Root & Bone and Mi’talia have since become popular among students for their boozy brunches and innovative dishes; they’re sophisticated, yet unpretentious.
Although they are owned by the same couple, each restaurant has a distinct atmosphere and menu. Mi’talia is open, airy and bright, and Root & Bone is cozy and stylishly rustic.
“Root & Bone is a restaurant with deep Southern roots,” said Booth. “When you walk into the space, you feel like you are walking into your grandmother’s home — instantly welcomed by the whimsical, cozy feel and the smell of home cooking. Its menu showcases innovative and elevated American classics, with a focus on ‘roots’ being everything from the earth and ‘bones’ relating to the protein-heavy dishes.”
Root & Bone is down-home cooking with an upscale flair, while Mi’talia is Italian chic dropped, almost accidentally, it seems, into the tropics. “Mi’talia, on the other hand, melds Italian details with Miami’s tropical vibes,” said Booth. “The menu showcases unique versions of Italian classics that are familiar, yet totally surprising. For example, the Steak Carpaccio with black garlic aioli, pickled fennel and pistachios, or our Cauliflower Arancini with taleggio, tomato mostarda and Meyer lemon.”
The restaurants offer radically different culinary experiences. At Root & Bone, feast on a classic dish like chicken under a brick, or indulge in the shrimp and avocado ceviche — a decidedly Latin staple made with watermelon for a Southern twist. At Mi’talia, try the decadent ricotta ravioli and lobster or the fresh farro and pumpkin salad.
“You can’t pass up our signature sweet-tea-brined fried chicken that is dusted in lemon and served with a spicy but sweet honey hot sauce,” Booth said of Root & Bone favorites. “If BBQ is on your mind, our brown-sugar-bruleed ribs are a must try. The sweet-corn spoon bread with creme fraiche and scallions, along with our buttermilk biscuits served with honey chicken, are delicious menu staples.”
“I enjoy the attention to detail in their supper menu, and it is comfort food for me, since I’m from the South,” said Paige Miller, a graduate student at UM. “I’ve ordered a few plates but love the chicken under a brick and the shrimp and grits.”
The variety that both restaurants offer makes them appealing to UM students. Coupled with the fact that Mi’talia and Root & Bone are only about a mile from the university, it’s obvious why both places are popular destinations for food and happy hours. Although both restaurants are only about one year old, they’ve made their impact in South Miami and among the University of Miami community.
This article was published in Distraction’s spring 2020 issue
words_lauren jones photo_gianna sanchez