A week after receiving a tip from two friends who know good food, I found myself pulling up to an unassuming strip mall on the outskirts of Coral Gables. Why had I not heard about Whisk before? I was either living under a rock for two years or this was a place that fans and regulars coveted, wanting the word to get out only just so much. Enough for the place to be successful, but not too much lest its charm be destroyed or the line, already out the door at the peak of lunchtime, snake around the parking lot. If there’s one thing we’re short of south of 395, it’s great neighborhood spots that you can go back to time and time again, without getting bored or disappointed in the food or service. Well, the rock was working, and thus lunching, in Coconut Grove and then commuting home to Brickell. Lame excuse, I know. But hello, finally, Whisk.
It’s a little after 11:00 a.m. when I arrive, and Owner Kristin Connor is busy at the computer, taking calls and updating the website with today’s specials. Kristin’s office, from which she runs both the restaurant and catering businesses, forms the border between the kitchen and dining room. Like the shelves of pantry supplies and stacks of cookbooks from her library at home, this work area doubles as decor and is part of the front of the house.
Inside seats about 12, with tables outside for likely 8 more. I grab a stool at the counter-for-two up front and get the lay of the land with Lorena Cosme, the server and hostess, who will be with restaurant one year this April. Things will get a little crazy soon, she hints, when the lunch crowd begins to trickle in at about 11:30.
I don’t recall ever being in a restaurant quite like this, but I can draw comparisons with Gabrielle Hamilton’s Prune in the East Village of Manhattan. Like Prune, Whisk takes a simple, don’t-mess-with-the-beauty-of-the-natural-ingredient approach. That’s the genious of the place for me. The Connors are very serious about executing and maintaining a high quality of product without being fussy. When you go, I highly recommend the tuna fish sandwich on multigrain bread. It’s one of Kristin’s favorites, and although I didn’t have it this way, she suggests adding sliced avocado. You should know that I don’t like tuna fish. I actually try to avoid it at all costs. But this was really scrumptious. Brendan and his team construct their version with fresh tuna, cubed like tartare and then barely cooked, mixed with the traditional tuna fish fixins. And grab a refreshing jar of cold iced tea or an Arnold Palmer to go with it. There’s a photo of my sandwich in the slideshow below. It did not stay whole for long. Also, I hear from customers, like regular Whisker and FIU Finance Professor Brad Stark, that Friday’s burger days are not to be missed. Save one for me! Fresh, homemade desserts including blondies, brownies and Brendan’s “famous” key lime pie are a perfect accompaniment for your espresso or latte if you’re craving something sweet to finish the meal.
I spoke with Kristin about family dinners at home growing up, her experience in the industry in D.C. and New York City (where she planned private parties at Tribeca Grill for Myriad Restaurant Group,) and how she and Brendan reconnected in Miami where they were both born and raised, to open Whisk. (They attended Coral Gables High School, just down the street.) Check back tomorrow for the interview!