As the recently launched Moxy South Beach marks a new chapter for hospitality in Miami Beach, one of the first dining experiences to debut is Serena at the Moxy South Beach. Serena, an open-air rooftop restaurant and bar, designed by Saladino Design Studios, channels the enchanting rooftop and patio restaurants of Oaxaca and Mexico City. Located on a vibrant, lushly planted terrace, Serena has a laid-back yet sophisticated vibe that’s like none other in Miami. Lounge and table seating — plus an expansive menu of shareable classic dishes combined with a modern interpretation of traditional Latin and Mexican cuisine — creates an inviting atmosphere for sunset cocktails and nibbles, leisurely lunches and dinners, or buzzy brunches accompanied by live music.
Inspired by the brightly hued works of the great Modernist architect Luis Barragán, Serena’s garden-like outdoor dining area is a vibrant mosaic in bold shades of pink, orange, coral, and blue, with fun and eclectic seating arrangements of plush sofas, overstuffed banquettes, swinging barstools, cushioned wrought-iron chairs, and ceramic-tile tabletops. A domed cast iron canopy strung with twinkling lights and fragrant bougainvillea evokes the indigenous markets of Michoacán, Tepoztlán, and other Mexican locales.
The outdoor kitchen features a large circular stone mill for grinding the blue and yellow nixtamalized cornmeal that spills out of burlap sacks, as well as a comal, the traditional griddle for cooking tortillas. Here, diners can watch freshly ground cornmeal shaped by hand into fresh tortillas, cooked to order on a traditional comal, and transformed into delectable dishes such as Uni and Crab Tostadas and Squash Blossom Quesadillas.
The menu also features classic dishes like Caesar Salad, Steak Tartare, and Tuna Tartare. These are complemented by an array of ceviches, and cooked dishes highlighting fresh local seafood, as well as small plates, salads, burgers, and sandwiches.
Culinary authenticity comes by way of Chef Scott Linquist, who started his restaurant career as a busboy in Los Angeles but developed a passion for Mexican food while cooking at Santa Monica’s seminal Border Grill. Later, Linquist created and developed New York’s Dos Caminos as the Executive Chef and wrote a best-selling cookbook, Mod Mex. In Mexico, he has cooked in homes from the mountains of Oaxaca to the jungles of the Yucatán, tracking down traditional recipes and techniques and leading culinary tours. “I always say that I’m a gringo on the outside, but my heart is Mexican,” he says. “I’ve traveled all across the country to study the characteristics of each region’s cuisine.”
Linquist and his chefs source white, yellow, and blue corn, to make nixtamal in house (soaking in alkaline solution according to traditional methods), grind it by hand, press it into tortillas or other shapes, and cook it on a traditional comal. As one of the few establishments in Miami to follow this detailed process, Moxy South Beach’s restaurants will produce the city’s best tortillas. To American palates used to mass-produced corn tortillas (and flour tortillas, which are far less common in Mexico than corn), the taste is revelatory.
Creative cocktails devised by the acclaimed mixologist Christian Rubio, along with beers and wines, are prepared in the greenhouse-like bar, whose glass garage-style doors open to the warm beach breezes. Inside, the lounge has blue-painted beam ceilings and mosaic tiles reminiscent of an antique fountain. Chilled-out tunes emanate from the semicircular DJ booth composed of breezeway blocks, stationed beneath a purple-toned wall with a neon sign reading “LA ULTIMA Y NOS VAMOS” (“Last one and we’re leaving”).
“This is where I see Miami Beach residents coming for brunch or an early happy hour,” says Sean Saladino, Director of Saladino Design Studios. “With an amazing view over Miami Beach, you’ll be able to sip cocktails and watch the sunset over the buildings. It will become one of the area’s most sought-after rooftop experiences — a scene like no place else in Miami.”
A live music series at Serena features regular poolside performances by up-and-coming local acts in the warm Miami air. Prism Creative and Tigre Sounds showcase the rhythms of emerging Latin American musicians. On Sundays, the Golden Tingz Sunset Hour features live DJs spinning Latin and world music. Easygoing and versatile, Serena is the perfect place to gather with friends while taking in the rich hues of an unforgettable Miami sunset.
Serena is part of a diverse culinary lineup that spans six new dining and drinking venues, all operated by the founders of Miami’s uber-popular Coyo Taco and 1-800-LUCKY. Each restaurant draws on the cosmopolitan flavors of the local palate: Mexican, Caribbean, and American. They include Como Como, a marisquería (seafood restaurant) and raw bar; Mezcalista, a sexy mezcal lounge; Los Buenos, a taco stand/bodega in the lobby, complemented by Bar Moxy, which does double duty as a social hub and check-in area; and The Upside, a rooftop bar on the eighth floor exclusively for hotel guests and private events.