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Lobster salad on brioche roll; photography by Michael Pisarri

Northern Exposure

by Jen Karetnick | Miami magazine | January 3, 2013

Oh, Sandy, baby. From Maryland to Maine, you broke a lot of hearts. Most South Floridians are pretty empathetic. After all, many of us have family in the Northeast Tri-State area, or second houses, or heck, favorite restaurants and food items that we depend on.

My initial concern after the storm, of course, was for my family, all living in those bountiful, tree-filled communities with commuter access to Manhattan. But after I discovered everyone was safe, if not exactly happy and warm, I found myself thinking about New England cuisine. Or, more to the point, Maine lobsters and The Hoxton.

Maine lobsters are one of those aforementioned food items that I practically require in my culinary repertoire; having spent all of my formative summers in Maine, I consider them a seasonal staple of my diet. The Hoxton is a New England-style tavern, a self-proclaimed “urban beach house,” and the kind of place where you might find a young Kennedy lounging on an indoor swing ready to throw a Yankee quip or two your way over a dry martini with olives and a generous plate of crustaceans.

Well, that’s the vision at least. I’m not sure the current clientele has gotten the word. On a recent chilly Thursday evening, the bar was dominated by a group of shrieking Brickell types who were so loud we could hear their conversation—even over the band tuning up—from the second floor, which offers more secluded seating on striped, slip-covered sofas and small, dark oak wood tables. The d├ęcor, designed by Valerie Pasquiou and lighting specialist (yes, lighting specialist) Ricardo Fernandez, is upcountry Hamptons, but the patrons still seem to believe they are at the site’s last incarnation, the Irish pub Lucky Clover. The crowd at this place is gregarious to say the least. Regardless, the idea at The Hoxton is Maine lobster, which makes it all right in my book. And the fact that you can get one here, steamed and served with all the trimmings, for $10 to $15 is priceless. The Hoxton has no problem keeping its brioche rolls filled with hearty tail and claw meat, mixed with a smack of mayonnaise dressing, pimped with a jewel-green crust of lettuce and served with house French fries. It’s a sandwich that satisfies the craving for the crustacean without involving you in its inherent mess, and something that’s a lot more difficult to do with our own seasonal specialty, stone crabs.

Of course, as with any restaurant depending on a particular fish and/or crustacean, The Hoxton’s menu will rely on what’s available—and that will include stone crabs. More dependably, you can swallow some top-grade Bluepoint oysters with a nicely acidic cider mignonette (served singly, as a half-dozen or a dozen on the half shell), or delve into a peel-and-eat half-pound or pound of shrimp (specify cold or hot), served with classic accompaniments of drawn butter and housemade horseradish cocktail sauce, as well as some steamed red potatoes and grilled corn to counter the richness of the seafood.

There’s no designation of “starter” or “main course” on the menu as the restaurant was designed with a specific purpose in mind: to serve as a sophisticated, live-music venue with an assortment of well-executed, high-end eats. The best of these comestibles includes a satisfyingly large pile of toothsome Swan’s Island mussels bathed in a lightly creamy white wine-butter sauce that’s spiked with Nueske bacon. Use the garnish of grilled garlic bread to soak up the sauce and wash it down with a Belgian-style craft beer like Inlet’s Monk in the Trunk, brewed in nearby Jupiter.

Of course, New England cuisine must be measured by its seafood chowder and The Hoxton’s version is on point: silky in texture and generous in portion. A little heartier is the duck poutine. A felled forest of fries topped with melted Vermont smoked cheddar cheese and a pulled duck confit gravy, the poutine is big enough for two to share, especially if you’re planning on also splitting some flash-fried fish and chips or the house’s fried chicken, or following any of that with homemade berry cobbler or just-baked chocolate chip cookies.

But don’t feel compelled to end your evening with a cookie. The Hoxton is one of three restaurants-in-a-row that proprietor Santiago Rodriguez, who spent 15 years opening and managing Nobu restaurants worldwide, has planned. Next door to The Hoxton, where Mare Nostrum used to serve Mediterranean sea fare, Rodriguez is installing Boxpark, a communal and in-kitchen seating dining establishment said to be inspired by Rodriguez’s travels through a variety of cultures. Also coming: Harvey Wolf, a lounge space. The idea, I imagine, is a progressive dinner of sorts—start with dinner at The Hoxton, maybe do dessert at Boxpark, and end with cordials at Harvey Wolfe. At press time, those additional establishments had yet to open, so we did what came naturally: indulged in another round of cocktails and another batch of cookies.

The Hoxton
1111 SW First Ave., Miami

Open for dinner only
Sun.-Thu., 5pm-midnight
Fri.-Sat., 5pm-3am

Soups, salads and sandwiches: $3-$34
Main plates: $14-$45
Desserts: $5

Location, Location, Location
The Hoxton is not the easiest place to find. It’s located in the old Lucky Clover location near Publix. Drivers should be wary of careless pedestrians with little concern for traffic signals.

Let’s Get Loud!
Want a side of live entertainment with your chowder? You’ve come to the right place. The restaurant has been booking some superior blues bands as of late. If you’re not a fan of talking over slide guitars, opt for an early dinner before 10pm.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Here’s a hint: When the hostess asks if you want to sit upstairs, say yes. The ground floor can feel a bit cavernous, despite its warm living room feel.

Park It
Forget trying to find a parking spot around here, especially on a weekend. The valet is efficient, well priced and, unlike at spots in South Beach, you won’t digest your dinner as you wait for your car to arrive.