Hometown: Verona, New Jersey
Occupation: Culinary Director, Barton G.
Years worked as a chef: 9
Years lived in Miami: 6
Awards/Accolades: Diners’ Choice, OpenTable (2015)
Best Restaurant Overall for The Villa by Barton G., OpenTable (2011)
Best New Chefs, Miami New Times (2010)
Rising Star Award, StarChefs.com (2008)
Go to Chef O’Neill’s shortlist
What do you love best about Miami’s food scene?
The Miami demographic allows for a wide variety of restaurants, styles and cultures to thrive, and this is a perfect time to be here, from iconic Cuban restaurants like Versailles serving the same solid menu for 50 years, to local chef and restaurateur “family trees” starting to branch out with fresh and exciting ideas.
If you had to name one favorite dish from your restaurants, what would they be and why?
At Barton G. Los Angeles, it’s the soy marinated and coal roasted foie gras with cold smoked grapes, sourdough charcoal, scorched honey and pistachio gelato. It’s the result of persistent work and dedication from the LA chefs to get dishes where Barton expects them to be: creative, fun and tasting incredible.
At Barton G. Miami, it’s the Rake and Hoe Garden: an elegant salad of local products – peak season lettuces, herbs, leaves and vegetables, with quinoa and truffle vinaigrette – tossed and served in a wheelbarrow with seed packets of spiced toasted seeds. Again, it’s creative, fun, and tastes incredible.
Name the top restaurants and dishes that you think every visitor in Miami should try.
Barceloneta: Bikini Ç24 – iberico ham, mozzarella and truffle grilled cheese. Gluttony, but so good.
Yardbird Southern Table: chicken, watermelon and waffles. They are responsible for the “rebirth of the bird,” and one bite explains it all.
Bread + Butter Counter: ham hock marmalade with foie butter and Cuban Parker house rolls. I can eat it for hours, even the bread alone … oh, man.
Blackbrick aka @midtownchinese: fake rinds, homemade MSG. I don’t know how he makes them, but they are amazing.
Yakko-San: yakiniku don (BBQ beef over rice). Late night, simple, but crave-worthy. So good.
Describe your perfect “dining out day” in Miami.
My perfect dining out day would be early brunch at Yardbird Southern Table for the BLT benedict cast iron casserole. Their house-made bacon is the best I’ve had. Late lunch would be at Harry’s Pizzeria for the braised fennel pizza, and dinner would be at SUGARCANE for the duck and waffles. Dessert would be DB Bistro Moderne. I would probably order the bourbon chocolate fondant. Daniel is a mentor of mine, and his restaurant group has the best pastry program in the U.S. Late night drinks (and snack) would seal the deal at Yakko-San.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
With local friends and family, it’s Midtown. Good variety of solid restaurants with less drama. With friends from out of town, South Beach because they are usually here for the nightlife and “Miami vibe,” and it never disappoints.
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating or cooking, and where do you go for these foods?
I, like many chefs, enjoy Asian cuisines and flavors, but also Spanish/Latin flavors. BUT, nothing can match property executed American BBQ!
For an Asian fix, I recommend Yakko-San. Reasonably priced and great food.
My Spanish pick is Barceloneta for the pa amb tomaquet (tomato toast) or the Bikini sandwich. For a more contemporary Spanish restaurant, The Bazaar at SLS.
For BBQ, there is a food stand/huge smoker on 167th Street called Bo Legs BBQ. It’s grab and go, but oh, man … the brisket. That’s what it’s all about.
Any great watering holes you like to visit often?
Broken Shaker‘s cocktail menu changes weekly and they have pretty solid cocktails. But … Barton G. The Restaurant has a cocktail experience you cannot find anywhere else! That’s for sure. Get the Buddhalicious cocktail with the flavor changing as you drink it … pretty cool.
Since it’s Miami, we have to ask: what’s your go-to place for Cuban and what do you like ordering there?
Traditional Cuban, definitely Versailles for the lechon asado (mojo pork). For contemporary Cuban, Bread + Butter Counter for the smoked oxtail with heirloom tomato escabeche.
Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any restaurants or bars in Miami-area airports or hotels you would recommend?
Matador Room at The Edition Hotel opened recently and has great quality food and drinks. DB Bistro Moderne at the JW Marriott is classy with elegant, soulful French cuisine. Toro Toro at InterContinental Miami is great, with unique, flavorful Latin cuisine.
What’s your guilty pleasure and where in Miami do you go to get it?
P.F. Chang’s orange peel chicken. I just can’t get enough of it! Sweet, salty, a touch spicy … addictive.
What’s one dish that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with the recipe yourself?
The fake rinds at Blackbrick. Chef Richard nailed that one. UMAMI!!
Are there any foods native to Miami that you particularly like and that visitors should try to find?
The regional tropical fruits are intoxicating, fresh on their own, or incorporated in our restaurants’ dishes:
Black sapote: the flesh is reminiscent of chocolate pudding.
Sapodilla: looks like a pear, but tastes like apple pie.
Canistel: flesh has the texture of egg yolk, but the scent and subtle flavor of sweet pumpkin. Found only in the very south of Florida. We are very fortunate.
Finally, what would you say any visitor must see or do before leaving Miami?
Scuba diving, deep sea fishing and binge eating. If not into water sports, nap under the tropical sun on our pristine beaches. Good stuff.
Chef O’Neill’s Shortlist:
Barton G. The Restaurant, 1427 West Avenue (South Beach); new American, dinner only daily.
Versailles, 3555 SW 8th Street (Little Havana); Cuban, breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Barceloneta, 5850 Sunset Drive (South Miami); Spanish, lunch Sunday, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Second location: 1400 20th Street (South Beach); lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar, 1600 Lenox Avenue (South Beach); Southern, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Bread + Butter Counter, 2330 Salzedo Street (Coral Gables); new American/Cuban, breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Blackbrick, 3451 NE 1st Avenue (Midtown); Chinese, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday, dim sum Sunday.
Yakko-San, 3881 NE 163rd Street (North Miami Beach); Japanese, lunch, dinner and late night daily.
Harry’s Pizzeria, 3918 N Miami Avenue (Design District); pizza, lunch and dinner daily.
SUGARCANE raw bar grill, 3252 NE 1st Avenue (Midtown); South American, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, late night Thursday-Saturday, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
DB Bistro Moderne, JW Marriott Marquis, 255 Biscayne Boulevard Way (Downtown); French-American, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
The Bazaar by José Andrés, SLS Hotel, 1701 Collins Avenue (South Beach); Latin-American/Caribbean, dinner daily, late night Friday-Saturday.
Bo Legs BBQ, 250 NE 167th Street (North Miami Beach); BBQ, lunch and dinner Tuesday-Saturday, closed Sunday-Monday.
The Broken Shaker, 2727 Indian Creek Drive (Mid-Beach); bar, open daily.
Matador Room, The Miami Beach EDITION, 2901 Collins Avenue (Mid-Beach); Caribbean/Spanish/Latin American, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Toro Toro, InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza (Downtown); pan-Latin steakhouse, lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner daily, brunch Sunday.
P.F. Chang’s, 901 S. Miami Avenue (Downtown); Asian fusion, lunch and dinner daily.
Multiple locations within Miami area.
About the Chef: Growing up, Chef Jeff O’Neill spent his time after school and on weekends at a high-end catering company, washing dishes and peeling apples. He doesn’t remember how he started working there, but it soon became clear to him that a life in the kitchen was all he wanted to pursue. After finessing his skills at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, O’Neill was fortunate enough to work under some of the world’s most legendary chefs: Charlie Palmer, Daniel Boulud and Eric Ripert, who all taught him valuable lifelong lessons.
O’Neill was soon off to sunnier climes when an opportunity arose to help open L’Escalier at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Florida. He then served as Executive Chef at Donald Trump’s prestigious and private Mar-a-Lago resort, while also working in restaurant development for the Trump Hotel Collection. O’Neill soon felt the itch to return to a food city, having lived in New York City for so long, so Miami was the next natural step. Now, as culinary director at Barton G. The Restaurant for both Miami and Los Angeles locations, O’Neill oversees the extensive menu, ensuring that everything tastes as great as they look. Known for its over-the-top food presentation, this South Beach destination describes itself as “an experience like no other.” Fine dining becomes fun dining here, thanks to offerings like special liquid nitrogen cocktails and lobster Pop-Tarts that arrive at the table in a toaster.