Requiem for a Grill

Newsworthy graphics guy Mike Vose made this tribute to Miami Grill (Photo: Phillip Von Fury)
Newsworthy graphics guy Mike Vose made this tribute to Miami Grill (Photo: Phillip Von Fury)

Remember when New Zealand was great? It was December 9 last year. Freaks by Timmy Trumpet and Savage was #1 in the charts. Barack Obama was still in office. And Miami Grill had just opened on Federal St in Auckland.

Pitbull had blessed us with the first non-US franchise of his quality food retailer. We were a breeding ground for his global greatness.

Today the promise of that day is in tatters. Miami Grill is gone.

Reports started filtering through this week. Pictures taken at the scene showed a hot pink neon logo shining defiantly above the restaurant, its ‘i’ shaped like a palm tree. But there were unsettling signs. Paper over the windows. No lights inside.

I emailed the address listed on Miami Grill’s New Zealand Facebook page: “Hi guys, just seeing that it looks like your Auckland store is shutting down. Gutted! Are you moving somewhere else?”

The email bounced back.

I rang the Grill’s number. No answer. I rang Robert at the franchise’s Miami headquarters. He didn’t pick up. Finally, I emailed SkyCity, which is the landlord to a lot of other restaurants nearby, asking whether it knew anything. A spokeswoman confirmed the worst. The Grill is cooked.

Pitbull once sang “For all we know we might not get tomorrow.” It’s a lyric that cuts deep in the aftermath of today's revelations.

This is our requiem for a grill.

By Kanoa Lloyd

I have to tell you something, Miami Grill. It was me. It was me who dobbed on you to your Dad,  Pitbull.

I didn’t know he’d react like this, I swear! I mean he didn’t even reply to my tweet…

I don’t really know why I did it. I think I was just jealous because everyone else had been to you and they were all like “OMG, Miami Grill! You haven’t been? It’s so awesome” and shit like that. And they’d all laugh about what a cool time they were having.

And I was all like “I wanna go to Miami Grill but I don’t have any friends to go with me…” I didn’t want you to see me alone like that.

Anyway I hope you can forgive me even though I betrayed you. For what it’s worth I don’t think your Dad is mad at you, just disappointed.

By Daniel Rutledge

It was a painfully hungover morning way back in the summer of 2015 when I first experienced Miami Grill on Federal Street. It was a life-changer. My friend Kermath was coming to meet me and we had to eat. I recalled hazily the evening before, at one stage, a buddy telling me that Pitbull had just opened a restaurant in Auckland with a menu that represented many of the reasons America is the greatest country on Earth.

It seemed too good to be true, but it wasn't, and before long Kermath and I were sitting at a table underneath a large image of Pitbull himself printed on the wall, munching on Philly cheese steaks and glorious chicken wings.

Daniel Rutledge, smiling at rear, with friends at Miami Grill during its heady heyday.

Nearby the still image of Pitbull, there were moving images of him on mounted TV screens - a 45 minute video on loop, a psychedelic mixture of his music videos and news stories about his music, and about Miami grill. The walls were painted in the style of Pitbull's videos - garish neon colours framing images of pelicans, palm trees and skylines of the majestic Floridian city.

The staff were enthusiastic, but not enthusiastic enough to have the sound up on the work of art playing out on the screens. That would change on my next visit to the establishment, a few days later, when I coaxed them into it - the reward was staggering. Hearing Pitbull's lush vocals proclaiming himself "Mr Worldwide!" and "Mr International!" every few minutes while savouring one of the 15 or so dips that came free with fries and/or wings, made for a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience.

Miami was never very busy. Often, we were the only people in there. I can't understand why, when it was offering such great food in such a magnificent space. I only wish they had advertised more to spread the word, then perhaps we wouldn't be in the sorry state we're in as a city - locked out of the housing market, about to lose our flag and with no Pitbull-owned restaurant to enjoy.

Goodbye, Miami Grill, thank you for the good times.

By Jeff Bell

I never actually went, and I’m really, really disappointed… in myself. But I see there are franchise opportunities still available and I think it’s about time Dan Rutledge and Mr Worldwide collaborated.

Won’t someone think of Pitbull? Please.

By David Farrier

Miami Grill was unashamedly bold. There was no denying this was Pitbull’s passion project: He watched you eat from giant video screens placed around the restaurant. The staff were enthusiastic almost to the point of being nervous. A customer seemed to be a rare sight for them. They’d seat you in the chilled-out, relaxed (Miami-style) lounge area. Here, you could place your order for a nice beverage or snack. The staff all had iPads, taking your order in the most efficient way possible. This was of course all just leading up the main course – by which I mean you’d be seated at a table and order your main course. The fried chicken was delicious, the sauces matched to your meat sublime. What a place. Your sign shone bright as people wandered into trendy Fed just mere metres away. You were a jewel that no one noticed. Goodbye, Miami Grill.

By Jono Hutchison

I was so excited when I heard that renowned pop music featured artist Pitbull, also known as Mr Worldwide, had opened a restaurant in Auckland. My mind reeled. What did we do to deserve such star power? Why does Pitbull operate restaurants? How would his aesthetic (bald head and sunglasses) translate to dining décor?

Well, as it turned out, Miami Grill was sort of like a neon Denny’s. You might think that’s an insult - in which case you don’t know me very well. A neon Denny’s is the stuff of my dreams.

Unfortunately, the activity inside did not match the intensity of a Pitbull music video.

My friend Becky and I walked into the expansive establishment, which was tucked inconspicuously away on Auckland’s esteemed Federal Street. We knew we wouldn’t meet Pitbull in person, but secretly we both hoped we would meet Pitbull in person. We didn’t.

Instead, we seemed to have startled the staff. The restaurant was empty except for two people sitting at the bar. Somehow, the Miami Grill employees were still too busy to serve us straight away. Perhaps they were on a video conference with the great man himself.

Eventually, we were offered our pick of about 12,000 tables. We had to wait a long time for a jug of water, because the jug was being cleaned.

We settled into our booth below a majestic portrait of the paterfamilias himself. “BIENVENIDO,” he declared. “Gracias,” I probably thought. I don’t know, I wasn’t planning on having to write this article at the time.

Despite being the only customers ordering, the consummately professional waiter came over with a giant tablet to take our order. Presumably the data was being transmitted straight to Pitbull’s modern smartphone, as featured in the video for Time Of Our Lives:

Ordering our food was somewhat arduous, but who am I to bypass due process when in the presence of a man who knows much more than I do about business? Take all the time you need, amigo.

The food was… sort of cold, to tell the painful truth. I was disappointed. Becky and I sat quietly in the empty restaurant, dimly illuminated in blue neon. Mr Worldwide, where were you?

Our visit was a sad experience, but I didn’t want this to be my enduring memory of Miami Grill. I wanted to go back. But now I can’t, and I am extremely disappointed about this. Will my children ever believe me when I tell them that our humble village of Auckland was once home to a restaurant owned by the famous Pitbull himself, before he was elected President of the United States of America? I doubt they will. Even the internet has already forgotten.