While much of Miami’s “cool” has found its home on the mainland, it looks like South Beach is making a comeback. Conos, the brand new late-night outpost on Washington Ave serving up mouth-watering eats in slinky, vintage-infused digs, is a beacon of light into Miami Beach’s inevitable climb back up the ladder of the nightlife scene. Here’s the thing, though, it’s not a club or a lounge, it’s actually a late-night eatery specializing in a Colombian street food where plantains are fried, rolled, and stuffed with an endless list of drool-worthy flavors. It’s the anti “Beach” hang we’ve all been waiting for.
In a newly renovated block now owned by Jamestown L.P., the same force behind Atlanta’s Ponce City Market and Industry City in Brooklyn, Conos sits dimly-lit and stuffed to the brim with luscious leaves and other Instagram-worthy decor like neon signs, candelabras, Coneheads references, and framed song lyrics. For anyone who’s ever experienced the vintage wonderland that is Ace Props (or checked out Sherwoods in Little River), you’ll find this outpost a small homage to the vibrant prop shop and studio, with their unparalleled attention to detail in every corner.
Aside from Steve Harivel’s magical design touches, Conos boasts three other masters of the scene in its four-pack of partners. Chef Brian Aarons is the mastermind behind the culinary identity of the place, his prowess having also touched popular outposts like Ball & Chain, Colombia’s #1 bar–La Huerta, and collaborations with the Pubbelly crew. And the Ganem brothers, Humero and J.P. are spearheading branding and presence respectively. Together, they’ve created a place where the vibe is organically cool and the food is seriously solid. It’s the kind of after-hours spot only industry people in-the-know would frequent.
This might be Chef Aaron’s first full-fledged culinary concept (and the first of its kind in the U.S.), but the idea behind the project has been nearly three years in the making. The inspiration behind Conos all comes down to the plantain and its prowess as an under-the-radar superfood. After several years of searching for the best plantains in South and Central America, Aarons landed on a plantation in Armenia, Colombia where he’s perfected a process that helps the plant retain more nutrients than usual. While you might be rolling your eyes at so much plantain talk, you’ll know exactly what we mean when you take that first bite–the freshness of the fruit is instantly noticeable, even after having been rolled and fried.
While an old school rock playlist matches the utter coolness wafting from the space, you’ll notice that the space is meant for social interaction, almost as social as the cones themselves. On an in-your-face chalkboard sits the menu, screaming a variety of whole savory fillings and fresh comfort food favorites like pork belly, raw fish, chorizo, shredded chicken, ropa vieja, maduros, and everything in between. Grab the local Tripping Animals beer on tap, and take your pick.
We had the Tickle My Belly (pork belly, guacamole, nata, pickled onions), Poke Me (salmon, spicy mayo, ginger, avocado, pickled cucumber, sweet sticky rice), Mama’s Favorite (Spanish chorizo, pineapple relish, guacamole, pico de gallo), and La Reina (fried queso, guacamole, maduros, nata)–each one presented in their own candle holder and, of course, cone. Soon, they’ll be introducing more salad bowl varieties and expanding the menu beyond the signature shapes.
Don’t get it twisted, at Conos, the secret sauce is heart. Each partner’s own spirit and soul has found a place at the new eatery. While Chef Aarons seeks to bring the homegrown spirit that comes with growing up on The Beach into the menu, Steve Harivel’s unmatched talent of breathing life into unloved places (i.e. Morgans in Wynwood, Sherwoods in Little River, and now Miami Beach’s resurgence) is exceptional and much-needed in the area. The fast-casual restaurant feels more like a speakeasy than anything else, and while it might be surrounded by booming clubs, their soul won’t be going anywhere…even if they do close at 5AM.