I initially scoffed when South Miami restaurant Town Kitchen & Bar, which has been in business for a few years now, complained about their new neighbor, 72nd Bar + Grill. Town even went as far as issuing a notice that "someone in the neighborhood has copied us" and that Town was the "original neighborhood joint." Indeed, I suggested that after claiming to have invented the neighborhood joint, next Town would be claiming to have invented the question mark.
After looking at each of their online menus, I'm beginning to understand why Town is so sore. Here, have a gander yourself:
Town Kitchen & Bar:
72nd Bar + Grill:
Almost identical color scheme and font style, right down to the use of the "+" between descriptors in the menu. Pretty much the same menu groupings: salads; "starters"; pizzas; burgers; "certified angus beef steaks" vs. "from the grill"; "Old Town Favorites" vs. "72 Favorites". Even 72nd's circle logo bears more than a passing resemblance to Town's.
The actual food items are different in many respects, but it's hard to imagine how there could so many commonalities in the look, layout and format without it being a deliberate copy.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about it all is the incredible lack of inspiration from Juan Mario Maza and Vani Maharaj, the chef-owners of 72nd Bar + Grill. The husband and wife team, both Michelle Bernstein alumni, also operated Alta Cocina, which recently closed after a two-year run in South Miami just down the street from the location of their new restaurant. Is it wrong to expect a bit more creativity out of folks with that pedigree? Of course, it'll all be just fine if the food is good. If so, hopefully South Miami is big enough to handle two neighborhood joints.
After this post went up, I received an email from chef Juan Maza. With his permission, I am now reprinting it here in full. I'm glad to see that Town and 72nd have apparently cleared the air, and I thought this was a thoughtful and clearly heartfelt response:
I have read you post about the menus with Town. I would like you to know that we have allready apologized to Brandon "Town's owner" and are redoing our menu formats. We both talked like gentlemen and although we never intended to copy him or anything similar they just ended looking similar. As for the logo we agreed they are not similar as you can see on his webpage.
As for the comments of Chef Bernstein we have nothing but the greatest respect for her, when we left Michys and open Alta Cocina everyone seems to think we did it becuase we know it all, and it is not like that, we had only one option to stay in the country and it was to obtian an investor visa through opening a business. Alta Cocina was the toughest learning experience we faced and for two cooks with one year of experience in the kitchen we did well and we learned through very tough criticism. We risk everything we had and own for a better oportunity in the country, but no one knows that but Vani and myself. Now we are residents Alta Cocina did its purpose, we have a better oportunity for us and our future children for our future.
We are not trying to be superstar or super chefs, all we want is to be able to learn and grow and pay our bills.
We are nice people who work hard , not copy cats or anything like that. If you may know we took a big risk, all food bloggers and critics seem were are just trying to shine on someone elses talent, it is not and never been like that I am the first one to tell that all i ever did in Michys was the most simple prep work, and you know I have trained my self almost everything including working the line and I really think for what we achieved at least for being a top Zagat new comer we should just get a little break.
Thank you for taking the time read this and I hope you are a gentleman with this email and if you ever come to us I will love to be able to get your opinions on our food and learn from you.
I wish them the best of luck and much success.