With a fierce dedication to indigenous agricultural practices and heirloom ingredients, an unassuming dual-concept restaurant in the Miami suburb of Coconut Grove has earned its place among the Michelin stars.
In the middle of the pandemic, chef Sebastián Vargas decided to open his own restaurant just as many were closing their doors. With humble beginnings, Vargas and his co-founders, Josh Hackler and Pili Restrepoand Hackler, started by packing up to-go containers with no silverware, plates, or glasses. Despite the odds, Krüs Kitchen found quick success thanks to a menu dedicated to local ingredients (smoked coconut rice with wild-caught crab), grains and vegetables (oyster mushrooms and quinoa), and open-fire cooking (gulf prawn with saffron sabayon).
These days, Krüs welcomes patrons to its intimate dining room on the second floor of a light-filled space in Coconut Grove. It has also sprouted offshoots: A downstairs restaurant, Los Felix, and natural wine market that supplies both of the restaurants with hard-to-find biodynamic and organic vintages.
While Krüs nods to Europe, Los Felix delves into the roots of Latin America with a focus on corn grown using the indigenous farming technique of milpa, in which maize is intercropped with other species like beans, squash, and potatoes. The maize is cooked and ground at the in-house Molino and then used to make tortillas from scratch. Dishes like the tamal—filled with smoked chicken, wrapped in banana leaf, briefly grilled and plated atop culantro salsa mixed with charred green tomatoes—speak to Vargas’s Colombian heritage.
“We work with small purveyors all around Mexico and Colombia run by families who have been planting the same type of corn for over a thousand years, generation after generation,” Vargas says. Having visited the farms he sources from, and witnessing firsthand the agricultural practices, Vargas is evangelical in his belief that human care influences how we experience food.
“Is there sweat, is there sacrifice? You think about commercial agriculture, people basically spraying [crops] in a truck or some sort of machinery,” he says. “People come here and taste that without knowing where it comes from. When they find out, they say ‘no wonder why this is the best freaking tortilla they’ve ever had.’ It’s the life energy and love the [farmers] put into it.”
Vargas trained in Michelin-starred kitchens, but achieving that recognition wasn’t what he set out to do with Krüs Kitchen and Los Felix. His goal was to create a place where he enjoys spending time. (On any given night, you’re likely to hear a vinyl DJ spinning housey disco beats or psychedelic Cumbia.) “I put that whole mentality aside,” he says. “For me, a successful restaurant is a place where I’m fine being here all day because I get to hang out with my friends and family. I want to create something that makes me happy.”
So naturally, Michelin came calling: Krüs earned a Bib Gourmand and Felix was unexpectedly awarded a star this year.
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