Miami-born NFL player Kayvon Webster is used to having his plays critiqued, so he wasn’t offended when food blogger Starex Smith gave him a harsh review.
Smith, who writes under the name The Hungry Black Man, said Webster’s food truck and restaurant Vibe 305 needed an upgrade — not just the food, but the service and ambiance. Webster, who started the food truck while playing in Los Angeles after watching the movie “Chef,” asked Smith to put his money where his mouth was and help him make it better.
“He told me, ‘What is your cuisine trying to represent?’ That stayed with me. I said, ‘Instead of complaining, come help me make this better.’ ”
Together, they’ve partnered to open Smith & Webster, a new North Miami-area restaurant that highlights food rooted in the African-American diaspora, from Southern Black to Caribbean. It’s the kind of cuisine Smith, who says he has dined and reviewed more than 1,500 restaurants around the world, elevates on his well-read blog.
“I wanted to have Black America represented in the food with the highest culinary standards,” said Smith, who started his blog more than six years ago after too many negative “dining while Black” experiences. “[Webster] is a hard worker. He’s relentless and that’s what made me do it.”
Both have been heading toward opening this kind of restaurant since they met, Smith said.
Webster, a Miami native and graduate of Msgr. Edward Pace High in Miami Gardens, grew up with a varied food experience. His Belizean father and adventurous-eating African-American mother introduced him to a wide variety of food, including Belize standbys such as homemade garnachas, tamales and puffy fry jacks.
In the NFL, where he won a 2015 Super Bowl ring as a Denver Broncos defensive back, he employed a personal chef who later became his food truck chef after he fell in love with the movie.
“The movie was inspiring to me,” Webster said.
Webster and Smith hired Malcolm Prude, sous chef at the creative French restaurants L’Atelier and Le Jardinier by the late French giant Joël Robuchon, to design the menu. They brought on chef Gerald Harvey, formerly of Fort Lauderdale’s Royal Pig, to fill it out and execute it as head chef.
The result is a menu that ranges from the Louisiana low country to the Caribbean, with French techniques and even some Asian influences.
Appetizers range from 12-hour brined chicken wings with yuzu and togarashi butter to Cajun risotto with Creole marinated charred chicken thighs. Mains include 12-hour braised oxtail lasagna, jerk-marinated smothered chicken with buttermilk biscuits and bucatini pastry with togarashi-dusted crispy chicken. Brown-butter cornbread, black-eyed peas with Andouille sausage and sweet potato casserole with black pepper honey highlight the sides.
“Our food is not one thing, like Miami. Let’s keep doing things that marry Miami’s many cultures,” Smith said.
And the restaurant is stylish in accommodations, with sleek golden and lavender mood lighting, velvet and leather seating and a vibey bar.
The restaurant opens May 6, just in time for their first Saturday and Sunday brunch, with craft cocktails pairing with buttermilk Belgian waffles, quiches and crab cakes.
Smith & Webster
Address: 486 NE 167th St., North Miami
Hours: 4-11 pm, Wednesday-Friday. 9am-11pm, Saturday and Sunday.
More info: 305-333-8272, Instagram: @Smithandwebster