Sustainable and Surfrider Ocean-Friendly Restaurants in Miami


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Last week news of Coral Gables’ lifting of its Styrofoam and plastic bag ban hit the headlines as a disappointing regression in the progress many cities have made in adopting greener practices. The ruling, which was the result of a lawsuit by large corporations in the Florida Retail Federation, found the city unable to regulate business practices due to state pre-emptive laws.

However, this finding does not mean that the cities and businesses in South Florida that are passionate about the environment cannot voluntarily take action to make a difference themselves. With the region’s beautiful beaches and tropical surroundings being the main attraction for millions of tourists, local restaurants would benefit from basic measures like reducing single-use plastics so they can help solve rather than be part of the problem. Jayson Koch, vice chairman of the Surfrider Foundation Miami put it simply: “Whether or not there is a plastic bag or single-use plastic regulations, it’s just good business and right.”

Some initiatives have gained momentum over the past year, but they still need support and more involvement from Miami’s restaurant scene. The Miami Beach Rising Above campaign #PlasticFreeMB uses a three-tier system to show consumers the companies that have cut single-use plastics. Level 1 is for any business that removes plastic straws and bags. Level 2 shows establishments that have removed not only plastic straws and bags, but also another product from a list of eligible items. Level 3 is for companies that have removed all single-use plastics or made them 100 percent reusable.

The Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants (OFR) program provides local and national contact with participating restaurants. “By participating in the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, restaurants are opening their doors to new customers specifically looking for OFRs in the US,” says Koch, who is also the coordinator for Miami’s OFR program. “For example, when I travel to California or New York, I only patronize ocean-friendly restaurants. Today there are over 600 OFRs in the US and the number is growing.”

To be classified as ocean-friendly under the OFR program, a restaurant must meet five basic criteria and at least two other criteria in a second category. The main focus is on reducing plastic consumption. The five requirements are as follows: no use of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam), following proper recycling practices, using reusable tableware for on-site dining and providing disposable take-away items only on request, no take-away or take-away plastic bags and provision of straws only on request.

Many establishments have already stopped handing out plastic straws, but some Miami restaurants are going beyond the basics to meet the wave of sustainability. Here are some local restaurants that are committed to being ocean friendly.

Delicious RawEXPAND

Delicious Raw

Photo courtesy of Delicious Raw

Delicious Raw

1828 Bay Rd., Miami Beach

While Delicious Raw is not yet a member of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, it is a founding member of the Plastic Free Miami Beach campaign. The other South Florida locations in Aventura, Wynwood and Davie are implementing the same practices and have signage to alert customers that the company is reducing single-use plastics. All Delicious Raw takeaway packaging and utensils are made from renewable plants and are compostable. Guests are encouraged to drink from reusable mason jars instead of disposable cups for coffee, tea, juices, and smoothies.

Essensia will donate 20 gifts of the proceeds from the sale of its sustainable local grouper bouillabaisse to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.EXPAND

Essensia will donate 20 gifts of the proceeds from the sale of its sustainable local grouper bouillabaisse to the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy.

Photo courtesy of the Palms Hotel

Essensia Restaurant in the Palms Hotel

3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach

Essensia has been a long-time sustainability advocate. It’s an ocean-friendly restaurant and a recipient of the Slow Foods Snail of Approval. The restaurant has its own organic cooking garden, which offers fresh herbs for dishes and craft cocktails. The wine list features vineyards that feel 100 percent sustainable or organic. All seafood is “best choice” or “good alternative” in the sense of Seafood Watch or certified as sustainable. Essensia’s sustainable local grouper bouillabaisse was developed in partnership with Ocean Conservancy. By the end of April, 20 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the court will be donated to the non-profit environmental protection group.

Kiki by the riverEXPAND

Kiki by the river

Photo by Paul Stoppi

In addition to being an ocean-friendly restaurant, Kiki on the River has sponsored a scavenger water decontamination ship through the Miami River Commission. The ship picks up floating trash, decontaminates 600,000 gallons of water per hour, and injects 150,000 liters of oxygen per hour into the Miami River to improve water quality. The first three hour cleanup took place last December, and the Kiki team intends to sponsor the ship on a quarterly basis.

The Nikki Beach restaurant and day club regularly help out with local ocean conservation efforts.EXPAND

The Nikki Beach restaurant and day club regularly help out with local ocean conservation efforts.

Photo courtesy Nikki Beach

The South Pointe mainstay stands directly on the sand and appreciates its unique location. Staff regularly attend beach cleanings organized by Nikki Beach, and the 2019 restaurant / day club hosted the Surfrider Foundation Miami’s annual fundraising gala for ocean health awareness. As a member of the Ocean Friendly Restaurants program, the sprawling venue also practices energy efficiency through LED lighting.

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