Red Rooster: A Bridge That Links Overtown’s Rich History and Promising Future
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Derek Fleming claims he pictured a particular situation when it came to the style of Red Rooster Miami, the Overtown restaurant that he opened with star chef Marcus Samuelsson. “It’s a hot, sultry night in Miami from the 1960s. Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin walk in the room. Ali is wearing a light linen top and impeccably pressed trousers. His shirt is unbuttoned halfway, and the sleeves are rolled up. And, even though it’s Miami in the summer, she is wearing a fur. They walk in arm-in-arm and the restaurant only stops. All eyes have been on them because they are royalty. “Fleming explains the envisioned entry as if he were actually being transported back to the times when Ali was the biggest of all time, Aretha was the queen of spirit, and also Overtown was the thrumming pulse of Black civilization in Miami.Fleming is partner/CEO of this Marcus Samuelsson Group as well as along with Miami’s Grove Bay Group, opened the Overtown offshoot of New York City’s popular Red Rooster Harlem following an elongated delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.The restaurant, which opened last December, stands to the site of Clyde Killens’ mythical pool hall, at which Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Sam Cooke, and other Dark legends could hang out following performances at the Lyric Theater across the street. Muhammad Ali and Aretha Franklin were also seen at Killens and might even have strutted in together, arm-in-arm on one definite evening.Some believe that a building can sustain residual energy from past moments. Walk to Red Rooster, and you might agree. The bar, dining area, and outdoor patio are full of a mix of colors and textures. Just take a closer look and you’re going to see artworks by Rashid Johnson, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and other African-American artists, blended in with memorabilia celebrating the men and women who flocked to Overtown as it was in its prime. “People will be dying to watch Red Rooster in Florida. On a recent day, Donnamarie Baptiste, that serves as manager of culture and arts for your restaurant, gave Bea Hines a trip before lunch. Hines, who is 83, is a Miami historian and has been the first Black woman to work as a reporter for the Miami Herald. Produced in Williston, Florida, in 1938, Hines moved to Overtown at age 5 when her mom returned an abusive marriage. Hines remembers growing up only a couple of blocks from the swimming pool hall where Red Rooster now stands. Asked whether she visited Killens’ place back in the afternoon, ” she said”nice women” did not go there — although she did share one memory:”I was walking past the swimming pool hall and I watched this gorgeous blue Cadillac. The door opened and out popped Nat King Cole.” Hines can recount many memories of a Overtown stuffed with music and Easter parades and church choirs. It is a far cry from the area’s subsequent reputation. Bounded roughly by NW 20th Street, NW Fifth Street/North River Drive, N. Miami Avenue, and NW 12th Avenue, using a chunk west of Interstate 95 cut out of that would-be square for the Jackson Hospital complicated, the area called”Colored Town” and, even later,”that the Central Negro District,” was hobbled from the 1960s as it was drawn and quartered by the building of I-95 and the Dolphin Expressway. At one time a thriving Black community of over 30,000, Overtown now logs a population of 8,300.
In case Red Rooster Harlem is some sign, the coming of the Overtown location bodes well for the neighborhood. Following the coronavirus descended on New York, Red Rooster Harlem partnered with World Central Kitchen to supply food to sailors in need. Red Rooster Overtown did the same before it even opened for the business. As with its NYC god, the Overtown Red Rooster has a stated commitment to hire from inside the communityDespite the continuing issues involved in operating a restaurant amid a pandemic, the expanding availability of vaccines is lightening the mood at Red Rooster, providing a welcome undercurrent of vitality onto the outside patio. Diners of all ages, colours , walks of life are now all loving the food prepared by chef de cuisine Tristen Epps, whose menu hits both Caribbean and Southern culinary notes. “There are things old and new I wish to emphasize,” Epps tells New Times. “I was not around in the 1950s, however I don’t imagine a whole lot of caviar came here. “What has been served?
The dining area at Red Rooster Overtown.
Photo courtesy of Alchemy Agency
“I think there isn’t a Black individual who doesn’t have a link with oxtail. It was a poverty dish, but it reveals history in the most elegant way,” says Epps, that recently created a menu to celebrate Black History Month that comprised African-American, Caribbean, and American Southern dishes. That menu, Epps explains, adopted the slave trade. “There wasn’t any South with no slave trade. “For me, it speaks to the transformative nature of that which we have been,” he says. “What might be available now might not be accessible tomorrow. We’ve got the capacity to restart and also to drive ourselves to be the ideal representation of our civilization. The neighborhood should be a model for Dark excellence. We’re partners in that. “Donnamarie Baptiste notes that Overtown is currently undergoing changes. To begin with, Wynwood, after a failed area, is creeping southward toward its border with Overtown. “Overtown will not look like it will now in five years, but there’ll be White and Black people here. The hope — that the intention — is the neighborhood can, after, again, offer the very finest of Blackness and Brownness. “Baptiste points out in earlier times tourists flocked to Overtown. “This will happen again,” she says. “Marcus [Samuelsson] currently has his subsequent. People will be dying to visit Red Rooster in Florida. “In Bea Hines’ perspective, at which Overtown”left ” was a place where people could attend church then listen to Lena Horne play with. Where students at Booker T. Washington Senior High were treated to screenings of Carmen Jones and talks by Tuskegee Airmen through assembly.Derek Fleming states that when the restaurant’s upstairs lounge becomes constructed out and it’s safe once again for people to congregate at bars, music will return to Overtown. “This is actually an evolution of engagement. This distance is for everybody. How often have you got this in Miami?” Though not entirely redone, the space is already lined with dark wood paneling, the bar padded with green Naugahyde. The decor is 1940s pool-hall chic, a tribute to its past owner Clyde Killens. As he leads a quick tour of the as-yet-unfinished space, Derek Fleming is once again transported to a different time and place. This time, it’s the near future. He sways softly on his feet he paints the film. “Imagine: It is 2 a.m. and you also had dinner at Rooster and you’re upstairs listening to a music and having drinks. Your friend texts you and asks where you are and you let them know you’re having this awesome period in Overtown. “This is truly an evolution of involvement,” Fleming says, consumed in his reverie. “This space is best for everybody. How often have you got that in Miami? “Can one restaurant change the trajectory of a neighborhood?Bea Hines believes it could offer a spark. “I would like to hear music in Overtown and I would like to see our churches filled again,” she says. “I wish to have pleasure in our history and our own culture. I don’t wish to find that expire. Derek and his partners have thought that through. And that is where our future lies. 920 NW Second Ave, Miami; 305-640-9880; redroosterovertown.com.
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