These past two years have been a roller coaster for Jaguar Sun. It shuttered for more than a year during the pandemic, reopened for a brief stint last summer, closed again in November, hosted a Basque pop-up by Gilda earlier this year and finally swung its doors open again in June, bringing a renewed spirit to downtown along with a re-styled menu featuring new items and fan favorites.
The city center haunt lives on thanks to the dedication and hard work of owners Chef Carey Hynes and Will Thompson, who pivoted during the pandemic and opened Sunny’s Steakhouse. The open-air Little River restaurant served up sizzling steaks and classic cocktails, and was received enthusiastically enough that the duo has begun construction on a permanent iteration.
At Jaguar Sun, inspired by the namesake book by Italo Calvino, it’s about Italians on holiday in Mexico. As Hynes’ food is rooted in Italian cuisine, Thompson pulls inspiration from the Caribbean and Latin America for cocktails. And the space evokes a tropical vibe Thompson describes as being neither tiki nor cliché.
So how do you score a table here? Luckily you’re reading The One Who Keeps the Book, our series that aims to answer your most essential question: How do I get in? Resy, of course, but every restaurant is different, and there are always tips and tricks, so we’re here to get those to you — straight to the source.
We sat down with Thompson to chat about Jaguar Sun’s return, and how you can snag a table at this charming cocktail bar and restaurant.
Resy: How many seats do you have?
Thompson: Our dining room can sit 28. We don’t have outdoor seating at the moment. Plus we have 14 bar seats and bar room seating that flexes up and down on how many it can accommodate.
When is primetime for you?
We do well in the pre-dinner, dinner, after dinner space, so 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. The kitchen closes at 11 p.m. during the week, midnight on the weekends.
Are there any seats held for walk-ins?
The bar room seating is first-come, first-served. Only the dining room is reservable.
How long is your Notify list usually?
It’s all over the place but can get to 60 pretty easy. We also reach out to people day-of directly who are on the list, to follow up to see if they’re still interested in joining us.
Are there other ways to get a table?
Earlier in the week is always easier than Friday or Saturday. I think if you come in and talk to our hosts, and are willing to hang out a little bit, we’ll be able to figure out something. We do tend to see a lot of volatility day-of, so you’d almost be better off just looking for a reservation that day.
Set the scene, what can first-timers expect?
We get an excitedly diverse crowd. There’s an incredible range that’s very representative of what Miami really is — once you get off the beach. We keep the lights low. It’s vibey. It feels like you’re at a dinner party. There’s a big emphasis on the style of service, in making sure that every guest leaves really wanting to come back. That’s hugely important to us.
Can diners grab a drink while they wait for a table?
Absolutely: at the bar, and we have high-tops in the bar room, and couches. There are lots of different little areas where guests can hang out and have a cocktail before they sit down for dinner.
In your opinion, what’s the best seat in the house?
I’m a bar diner. There’s only one corner on the bar: seats 9 and 10. The corner is the easiest [place] to talk to folks and you can see the whole show. You get a sense of everything that’s going on.
What’s on rotation on Jaguar Sun’s playlist?
We’re all over the place – lots of Frank Ocean, Prince, and Madonna.
What are the dishes first-timers should definitely order?
The whole menu is built to really speak to each different diner. We don’t have the same dish repeated 12 times. We want to have 12 cocktails that speak loudly to 12 different people. So if you see something that catches your eye, that’s what you should order because that’s how the menu was built to be interacted with.
The Green Ghoul and Parker House Rolls will always do really well, but there might be something else on the menu that pops out and works really well for you. It’s all personal.
I love our oysters. All of our raw bar is pretty special, and you can’t go wrong with any of the pastas — made by hand, fresh every day. We don’t want to come off like we’re serious about our food and about our cocktails, but we really are.
What are some of the new dishes and cocktails you’ve introduced?
Striped bass crudo, tagliatelle with mushrooms, and campanelle with MiddleNeck clams. New cocktails include the vodka-based Easy Tiger, and Sunday Driver for tequila fans.
What else can we look forward to? Anything you’re thrilled about?
We’re always really excited to meet new guests. It’s amazing how many people we still meet on a nightly basis. We love our regulars, of course; they are the foundation of our business. But it’s always great to introduce ourselves to new folks.