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One of Miami’s favorite Michelin-starred chef duos is following up their hometown hit with a new, bolder, brasher sister restaurant. Alex Meyer and Luciana Giangrandi’s Boia De has been one of the hardest tables to book in Miami, so it should be no surprise that their new restaurant Walrus Rodeo has already built up its own booked-solid reservation calendar.
Located in the same Little Haiti shopping center as neighborhood gem Boia De, think of Walrus Rodeo as its rowdier little sister. The concept was formulated around the imported Italian pizza oven that came with the space – but don’t call it a pizzeria. Instead, they’re using it to fire up all sorts of plates that come out of the kitchen, from lasagna to wood-oven quail to charbroiled oysters.
We spoke to Alex Meyer, co-owner of Boia De and Walrus Rodeo, about what to expect from their newest venture in partnership with Miami restaurant veteran Jeff Maxfield.
1. Walrus Rodeo means whatever you want it to be.
When you hear the name Walrus Rodeo, you might ask yourself: Does the rodeo take place underwater? Are the cowboys actually mermaids? Can you ride a bucking walrus?
If you’re wondering what Walrus Rodeo is supposed to mean, well, it’s intentionally ambiguous. “We wanted to make sure people had no expectations coming in,” Meyer says. “We chose the name Walrus Rodeo because we knew the restaurant would be a fun place and wanted a name that evoked that feeling. The name is whatever you want it to be, and the food and service speak for themselves.”
Walrus Rodeo’s cartoonish country western iconography – which you’ll spot on their website or a trip to the bathroom – sets the tone for fun and frivolity with punk rockers, surfers, and ducks riding skateboards.
2. The star of the restaurant is their wood-fired oven, but it’s not a pizzeria.
When the former pizzeria space became available in the same shopping plaza, the opportunity to open a restaurant steps away from Boia De proved too perfect to pass up. “It came with this wonderful oven imported from Napoli, so naturally we thought about how to create a concept that revolved around that,” Meyer says. “We asked Jeff Maxfield to come on as partner because of his talent, work ethic, and experience with wood fire.”
Yes, there are a few pizzas on the menu, but it’s not a pizzeria. You can reserve a space at the Chef’s Counter, which is Walrus Rodeo’s four-seat pizza bar in front of the central oven. It’s a great place to watch the chefs at work and get to know your seatmates.
3. There’s a new chef in the kitchen at Walrus Rodeo.
Helming the kitchen is chef Jeff Maxfield, a Miami restaurant vet best known for working alongside James Beard Semifinalist Brad Kilgore as corporate chef for Kilgore Culinary’s award-winning restaurants. He also honed his culinary skills in Italian cuisine and wood-fire cooking as corporate chef for TD Hospitality overseeing Toscana Divino, Ironside Pizza, and LTD Café.
“Luci and I have been friends with and fans of Jeff for quite some time and we always said we’d work together if the right opportunity and timing presented itself,” Meyer says. “He brings Walrus Rodeo his well-traveled palate, along with his understanding of the Miami dining scene, which we think results in a great, well-thought-out restaurant offering an eclectic yet accessible menu.”
In preparation for his new gig with Walrus Rodeo, Maxfield spent much of 2022 perfecting his pizza dough recipe, with its mix of flours and sourdough starter to offer the right ratio of crispness and chewiness. On the menu currently, the Rodeo Za is topped with boquerones (fresh anchovies), melted shallots, oregano, and maple brown butter.
4. The menu at Walrus Rodeo is eclectic and Italian-ish (much like Boia De).
The difference? Here the main technique is wood-fire cooking. “We knew we didn’t want a pizzeria but loved the idea of using wood fire to cook mostly everything on the menu,” Meyer says.
Dishes like Mustard Green Lasagna with lamb ragu and desserts like S’more’s al Orno (churros with marshmallow fluff and spiced chocolate) are flame-kissed in the oven. Even cold plates like carrot tartare make use of fire, Meyer notes. “Conceptually it’s a fun dish, using every part of the carrot in every component on the plate, including the chips to eat the tartare with,” he says.
Local and artisanal ingredients are also key. The turnips and radishes in the turnip salad, for example, are from Tiny Farm in Homestead, and the fresh ricotta comes from a local family of Italian cheesemakers.
5. Expect the vibe at Walrus Rodeo to be a bit more of a party.
In contrast to Boia De, Walrus Rodeo is larger, a little looser, and luckily not as hard to find (the name is painted across the wall out front, while Boia De is only marked with a neon exclamation mark).
Walrus Rodeo is about 1,600 square feet, compared to Boia De’s cozy 900, and has 17 more seats, including the wine and beer bar. Floating above the pizza oven, a dreamy mural of clouds from San Diego-based artist Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio frames the space. There are bright school-bus-yellow cabinets, industrial accents like hammered tin ceilings, and lots of colored tile. And then there’s that custom country western wallpaper in the bathroom by artist Beth Rhodes that tells you everything you need to know about the vibe.
“Walrus Rodeo is like Boia De’s younger sibling – a bit more colorful and brash, shinier and brighter with more frivolity, along with more space,” Meyer says. “Not to say that Boia De isn’t a blast, but it’s more of an intimate, almost private party.”
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