The partners behind Grassfed Culture Hospitality — Pili Restrepo Hackler, her spouse Josh Hackler, and chef Sebastián Vargas — are like superheroes who each bring a special power to a growing portfolio: Krüs Kitchen and Los Félix in Coconut Grove, and the new ZeyZey music venue in Little River.
Vargas’ time in the kitchens of Massimo Bottura and Daniel Humm, among other chefs, positioned him to oversee the food; Hackler’s experience in natural wine provided the know-how to create wine programs on par with his restaurants’ food; and Restrepo Hackler — born in Colombia, raised in Spain, schooled in Italy — brings an eye for design and hospitality that pulls everything together in the group’s spaces.
Krüs Kitchen, the seasonally focused restaurant that started Grassfed’s empire, was almost never a restaurant at all. Launched during the pandemic, it started as a virtual kitchen that offered takeout and delivery only. The Grassfed team slowly evolved, gradually offering in-person tastings and weekly changing menus. Not long after Mexican-focused Los Félix opened downstairs from Krüs in 2021, Krüs flipped the switch into a full-service space, and both restaurants hit the ground running. Krüs landed on Michelin’s Bib Gourmand list, while Los Félix earned a Michelin star in 2022 and 2023.
The hospitality group opened ZeyZey this summer, a music venue (with food!) that they say is a natural extension of music-food-drinks formula that has worked for them so far at Krüs and Los Félix. Ahead of Krüs’ third anniversary, Josh Hackler spoke about the restaurant’s beginnings, how it has created a sense of community, and how ZeyZey fits into the Grassfed family.
How did you know it was the right time to pivot Krüs from takeout and delivery to a full-service restaurant?
Hackler: When we opened Krüs (in November 2020), the whole time we were listening, engaging, and adapting based on the community we were feeding. While we were doing takeout and delivery, we also hosted some food tastings and wine tastings in the space. That was during the buildout for Los Félix downstairs, so you literally had to walk through this construction site to get to Krüs, which gave it all an illicit, underground sort of feeling.
After that, we probably did eight or 12 weeks of a different set menu that changed every week. We wanted to focus on one kind of cuisine for a week, see what the response from the community was, and then change it all up and do it again the next week. That began to shape what Krüs would become when we officially opened as a full-service restaurant in spring 2022, which was this hidden gem above Los Félix with awesome food and amazing natural wine.
Krüs’ Cooking with Friends series has created some really cool dinner experiences with Miami chefs and other culinary collaborators. How do events like that help nurture and foster Miami’s food community?
Hackler: To us, community is everything. We’ve felt so welcomed since we moved down here from New York in 2018 and have been so proud of the new Miami that we’ve seen evolve around us. The idea of bringing people into our space, cooking with our friends, introducing a few new dishes — that’s all part of the community and what we’re trying to build here. We have taken a bit of a summer break from Cooking with Friends while we focus on evolving our next seasonal menu, but will pick it up again in the fall.
Krüs’ whole thing is changing menus according to the seasons. How hard is that to do in Miami?
Hackler: Farming culture is definitely more of a thing in South Florida than it used to be, which makes it super exciting and fun to cook as seasonally as possible. We just got some amazing long beans from Tiny Farm that we put on the menu this week. We love the innovation going on down at Paradise Farms between all the produce and the mushroom lab. The big menu flips that we do seasonally always take thought and work, but we find that there’s plenty coming in on a regular basis to let us put fun things on the menu all the time.
How are you applying your background in wine to the Krüs experience?
Hackler: Wine is a huge part of my background — I started at a Spanish wine importing company after college, which helped establish my roots in the wine world. I became attracted to honest winemaking, and that connected me to farmers, growers, winemakers with similar sensibilities. We’re intentional about the wines we choose and the stories behind them, and everything is all natural, biodynamic. At Krüs, we put a big emphasis on wines from Europe, particularly France and Italy. Los Félix is more about wines from the Americas. We also have a wine club that is another fun perk for regular customers and people from the neighborhood.
How does your new music venue, ZeyZey, fit into the rest of your group’s concepts?
Hackler: Besides food and wine, the third element of Krüs and Los Fèlix is music. We have an all-analog sound system throughout the space, with vinyl DJs that rotate in and play music that showcases the roots of Miami: Colombian, Brazilian, Afro-funk, boogie, salsa.
The goal at ZeyZey is just to be an extension of that, to provide a space for these incredibly talented artists to perform live music. So far, it feels like we’ve struck an artery with the city — people are so pumped to be at ZeyZey and be a part of the narrative of Miami’s music scene.
So far we have four food vendors there. Each of them are from rising-star chefs who either worked in our kitchens at Krüs or Los Félix or are just doing really awesome things with food in Miami.
Evan S. Benn is senior director of special projects and communications at The Philadelphia Inquirer and former food editor and restaurant critic of The Miami Herald. He wrote Resy’s Guide to the Miami Hospitality Industry Hangouts. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Follow Resy, too.