Kiki, not to be mixed up with kinky, is affectionately named after the Greek grandmother of one of the partners, Aris Nanos. The other three local partners include longtime Miami nightlife pro Roman Jones, the brainchild for this new river eatery, hospitality veteran Lee Lyon and club impresario Mark Lemkuhl. Jay Wall of Thirdwall Design helped to conceptualize the space with Lemkhuhl.
A Miami River longtime property investor, Kent Kay entrusted his land here that was a former 100 year old fish and tackle place to be transformed by this team of Miami nightlife magicians. So now the rapidly emerging Miami River has yet another new hotspot and day spot for dining, lounging and overall smoozing. Sundays are the see and be seen day for the scenesters when the spirit of the place elevates way above sea level with cool DJ sounds while liquid libations like “Loose as a Goose” get the temperatures rising.
Kiki on the River really gets it right when it comes to putting a modern spin on traditional Greek cuisine and décor. Executive Chef Steve Rhee runs the kitchen at Kiki with a perfect Greek restaurant resume having opened Estiatorio Milos in Miami Beach and prior served as sous chef at their Vegas venue. Homemade items all made from scratch in-house include time-honored Greek favorites with a twist. His menu serves up Mediterranean classics like charred octopus, grilled whole fish and lamb chops plus a New York sirloin and lobster pasta. But that’s jumping the gun…for starters there’s the Pikilia platter with a bunch of dips that are definitely Greek to me; Melitzanosalato (roasted eggplant), Tzatziki (yogurt/cucumber), fava (yellow split peas, roasted garlic & shallots). My favorite appetizer is the Saganaki which is Greek cheese lightly fried and served flaming at your table, absolutely a gooey, chewy decadent delight! Fried zucchini and eggplant chips are derigeur along with of course grilled octopus. Plus, there’s Keftedakia, a Greek-style meatball dish to indulge in. Yes, of course there’s a Greek salad with a slab of fresh feta over locally grown greens and tomatoes. And my first choice for sides is Kiki’s fries with lemon, oregano and lots of drizzled feta cheese on top. If you want to be good, there’s always the assortment of grilled veggies or mushrooms to choose from. Dessert is a Greek affair with traditional Greek yogurt topped with thyme honey and toasted walnuts or the not so Greek S’mores that you cook yourself tableside. For lunch there’s a prix fix menu making it super affordable to try a bit of everything. Service is superb which is a Miami rarity. There’s even an authentic Greek ‘Host with the Most’ named Spiros. Tell him Hope sent you!
Kiki on the River is not just about dining. Soak up the ambiance inside or out while sipping on a “Miami Heat” (Acai liquor, fresh raspberries, lime, bitters, edible orchid), “Moscow Mule” (my favorite: ginger beer with a cayenne pepper kicker) or the “Mediterranean Escape” (Gin, ginger liquor, fresh dill, cucumber, lemon). Moet is on the menu, but no need for champagne spraying here. The vibe is much more laid back Greek island-like than St. Tropez insanity.
The outdoor terrace is filled with leafy vines and bougainvillea and has a big square bar front and center. Casual seating overlooks the Miami River straight ahead. Guests are welcome to arrive by boat. Several bright primary colored oversized straw chairs are also strategically placed near the entrance. Inside, there are floor to ceiling windows, leather chesterfield sofas, vintage lounge chairs and seashell chandeliers There’s a second cozier bar in the back as well as a living room-like sitting area overlooking the river with candelabras and shelves of books. It’s an intimate indoor space where table hopping and saying hello to your fellow Greek Gods and Goddesses is easy.
End with Ouzo and find the gondola ride on the river to take you home.
KIKI ON THE RIVER: 450 NW North River Drive, Miami 786-502-3243