The Strand Restaurant located at 671 Washington Avenue was the keystone in 1986 to revitalizing dark Washington Ave, years before Micky Wolfson bought the Washington Avenue Storage building. Gary Farmer, one of the original owners of The Strand and being an openly gay man, spent a year promoting it as a “mixed crowd restaurant” at parties, in gay clubs and with hairdressers. He was also one of the first few business owners in the area who thought about the need to preserve the architecture of South Beach. Part of the renovation that preceded opening the restaurant, was a discussion between Farmer and Leonard Horowitz about the color scheme for the Art Deco frieze work and façade that had been uncovered. Horowitz urged a 1980s pastel scheme like Friedman’s Bakery on the corner; Farmer preferred a sea-foam green, closer to the original colors. The original restaurant Famous was a noted Jewish eatery with red banquets and a more enclosed darker interior. The Strand however, really opened up the space and used mirrors and pastels to make the environment seem even bigger so that there was a feeling of openness but also intimacy people felt when sitting at a table or banquet. The popular meatloaf plate was tied over from the Famous, after being requested to be retained as the new Strand was being planned. Cheryl Cook, a bartender at the Strand for many years, invented the Cosmopolitan drink there. She was given a proclamation for that cocktail from the City in 2015, as part of their 100 year celebration. One patron fondly remembered when the Yale Glee Club came in and sang for their supper and the acoustics were superb. Another patron said, “Every night was pure magic…every night a visiting guest would stand to announce: I’m moving to the Beach.” A while after opening, New World Theatre and Acme Theater were two companies to have productions out of The Strand’s banquet room. When The Strand was sold to the Milan brothers they were asked to leave the space. Christine Dolan wrote a very unfavorable article about it in The Miami Herald. The large crowds that would eat and drink there from early hours disappeared. They had not realized they were ACME patrons.
In 1988, the restaurant was often used by MDPL for strategy meetings for the “Save Our Senator” campaign and staff met there for a monthly happy hour following Commission meetings. In the years 1989-1990, MDPL’s offices, Art Deco Welcome Center and gift shop were located on the same block as the Strand Restaurant at 661 Washington Avenue.
Shown is a photo of the historical restoration of the “Famous Restaurant” to “The Strand” in 1986, courtesy of Joseph P. Friedman, Architect. That year, J.P. Friedman & Associates opened its satellite office in the Helen Mar Apartments and was involved in the design of major architectural projects in Miami Beach. Photo was taken by Architectural photographer Steven Brooke, who is still located in Miami. Do you have fond memories of either the Famous or Strand Restaurants?