David Martinez Choosing the Belle Meade Lifestyle
OIR: How did you and Michelle end up in Belle Meade, living and working in the Upper East Side?
DM: It all kind of happened at the same time. We had already been talking about branching off and doing something on our own. Michelle and I were living on Key Biscayne back in 2005 and we loved it, but it was far from everything. My business partner happened to live in Belle Meade, so we started looking at a few different houses. We bought the house the end of July 2005 and we closed on this restaurant the second or third week of August of 2005, so it was all within two or three weeks.
OIR: So besides the fact that Belle Meade is so close to the restaurant on Bicayne Boulevard, what do you love about living there?
DM: Everything. I love how neighborhood friendly it is. I mean we have a four year old, so for us it makes total sense. I love the proximity to the city and where it’s located geographically. I mean you’re close to the beach, you’re close to the airport, and you’re close to Midtown. And its an old neighborhood with houses from the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s and a lot of the those older houses have a lot of character. Michelle is born and raised in Miami. I think the Miami feel of it always appealed to her. I’m a big fan of Belle Meade, I mean my son walks around the neighborhood and everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He goes into peoples’ yards and picks their flowers and knocks on their doors. Looking back, I don’t think anyone plans to buy a restaurant, renovate it, buy a house, renovate it, get married and try to get pregnant all in the same three months. Looking back, it was a very stressful part of our lives, but we were young and ambitious and that’s what we wanted to do. And we had the luck and the ability to travel to different cities and different countries. Everywhere we traveled we would gather different ideas of what we wanted to do. When we came back home, it was kind of what Michy’s was when it first opened. People really seemed to identify with it and a lot of people said it looked like a restaurant that wasn’t in Miami. The décor was very—
DM: Eclectic is a good word. Controversial was the word I was looking for; a lot of people didn’t like it. We used to joke, it was a mish mash of things happening in here and that’s kind of where the name Michy’s came from.
JP: That’s kind of what Miami’s about, too. The Fontainebleau started that way, when Morris Lapidus collected all this bric a brac from Europe and threw it all in there.
DM: One hundred percent. Like I said, the décor was controversial, but people still came and it was all about our service. We got the highest score on Zagat in the entire city of Miami for years. Our wine list was very eclectic and unlike anything. You know I’ll never forget the first few months and really the first year. People would always open up the wine list and they would have no idea what anything was. They were very intimidated by it. It was swimming upstream for a lot of time and we had to work at gaining peoples’ trust until finally, people would come in as say, “You know what, I’m not even going to look at the wine list, because you’ve never done us wrong, you never hit us over the head with the price, you’ve introduced us to things we never otherwise would’ve drank..”
OIR: You were real trailblazers opening a restaurant in this area back then.
DM: The customers at the beginning would say, “Are you crazy, why would you open here?” but yet they would continue to come.
OIR: Because it’s so good.
DM: Miami’s kind of weird to the point where it’s almost like a Latin American city and so therefore, a lot of our clientele are from Brazil or Russia or Argentina, where good neighborhoods are right next to bad neighborhoods. And on top of it, for the people from Aventura, it was almost like they were being naughty coming to this location. Luckily, we were fortunate from the get go, we were busy from the first day we were opened and we never looked back.