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Shelley's: So Simple, So Great

Shelley's Spread, photo courtesy Shelley'sShelley's Oysters, photo courtesy Shelley'sShelley's Interior, photo courtesy Shelley'sShelley's Carrots, photo courtesy Shelley'sShelley's Ham Croquetas, photo by lee kleinSmoked Grouper Dip at Shelley's, photo by lee kleinShelley's Bar, photo by lee kleinSimple Fish Entree at Shelley's, photo courtesy Shelley'sShelley's Take On Manhattan, photo by lee kleinBottled Drinks At Shelley's, at Shelley's, photo courtesy Shelley'sHours, photo courtesy Shelley's

Shelley's is sneaky good. It opened quietly in November, 2017, in the historic Shelley Building on Sunset Drive in South Miami. The homey, unpretentious seaside ambiance features old pictures, antiques, knick-knacks and stuff on the walls, a pressed-tin ceiling, white tiles behind the bar...very comfortable, the sort of neighborhood place you figure you'll walk into and get a decent enough meal. But the meals here are far better than decent. I imagine most diners leave surprised by just how much it exceeded their expectations.

Shelley's Spread, photo courtesy Shelley's

Executive Chef Cleophus Hethington, a veteran of the US Navy, has worked at Alter and Matador Room locally, and at highly-regarded The Optimist in Atlanta. At Shelley's, he leans local, simple and eclectic in his cooking. The concise, seafood-centric menu evolves on a daily basis, but signature dishes include cornmeal-crusted catfish with southern ice cream, tomato gravy and kimchi collard greens; fish collars with sherry mustard jus and roasted vegetables; crab and chorizo with bucatini pasta; and fish & chips, on this evening a moist slab of grouper lightly battered and served with "comeback sauce," Mississippi's kissing cousin to remoulade sauce and a nod to Hethington's Southern and Gulf Coast roots (his other culinary influences derive from the African Diaspora).

Simple Fish Entree at Shelley's, photo courtesy Shelley's

More influences still: Shelley’s incorporates products from local businesses such as JoJo Tea, Sunfresh Farms, Frice Cream – and we tried a delicious vegan cinnamon bun from Bloodless Vegan.

Shelley's Interior, photo courtesy Shelley's

The most touted appetizer is a plate of darkly and sweetly roasted carrots with minced cashews, cashew cream and a splash of date syrup.

Shelley's Carrots, photo courtesy Shelley's

Another good choice: a quartet of aged ham croquettes, came crunchy, creamy and served with a wedge of lime.

Shelley's Ham Croquetas, photo by lee klein

Yet one more winner, the delectable fish dip (on this occasion made with grouper), smoked on premise and served with "Florida chips," which are similar to Doritos tortilla chips. 

Smoked Grouper Dip at Shelley's, photo by lee klein

Then again, a selection of fresh oysters culled from both coasts offers another no-brainer starter option. I don't think it would be wrong to make a meal from just the appetizers. The fried chicken thigh sandwich and shrimp po-boy are two reasons to try Shelley's at lunchtime.

Shelley's Oysters, photo courtesy Shelley's

Head Bartender Baylee Pruitt produces a playful menu of classic draft and frozen cocktails, as well as unique, shelf-stable bottled cocktails: consistent, creative drinks that customers can get pronto! You'll be sorry if you miss the "Sorry We Missed You," with pre-batched bourbon blended with honey, citrus, fresh marjoram and a shot of sparkling wine. 

Bottled Drinks At Shelley's, at Shelley's, photo courtesy Shelley's

Pruitt also captains a service staff that is spot-on and extremely personable. Managing Partner Brian Griffiths (formerly of Lucali and Broken Shaker) knows hospitality, mixology and how to make a room feel at home. The whole place fairly reeks of friendliness. 

Shelley's Bar, photo by lee klein

Hethington and his partners are planning to debut Over Under in downtown Miami this spring, promising “Old Florida charm meets modern Miami cool.” Which is also a pretty good description of Shelley's.      Hours:

Hours, photo courtesy Shelley's