The Forge, an award-winning restaurant located in Miami, is one of the most recognized names in fine dining around the world. A Miami mainstay for more than half a century, the venue has been a reflection of the city’s cultural and economic changes from the moment Dino Phillips developed the space in the early 1920s as a blacksmith’s forge and remains so today.
Phillips created decorative iron gates and sculptures at the shop before turning it into a sophisticated dinner-dancing club and gambling casino in the 1930s. Wealthy Miami socialites were delighted with the transformation.
Through much of the 30s, 40s, and 50s The Forge remained popular, but by the time Al Malnik purchased the club in 1968, elegance had given way to disrepair. Malnik demolished the 41st street restaurant and started from scratch.
True to his dream of creating the finest dining establishment possible, Malnik drew upon his love of European art and architecture to create an atmosphere that would blend the best of old world history with new up-to-the minute designs. Malnik found himself traveling the world searching for the perfect antiques, fixtures, art and wine to replace what remained of the original Forge suffering from years of neglect. The result was nothing short of spectacular.
Visitors entering the 30,000 square foot restaurant are immediately enveloped in a sense of history. On cool nights guests are greeted with a welcoming fire burning in the twelve-foot Victorian fireplace. Each of the eight dining rooms features a different theme where diners can find iron gates by Edward Brandt, sconces from Napoleon’s Waterloo headquarters, floor to ceiling stained glass windows, antique tapestries, and original works of art by Salvador Dali, Beardsley Rousseau, andJohn Nast — all handpicked by Malnik.
The fine food and interesting collection of antiques and treasures from around the world not withstanding, the crowning glory of the renovation was and still is a spectacular eight-room underground wine cellar. More than 300,000 bottles of fine vintages from around the world had been collected, several of which were so rare they were secured behind iron gates. Malnik watched his dream come to life as guests flocked to The Forge.
After some initial fine-tuning to the restaurants menu offerings The Forge’s traditional steak-house menu and superior service provided an exquisite dining experience for its patrons and was rewarded with countless accolades. For the next 22 years The Forge remained the destination of choice for Miami’s old-money upper class and year after year attracted well-known names including Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Richard Burton, and Richard Nixon.
But not everything went smoothly and The Forge had its fair shares of bumps along the road to their success. In the summer of 1991 a roof fire closed the restaurant. When the restaurant reopened in November 1991, Malnik’s son Shareef stepped in to assume his current leadership role and has been in charge ever since. Less than one year after Shareef took charge, Hurricane Andrew ripped through the city leaving many homeless and even more without electricity or water.
Damage to The Forge’s multi-million dollar wine cellar exceeded $5 million. Without electricity, temperature control was impossible and thousands of bottles of classic wine, including several dating back to the early nineteenth century, had succumbed to the soaring August heat.
Despite this setback, Shareef persevered. Some things – superior service, spectacular food and wine, and an atmosphere unlike anywhere else – remained the same. But there was no question that Shareef took notice of, and embraced, the changes Miami Beach was experiencing by adding an entertainment aspect to the dinner presentations which included fashion shows, beautiful people, and great music.
Under Shareef’s direction The Forge kept one step ahead of the city’s trendy transformation. The Forge’s traditional steak-house menu was expanded, changed to an la carte format and now includes seafood, chicken, and veal dishes as well as classic appetizers ranging from Beluga caviar to baked onion soup, shrimp cocktail and escargot.
The addition of three new venues in spaces adjacent to The Forge in 1996 and 1997 added a glamorous feel and cemented The Forge’s position as a Miami landmark destination and its ability to keep up with the times. The additions – the Cuba Club, a private smoker’s club catering to celebrities, Café Nostalgia and Jimmy’Z drew a new type of clientele to The Forge and have continued to shape the restaurant’s unique atmosphere.
Today, Miami enjoys its eclectic mix of celebrities, tourists, and local residents and its accompanying reputation as an international hotspot, while The Forge continues to be Miami’s destination of choice.