This article originally appeared in the 2010 edition of “Taste,” the guide to fine dining in Broward and the Palm Beaches published annually by New Times for which I wrote all the editorial. To read the rest of my pieces in the 2010 edition, select the Taste category at the top or bottom of this article.
Mike Moir didn’t particularly need to open his second restaurant, Little Moir’s Leftovers Café, in Jupiter. His first venture, Little Moir’s Food Shack, is still extremely popular, and often has crowds mulling about outside waiting to get a table during lunch or dinner service. And new restaurants can be notoriously risky ventures, especially in a down economy. But Moir and his wife of three years, Vivian Bordieri Moir didn’t see it that way.
“We thought it was worth the risk. The market for good food in the county is strong, and Vivian and I wanted to do something together. When the opportunity came up to take the space here in Abacoa, we decided to go for it. And this restaurant fits so well here – it’s a gorgeous location.”
Leftovers Café builds on what worked so well at Food Shack, serving fresh fish influenced by a variety of cultures and cooking styles, incorporating fresh fruits, greens, and creative preparations, but the Moirs didn’t want a carbon copy of the first restaurant.
“Well,” says Moir, “from a physical standpoint, we wanted to address things like making the space larger, allowing enough room for people to wait for a table indoors, stuff like that.”
Leftovers Café is larger and airier than Food Shack, with high ceilings, lots of light, plenty of tables, and bar stool seating backing up to the open kitchen, which allows diners to watch chefs work and cop an occasional taste of something new.
“We stuck with the open kitchen design from Food Shack because we both love open kitchens,” says Moir.
“I love to see people cook for me,” adds Bordieri Moir, “and it makes people more a part of the experience.”
But it’s the menu where the real changes have come in; this isn’t about starting a chain.
“As far as food,” says Moir, “we only brought six things over from Food Shack. For the rest of the menu, it goes to my philosophy of food and how to run a restaurant: it’s not so much about me, it’s about us. All the guys are involved 100% with their creativity.”
So while the Moirs set up the framework, every day’s menu is a collaborative effort between the chefs at the restaurant. A recent lunch with the Moirs and their 8-month-old son Maximus (“He’s Little Moir now,” says Moir) resulted in a steady stream of fresh fish dishes arriving at the table. It started out with the justifiably popular tuna-basil roll (sushi-rare, of course), then came fresh ceviche topped with caramelized plantain, on to their signature sweet potato-crusted snapper, followed by a plate of panko-fried oysters, a quick detour to a small bowl of macaroni and cheese with chicken and toasted garlic (rumored to be a phenomenal hangover remedy), and finally a huge platter of deserts, all made fresh in house.
“I had no idea what would be offered today,” says Moir, “because with the exception of the few signatures we brought over from Food Shack, the menu changes every day. I had an idea of what came in the door and what might be done with it, but that’s it. The guys working in the kitchen have a meeting in the morning, look at what’s come in fresh, and decide what’s going to be offered that day. They bring their history, their experience, and their cultural backgrounds to the menu. They’re all fresh ingredients; we provide the building blocks, and the guys do what they want with them, playing off of each other and off of the base ideas.”
Moir started cooking at a hotel in Toronto when he was just 16, the youngest person in the country to take on a chef apprenticeship. About 20 years ago, he moved to South Florida to take over as chef at Reef Grill, which he guided from relative obscurity to fame.
“Reef needed a lot of love when I walked in there,” says Moir.
After 10 years at Reef, he opened Food Shack, and has now added Leftovers to his resume. This time though, it’s a partnership with his wife, who worked with Moir on the concept and now runs the front of house.
“I have a passion for people,” she says.
“And food,” Moir interrupts with a grin, “she has a real passion for food – she’s the best critic I know.”
“I do love to eat” she continues. “Michael gave me the opportunity to be a part of this, and I’m so happy. I love being here, and I love my customers.”
While Bordieri Moir enjoys greeting her regulars by name, chatting with newcomers, and getting feedback from diners, Moir is happiest behind the line, doing what he loves most.
“I still love cooking. Really, really love it,” he says.
“It’s his first wife,” says Bordieri Moir.
So it must be a testament to Bordieri Moir and Maximus that he’s down to working just four shifts a week.
Moir looks at his wife and son and smiles, “Yeah, it really is.”
Little Moir’s Leftovers Café is located at 451 University Boulevard, Jupiter. They’re open Monday through Saturday from 11 AM to 9 PM, closed Sundays. Call 561-627-6030 or visit www.littlemoirsfoodshack.com for more information.