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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Ernie Els, the nationally renowned South African golf icon turned winemaker, was affectionately nicknamed “The Big Easy” because of his gentle disposition. So it was natural when Els and his partners at Grovebay Hospitality opened their new South African-inspired eatery at Brickell City Centre that they would name it “Big Easy Winebar & Grill.”

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Puerto Rican born chef Cesar Vega holds the reigns in the kitchen.

“African food is spices, textures, it’s everything,” Vega said.

South Africa is famous for their braai, or barbecue, which is typically enjoyed at social gatherings. The space itself lends to that as well. It’s luxury with a homey feel – the design is meant to capture the spirit of the land with furniture and decor from the western cape.

“It’s all about experiences. People are getting it. That’s what I talk to the waiters about – bringing South African experience to the people. They are getting it. They see the open kitchen and they’re getting and it living it,” Vega said.

Big Easy Winebar & Grill is one of many restaurants celebrating in this seasons Miami Spice Program, where top restaurants offer three-course meals priced at $39 per person for dinner and $23 dollars for lunch.

“This is the 16th year for Miami Spice with 200 restaurants participating, every year people get to choose to try every restaurant,” Vega said.

Now the part everyone was waiting for: the food and drinks.

CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo started with a traditional South African cocktail called Black Magic. It has blackberry juice vodka and more.

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“It’s like a really bitter fruit punch. You might not taste the alcohol in it,” Petrillo said after sipping the drink.

The drink was followed by the Tuscan kale and apple salad with feta, chili garbanzo croutons, apple chips and a tahini-lemon dressing. It was accompanied by some shareable plates, like Pork Belly Lollipops with braai sauce and more.

“That’s a winner!” exclaimed Petrillo. “Not too spicy. It’s a sweet and savory with a pop of jalapeño on top. It’s super tender and yummy. You can bite these bites all day.”

She then tried some boerie bites. It’s farmers sausage, in a soft roll, onion jam, tomato chutney and cowboy candy.

“It’s an African pigs in blanket but it feels more gourmet than a hot dog,” Petrillo joked.

For dinner, a delicate corvina with African spice atop risotto verde with cous cous.

“It’s a really light, flaky delish fish and then it has South African seasonings, spices and brings you to another country,” Petrillo said.

Lastly, sweet for the sweet, Nutella bread pudding with salted caramel and whipped cream as well as a classic South African dessert Cape-Dutch Malva pudding with Amarula crème anglaise.

Big Easy Winebar & Grill is opened seven days a week lunch and dinner. For more info, visit

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Miami Spice is on now through October 30th and you can visit for details.

Lisa Petrillo