What is Walrus Rodeo? It’s complicated.
They serve Italian dishes like potato gnocchi and lasagna but don’t identify as an Italian restaurant. They make pizzas in a wood fired pizza oven, but aren’t a pizzeria (it actually says so on their website, business cards, and matchbooks). And although it’s in the same Buena Vista strip mall as Boia De, its sister restaurant and one of Miami’s absolute best restaurants, Walrus Rodeo is not another Boia De.
Like a younger sibling eager to form its own identity, almost everything about Walrus Rodeo feels designed to make this clear and sidestep any categorization whatsoever. The host stand and side stations are garage toolkits. The Western-themed wallpaper has boomboxes and surfers hiding among the saloons and horses. And that wood fired oven does the work of a full kitchen: roasting, baking, and grilling everything on orange embers and temperamental flames.
The menu is equally all-over-the-place—featuring a green lamb lasagna, charbroiled oysters doused with prosecco, and a carrot tartare that has surpassed all of the tuna or steak versions we've ever tried. Don't ask us to define this cuisine as anything other than delicious.
If its name didn’t already get the point across, Walrus Rodeo doesn’t take itself too seriously. But it does take you—the guest—seriously. And maybe that’s why all this delightful chaos works: behind the goofiness is skill. The service is sincere, knowledgeable, and unpretentious. The food is exciting, but it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime reservation that intimidates the hell out of you.
It’s one of those rare special occasion restaurants that’s also perfect for most regular occasions. It’s an impressive but not boring date spot—even if you’re just taking yourself on a date. Sit solo at their kitchen counter, and you’ll be entertained all night by cooks stretching pizza dough and rearranging pans around the fire. If you stick to the starters, salads, pastas, and the rodeo za, you'll have a perfect meal no matter who you’re here with.
The possibilities are plenty because Walrus Rodeo is defiantly unrestrictive. And in a landscape where so many trendy Miami restaurants blur into one homogenous mass, Walrus Rodeo has taken a sharp left in the opposite direction—and in the process made us feel like we’re tasting pizza, lasagna, and carrots for the very first time. Sure, it’s a little confusing, but Walrus Rodeo takes simple things we’ve grown to see as banal or mundane and makes them exciting again. Kids know that feeling well. But for a restaurant to capture it, that’s a rare and complicated achievement.
The menu at Walrus Rodeo changes frequently, but here are a few examples of the kind of dishes you might find here.
All components of this tartare are carrots: pickled and fermented carrots, carrot espuma, burnt carrot mole, carrot chips, and carrot-top salsa verde. It’s quickly mixed tableside and comes with a lemon wedge and salt. It’s sweet, savory, and multilayered in flavor and texture. Let us be clear: you are ordering this. And you’ll also be scraping the plate in disbelief that carrots could be so diverse.
Mustard Green Lasagna
This is an off-menu item, but they make a limited amount every night (and tend to sell out) so it's a good reason to get here early. These green sheets of pasta are layered between rich lamb ragu, salty grana padano cheese, and creamy stracchino. The layers (we counted fifteen) get their green hue from spinach and are topped with a sauce made of fermented mustard greens. The entire top of the slab is charred, which makes each bite taste like the coveted crispy corner piece.
The presentation of this dish changes, but—no matter what surrounds it—the gnocchi are always so good. The soft little pillows are finished in the wood fired oven, so they’re browned like marshmallows on one side and springy all around.
Even if you think you don’t like anchovy pizza, you’ll like this one. The anchovies are really boquerones—white pickled anchovies that are more vinegary than salty. They’re interspersed between sweet shallots and hidden under a generous flurry of breadcrumbs. The pizza is sliced into six pieces and brushed with maple butter. The resulting bites pop with spicy tomatoes and ends with a slightly sweet crust.
This dish used to consist of porchetta (pictured above). But now it comes with pork belly. The good news is that it's cheaper and still incredibly delicious. It also still comes with some cooked down sweet peppers, a side of housemade ranch, and lettuce leaves you can use to wrap everything up. It’s sweet, salty, tender, crunchy, and savory.