Howie Kleinberg is no stranger to being in the limelight after a stint on Bravo TV's "Top Chef." This time, he's toning things down in his North Miami 'hood with Bulldog Barbeque, a modern yet comfortable restaurant located off of Biscayne Boulevard that also happens to be in contention for the Golden Local Best BBQ honors. We headed over to dig in and seek out the flavor of Kleinberg's newest venture, which left us saying "More cornbread, please!"
I'm sure all the items on your menu are like your children, but which one are you most proud of?
For appetizers, it's gotta be either the Cornmeal Crusted Oysters, the White Chili, or the Smokehouse Wings. For the barbeque section, either the Beef Brisket or the Baby Back Ribs, and for sides, it's the burnt-end beans. I really didn't want to put beans on the menu at first because I personally don't like beans; I had to find a way to make them something enjoyable, which I did by adding things like brown sugar and some meat (brisket).
How would you describe Miami and its dining scene?
I think there's a lot of room for growth. There are some great restaurants and great chefs in the area, but I think there needs to be more varied concepts. It seems like there's no happy medium; the places you see here are usually very high-end or low-end, which is why I found a need for a well-done casual eating spot, specifically BBQ-style.
What is it that draws you to barbeque food?
I appreciate the simplicity of it. I've spent a lot of years in high-end kitchens, but the simple things are what bring you back. I like using few ingredients, the simplicity of the plating, and the casual, comfortable atmosphere. I wanted my restaurant to be a place where people can just walk in with shorts and a t-shirt and feel comfortable.
Some key ingredients every home kitchen should have?
-Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The five utensils every home kitchen should have?
-A sharp knife
-Stainless steel sauce pots
-A large cutting board
-Lots of refrigeration
-Lots of counter space
Your favorite dish growing up?
I loved hot dogs. My father passed away when I was younger, and his family founded American Kosher.
What's the biggest thing you took from being on "Top Chef"?
I've learned not to take food and the industry so seriously. In this business, people work really hard and there's no need for so much stuffiness. I learned, from my own experiences, that a lot of high-end chefs cook for themselves and not for the people. I think the show made me a confident cook. I try to be humble -- you kind of have to in this industry.
Do you regret not serving that dish in the "Quickfire Challenge"?
Nope, not for a second. If you're not happy with what you've got, then why put it out there?