Jerry Berger reflecting on his pal Al Malnik

May 10th, 2010

alvin-malnik-jerry-berger

Why I hated the Oscars: Rush home, change clothes, rush to a restaurant, rush through dinner (Do I have time to go to the bathroom?), rush to the red carpet ceremonies, stumble over people, shift uncomfortably, squeeze into the lobby, (stomach making embarrassing noises), make small talk, rush to the ad agency to check out the ads for placement in the next editions, reflect miserably on some winners, back to the garage to wait forever for the car.  Well, that’s more or less the way I felt in the 1960s, when I lived in Hollywood working as a Paramount publicist. I had expatriated myself from  St. Louis and Manhattan to coordinate between the studio and the producers.

Fast forward. A week ago, it was time to attend a reunion of my high school alma mater, Soldan-Blewett.  My childhood pal Alvin Malnik, who made his mark in Florida in real estate and philanthropies, winged here from his estate in Palm Beach.  He chatted about his glamorous wife Nancy and their twins and triplettes.  Then, the tycoon turned to other faves – his son Shareef’s world-renown restaurant – Miami Beach’s The Forge (which has been totally updated) and our town’s Crown Candy Kitchen and Tony’s.

This may be a bit self-serving, but here are a few pics then and now.

jerry-berger-al-malnik

Haute Living Magazine Top 100 People in Miami

April 29th, 2010

Al & Shareef Malnik
Category, Entrepreneurs
Company, The Forge
Industry, Restaurant
What Makes Them Haute, Where would Miami Beach be without the Malniks? Al Malnik is the visionary entrepreneur-turned-lawyer-turned-restaurateur who opened The Forge in the 1960′s and the Beach has never been the same. The restaurant has served as the stomping ground for every A-list group that came through the town. The Forge is more than a one of miami best restaurant; it’s a landmark that played a significant role in the revival of Miami Beach. Shareef, who grew up in the restaurant’s kitchen, took over the operations in the 1990′s after he returned to this hometown from extensive world travels. Shareef closed the restaurant last year for extensive renovations, finally reopening its doors in late March under the updated moniker The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar by Shareef Malnik. Watever it’s called, it is still where you will find us on Wednesdays.

al-malnik-shareef-malnik-haute-living

Make-A-Wish 2010 Garden Party at the Malnik’s Home

April 28th, 2010

al-malnik-don-king-shareef-malnik

More than 200 guests braved the rains Sunday to attend The InterContinental Miami Make-A-Wish Garden Party, hosted by Al and Nancy Malnik at their oceanfront estate in Ocean Ridge, near West Palm Beach.

The winds and scattered showers drove the soggy heeled under a tent, where they sidestepped puddles and gulped down the ironically named Rising Suns, lychee- and grapefruit-infused cocktails designed by the newly reopened Forge’s mixologist; and enjoyed beats by DJ Joe Dert and a performance by Japanese Taiko drummers Fushu Daiko.

gabrielle-anwar-shareef-malnik-april2010

Among the guests — boxing promoter Don King — and Burn Notice star Gabrielle Anwar, who appears to be Shareef Malnik’s new girlfriend. Anwar, in a green, flowery dress, was in a great mood. And why not? The Forge’s owner was showering the 40-year-old British mother of three with attention and her USA show just got picked up for two more seasons.

– MADELEINE MARR

WELCOME TO WONDERLAND

He may not be a big-time promoter anymore, but that doesn’t mean local philanthropist Michael Capponi doesn’t know how to throw a party.

This year, for his birthday, the 38-year-old chose a fun and eclectic theme: Alice in Wonderland. On Friday at the lavish Star Island home of developer Thomas Kramer, Capponi’s closest VIP friends donned costumes similar to what you would see in the Disney flick: Alices, Queens of Hearts, Mad Hatters, Tweedledees, Tweedledums and white rabbits.

Kramer — the king of the castle (with a crown on his head and a long velvet coat) — helped the birthday boy (dressed as the Mad Hatter) blow out the candles.

While most guests arrived on wheels, a few lucky ones pulled up their yachts to the soiree. Inside, guests who hadn’t been to Kramer’s mansion before, snuck a peek at his grandiose art collection and decorated outside pool area.

Spotted: Transformers director Michael Bay, boxer Andre Berto and Project Runway runner-up Uli Herzner.

The party (at which guests shelled out $50 to get past the velvet ropes), raised $30,000 for the United Way of Miami-Dade County. Those who didn’t want the night to end early partied across town at SET, where clubgoers were welcomed to Wonderland in style.

The club, decked out with four-foot-tall playing cards hanging from the ceiling, had a huge clock made for the occasion, and Tweedledee spun a mix of hip-hop and pop from the DJ booth.

– MICAELA HOOD

Al Malnik Reflects On Getting Started

April 13th, 2010

The Make-A-Wish organization has this sentence floating across the screen on their Web page promoting World Wish Day, April 29, 2010:  “Today is when tomorrow’s wishes start coming true.”

alvin-malnik-make-a-wish-maimi

Growing up, Al Malnik may not have been dreaming about becoming a lawyer, restaurateur or successful businessman.  But what he did know was that he would, without a doubt, make something of himself.  “Growing up in a very poor neighborhood in St. Louis – experiencing poverty – gave me an uncanny, almost compulsive desire to make something out of myself,” he said.  “Whether it was consciously or unconsciously, that desire included being important in whatever I did.”

nancy-malnik-alvin-make-a-wish-foundation

An extremely private person, Al barely agrees to interview requests but his business success, including a large consumer loan business and at one time Miami Beach’s world-renowned and recently renovated restaurant, The Forge, is owned by Shareef Malnik.  “I haven’t really paid much attention to what’s been written,” he said. “People pretty much write what they want and that gets repeated.”

Documented or not, he definitely succeeded and that success has been in more areas than just business.  Right from the start, Al began making financial contributions to charitable organizations.  That generosity certainly deserves respect. But going the extra mile – donating your time and opening your heart and home to those in need – is worthy of even more.

al-malnik-nancy-forge-make-a-wish

It’s no surprise that both Al and his wife Nancy are active supporters of organizations committed to making a difference in the lives of individuals in need. The scope of their philanthropic activities is broad: children’s causes, religious-based charities, education and a large donation to Jackson Memorial Hospital, in honor of the late chairman and his friend Jay Weiss, are just a few.
A life-altering experience began in 2004 when one of the Malnik’s triplets, six-year-old Jarod, was diagnosed with AML leukemia. While Al and Nancy had always held a special passion for groups focused on helping children and made a point to focus much of their charity work on those groups, they came face to face with the reality of just how fragile human life is and the amount of faith and endurance they would need to fight this battle.

Throughout Jarod’s seven-month cancer treatment, Al and Nancy’s belief that even a single act of kindness can positively impact a child’s life was reinforced. Even before having their own children, one organization, the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, has always been a favorite for the couple. They say seeing a child’s face light up with happiness and joy is something unforgettable.

Years have passed since their family’s battle with cancer and Jarod is strong and healthy. Their commitment to charitable organizations is stronger than ever. Grateful for any opportunity to see their own son smile during his treatments, they wanted to make things easier for other families as well. For several years now, they have been lifetime benefactors of the organization.

Some say success is often helped along by a healthy dose of luck or good timing, but looking back at Al’s business ventures it’s clear he left little to chance. When you have the ability to walk into a restaurant known primarily for its $2 dinners and see more – turn it into The Forge, or represent clients other lawyers wouldn’t consider – more than luck is at play. “I’ve always done what I’ve wanted to do, within reasonable bounds or what I’ve considered reasonable bounds,” Al said.

Make-A-Wish families and children in need of some special wish-granting are glad he did.

For more information about Make-A-Wish, visit www.sfla.wish.org or call 954-967-9474.

The Forge from 2005

April 8th, 2010

By Lee Klein
Published on April 14, 2005

The Forge is something of a way-back time machine. The faded colonial-style gray-and-white facade is fronted by tall, black, nineteenth-century-inspired gas lamps. Inside the Miami Beach institution is a group of eclectically rococo dining rooms, though to call the décor eclectic is like saying Michael Jackson is a little odd. Still, what better word befits a dining establishment with pressed-tin ceilings, stained-glass cathedral windows, titanic tapestries, and — among its hundreds of oddities and antiquities — a twelve-foot Victorian fireplace circa 1830, sconces from Napoleon’s Waterloo headquarters, a crystal chandelier from the Paris Opera House, another from the White House (of James Madison), an Art Nouveau statue by John Nast, iron gates by Edward Brandt, wall plates by Salvador Dali, a Tiffany window from 1907, paintings of naked nymphs, and a Beardsley Rousseau parrot mural. Amazingly it all comes together to form a warm, comfortable, even romantic setting. The outside courtyard is cozy too.

The wine collection is a time machine unto itself, housing some 300,000 bottles, including arguably the most ambitious collection of nineteenth-century Burgundy and Bourdeaux in the country (dating back to an 1822 Lafite). Pick a label, choose a year, though you’ll probably want to avoid 1992, which is when Hurricane Andrew dealt the Forge cellar a big blow — to the tune of a seven-million-dollar loss. Nowadays it’s back to where it was.

Andrew was just another memorable date in the Forge’s intriguing and infamous history. Turn the dial to the Twenties, when artisan Dino Phillips forged ornamental gates in what was then his blacksmith shop. In the Thirties the building was transformed into a casino and open-air gallery where socialites would dance beneath the stars. The Forge was the place to go in the sizzling Miami Beach of the Fifties, not the place to go in the not-hot Sixties. The year was 1968 when Alvin Malnik bought the property and turned it around. In 1977 there was a shooting death on-site involving the stepson of mobster Meyer Lansky; in 1991 a fire destroyed the roof. Meanwhile the Beach was busy being reborn, and as Alvin’s debonaire son Shareef entered the scene, the Forge’s fortunes soared along with the city’s, becoming ground zero for the influx of jet-setting, party-minded visitors — the well-off who wanted to be well fed. It still is that place — stretch limos double-lining the curb while moneyed patrons mix it up here and next door at the private dinner club Jimmy’z.
Nobody has told the waiters that the old days are gone. They dress in the formal attire of a bygone era — not white gloves, but that’s the treatment they give. The sommelier, too, wears the old-fashioned silver tasting cup around his neck, though admittedly this could be mistaken for the sort of bling favored nowadays by rappers. Some of the crew are long in the tooth and effect the somber bearing of butlers in Agatha Christie yarns, but there’s something to be said for experience. Proprietors of Miami’s trendier upscale restaurants needn’t stuff their staffs into tuxedoes, although they might consider visiting the Forge and taking note of how waiters properly articulate menu items, replace flatware and plates, handle wines, and generally keep on top of things in a pampering (not pandering) professional fashion.

While service takes an anachronistic route toward pleasing the customer, and the wine list and décor favor the shock-and-awe approach, the Forge’s cuisine has mostly been about satisfying with traditional steak-house staples of juicy sirloins, gargantuan lobsters, and family-style sides of potatoes, creamed spinach, and so on. Permit me to travel back eight years, to a night when my folks and I had dinner here (there are few restaurants more exhilarating to parents than this one). Long-time chef Kal Abdalla was still at the stoves, and I recall that after the waiters performed their synchronized lifting of silver domes from the large, oval entrée plates (always impressive), my father’s filet mignon, alone in the middle of the expansive white dish, looked like an aerial photograph of a brown-capped man in a snowstorm.

Let’s dash ahead to 2003, when chef Andrew Rothschild replaced Kal and proceeded to shake the foundations of the Forge menu by adding contemporary flair to the stodgy fare, and accompaniments to the entrées. Andrew Swersky inherited the chef position seven months ago, but he’s been part of the Forge family a long while — in fact, he helped create chef Kal’s original menu. In spirit, though, Swersky is closer to Rothschild, adding global and Latin accents and forgoing the sparse, à la carte approach; filet mignon now comes with a small dollop of mashed potatoes and a bouquet of baby vegetables. Swersky, also like his predecessor, infuses his cuisine with all manner of modern comestibles: mache, microgreens, heirloom tomatoes, white truffles, golden beets, wakame, basmati, coconut risotto. When pork chops come with soba noodles and lotus root chips, you can be pretty sure, gastronomically speaking, this is not your father’s Forge.

Predinner breads include Parmesan wafers, raisin-walnut toast, and warm onion-and-rosemary-flecked focaccia. There are about 40 ways to begin your meal — soups, salads, pastas, thin-crust pizzas, a fairly extensive raw bar, and a slew of hot and cold appetizers. Steak tartare, an old standard that Swersky reinserted, is a melodious mound of red, raw, buttery beef enlightened by truffle oil, lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce, Worcestershire, fresh herbs, and slightly piquant paprika aioli. Accompaniments missed: a poached egg on top too overcooked to drip luxurious yolk into the meat, and a prefried trio of plantain chips lacking the clean crispness of classic toast points. Escargots have never crawled off the menu, the half-dozen snails big and tender, a splash of Chardonnay effective in cutting the garlic and grease.

Organic arugula salad offers light passage to the heavy main courses, the peppery greens tossed with paper-thin shavings of fennel and Parmigiano-Reggiano in lemon juice and fruity green olive oil. Signature chopped salad is too fussy, the diced tomatoes, vegetables, and Gorgonzola cheese molded into a ribboned round of cucumber, with lettuce leaves protruding upward like feathers in a headdress. As with the plantain chips, this is another instance where the Forge should stick to the way things used to be: a big bowl of easy-to-eat salad.

Some things never change: Steaks here are still as solid as an anvil. A requested end cut of boneless prime rib eye (Delmonico) was near perfect, the crust darkly caramelized on a torrid grill, the juices thus sealed within the meat like water in a balloon — didn’t need anything but a little salt and pepper, though a rich, veal-based chanterelle sauce on the side did manage to take it higher. Both the waiter and menu reminded us that the signature “super steak,” a sixteen-ounce portion of sirloin dry-aged for 21 days, has been cited by Wine Spectator as “the best steak in America.” It is damn tender, with noticeably deep beef flavor. No more Forge 48-ounce Porterhouse, as big as a dinosaur and now as extinct.
Five types of fish come cooked simply over oak wood or busily garnished with global accompaniments. The plainest presentation in the latter group is a center cut of swordfish, which was grilled to just the right point of doneness and crowned with a sparkling mélange of roasted red and yellow peppers, kalamata olives, capers, olive oil, and a drizzle of rosemary butter. Dover sole, on the other hand, could make Blackwell’s list of worst-dressed fish, the delicate flesh flashily sauced with coconut pineapple rum beurre blanc.  A two- or three-pound lobster would be a safer bet for uncomplicated gratification.

A sweet and sticky “mahogany” glaze on oak-grilled chicken, in tandem with a fruity lingonberry sauce underneath, proved too cloying against the subtle, smoky flavor of the moist breast and nearly sabotaged an otherwise sensational sliced, boneless leg wrapped around savory cornbread-and-foie gras stuffing with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (if this makes you think of Simon & Garfunkel, you’re old enough to become a waiter here). A savory mold of Israeli couscous and a scattering of oak-grilled vegetables are served with the bird, though your table might want to share a couple of sides just the same. A worthwhile one to try would be “hash browns Lyonnaise,” a fancy name for a fat, potato pancakelike puck of creamy yuca capped with sautéed onions. Shoestring potatoes are too similar to junk-food potato snacks, so I was disappointed (partly in myself for not asking about the dish beforehand) that “truffle-Parmesan fries” brought a plentiful pile of those cold, crisp, skinny sticks with nary a trace of cheese — and even less truffle oil.

Chocolate soufflé was moister than cake but not quite runny enough — overcooked by a mere minute or two. Just the same, the full, smooth chocolate flavor was right on the money, which is why the full, smooth chocolate sauce seemed redundant — crme anglaise would’ve been a better partner. Other desserts (key lime pie, cheesecake, chocolate cake, and the like) are big and sweet.

Though the Forge’s food is convincingly contemporary, there are probably other dinner spots to which you’ll want to take those hipster visitors from New York (though keep Shareef’s place in mind for party night on Wednesdays). The Forge is more suited for special occasions, or when you crave a great steak and Bordeaux, or for those times you just want to escape this hectic world and enter a genteel realm of glass and distinction.

Al Malnik Knows Real Estate

March 16th, 2010

So we get alot of emails and questions about the huge mansion at the end of Ocean Blvd where it meets A1A. This gargantuan Florida mansion next to the Boynton Beach Oceanfront Park.

al-malnik-guest-house

The founder of the Miami Beach landmark restaurant The Forge is expanding his residential enclave in Palm Beach County’s exclusive Ocean Ridge.

Multimillionaire Alvin Malnik dropped $7.9 million for a five-bedroom house on the Atlantic Ocean in the sleepy town east of Boynton Beach. The 9,417-square-foot house built in 1985 is at 6307 N. Ocean Blvd.

The lawyer-turned-real-estate-investor and his wife, Nancy, live in an 11-bedroom, 18.5 bathroom estate next door at 6301 N. Ocean Blvd. Their expansive home of six years measures about 44,600 square feet on 2.23 acres, making it the biggest house in Ocean Ridge. Ocean Ridge has about 3,000 residents — including seasonal visitors.

Joseph and Carol Russo sold Malnik his newest home on March 28. The Russos paid $2.2 million for it in 1990. County appraisers put the market value of the oceanfront home at $3.85 million, less than half of the purchase price.

Malnik paid about $800 per square foot, and one broker said it was a good price.

“Some homes are selling for well above $1,000 per square foot in that area,” said broker Candace Friis with the New York-based Corcoran Group in Delray Beach. “It is a terrific buy for the buyer. It is a very nice house.”

Friis was not involved in the sale. She said the property was not on the Multiple Listing Service.

The Russos recently bought a house that’s half the size in Palm Beach. They paid $3.95 million for a 4,686-square-foot home on Australian Avenue in February.

Malnik owes his South Florida celebrity in part to the success of The Forge, now run by his son, Shareef Malnik. Rich in European architecture and art, the former casino is a draw for celebrities, politicians and wine connoisseurs. The restaurant’s underground cellar has room for up to 300,000 bottles.

Alvin Malnik, 73, bought the neglected restaurant in 1968 when he was a young attorney and his roster of clients included mob financier Meyer Lansky. Malnik’s association with the gangster tainted his reputation even though Malnik has always denied any involvement with organized crime, noting he was never convicted of any crime.

In recent years, Malnik has focused on real estate. He transferred ownership of The Forge to his son in 1991 after a spectacular roof fire heavily damaged the restaurant.

Shareef Malnik re-opened it and took it to a higher level. He created Jimmy’z at Cuba Club as part of the restaurant and has hosted celebrities such as Madonna, Michael Jordan, Robert De Niro and Paul McCartney.

The elder Malnik has been an active investor in South Florida real estate for at least three decades, said Mark Gilbert, a broker with Cushman & Wakefield in Miami. Malnik invests in commercial and residential income-producing properties, but his name rarely appears on corporate records filed with the state.

Gilbert has been a friend of Malnik’s for years and does business with him at times. Gilbert was the registered agent of ANC Rental Plaza, in which Malnik was an investor. In February, ANC sold the former Blockbuster headquarters in Fort Lauderdale for $23 million to Miami-based N.R. Investments. The new owner is converting the tower to office condos, said N.R. Investments’ principal Nir Shoshani.

Renamed Museum Plaza, the 177,000-square-foot building has 45,000 square feet available for sale. Blockbuster founder H. Wayne Huizenga’s penthouse office and the ground-floor retail space are on the market for $290 to $320 per square foot, Shoshani said.

Malnik’s real estate portfolio also includes 32.5 acres of vacant land northeast of Lyons Road and Clint Moore Road west of Boca Raton, according to Palm Beach County property records.

Exclusive Interview With Alvin Malnik – Forge History

February 23rd, 2010

Anyone else might have tossed the square cloth, found lodged between two walls during renovations, in the trash.  But Shareef Malnik, proprietor of the The Forge located in Miami Beach, framed the napkin and delivered it to his father.

Shareef knew something as small and seemingly insignificant as discarded linen would mean as much to his father, Al Malnik, as any expensive antique they salvaged from the restaurant.

shareef-alvin-malnik-the-forge-history-miami

How The Forge began, is a similar story. Nothing extraordinary happened the night Al’s friend, Jay Weiss, suggested a friendly wager, but it was an evening that set the course for how Al would spend much of the next 40 years.

“This was Miami Beach in the 60s. We dined out quite a bit. Always had a great time, but just about every place we went, I’d find something that wasn’t right,” Al said. “I thought having great food in a restaurant was easy. If everything wasn’t perfect, I’d complain.”

Maybe Jay became tired of listening or just wanted a break from the constant restaurant critiques. Either way, the pair made a bet. “Jay challenged me to create a restaurant that would meet my own expectations,” Al said. “He didn’t think I could do it. I was certain he was wrong.”
A 1968 real estate deal set the wheels in motion. Al purchased a run-down building, gutted it and then transformed the space into his vision of the perfect dining venue.

He filled the restaurant with artwork, antiques, artifacts and treasures collected from around the world. “I am in inveterate collector. Wherever I go I collect things.”

Each object displayed at The Forge tells a story and contributes to the overall style Al envisioned. “I think, without exception, I was best at design – creating what I felt was the perfect space for a fine dining experience and bringing in entertainment that drew a crowd.”
Al’s unwavering confidence in knowing what worked played an important role in his success. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought of his ideas, if it was what he wanted, he did it anyway. Within reason, he’s quick to add.

Take the six-foot by five-foot painting of a nude woman displayed prominently in the restaurant’s main dining room. The painting turned more than a few heads back in the early days of the restaurant. “As soon as I saw it, I knew immediately that the painting belonged in the main dining hall,” Al said. “People said I was crazy. They told me I couldn’t hang a nude painting there. They would never bring their children around to see something like that.”

Miami Beach was changing rapidly at that time, but for some long-time residents and patrons of The Forge the “risqué” art choice didn’t sit well. But the painting stayed and a steady flow of people, both young and old, kept coming.

Not everything was easy, though. The bar was popular from the start, but initially, the food was a different story. With a carefully selected party of ten at his table on opening night, including Jay – the challenger, Al readied himself to graciously accept Jay’s admission that he had lost the wager.

But opening night didn’t go well. It didn’t take Al long to realize perfection wasn’t quite as easy to pull off as he thought. “We waited more than an hour for our food and the relief I felt when the waiters finally headed towards our table was short-lived.

We ordered shrimp cocktail – that’s hard to get wrong. I took one look at the shrimp – they were tiny, just hanging limply off the side; probably the most awful-looking shrimp I have ever seen – and knew Jay had won the bet. He had the last laugh – but only on an interim basis.”
During the months that followed opening night, Al learned that delivering great food, great service, and a great experience was a formidable challenge.

His friends would say they’d filled up on bread as an excuse not to eat when they dined at The Forge. Or they’d go straight to the bar or come in after they’d already had dinner. “Even Jay wouldn’t eat there, and he was not a picky eater – but bad food, that was a different story.”

Al ended up cleaning house – replacing the entire staff and taking a hands-on approach to managing The Forge. “It took an entire year to overcome the bad reputation I had created and really become known as not only a hot spot for entertainment, but a high-quality food restaurant as well.”

By all accounts, things worked out incredibly well. For more than 40 years, The Forge has been known as much for its high-quality food as it is for the celebrities, politicians and high-powered names and faces it attracts every night of the week.

While Shareef is known for bringing the wildly popular Wednesday night parties to The Forge, Al hosted many head-turning guests at his table for years as well. In fact, the Forge was known as a “home away from home” for some of the world’s most famous people.

Jose Ferrer, an actor, was fascinated by the décor and wanted to meet Al. “We became good friends,” said Al. “He was living down here and we used to have dinner together. It was a sad time for him, though, because he had just gotten divorced from his wife, singer, Rosemary Clooney.

I have many fond memories of the celebrities who frequented The Forge: Harry Karl, Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, an English actor – Laurence Harvey. I could keep going on. Many of them are dead now – back then I was known as the young guy who owned the restaurant.”

At about the same time Al was hosting after-hours parties late into the evening and early morning hours, he became a regular afternoon guest at Jilly Rizzo’s houseboat located across from the Fontainebleau Hotel. Think of Frank Sinatra’s houseboat when he played Tony Rome, which was set in Miami Beach; or the popular private eye series, “Surfside 6.” Replace the detective and far-fetched plots from the series with real-life celebrities, politicians and a cast of good-looking, well known characters looking for a place to unwind and you’ve got a good idea of who stopped by on a typical afternoon.

Every night back in those days, just as they do today, lines of people wrapped around the building waiting to get into the bar. Top bands, singers and comedians drew record numbers of tourists to Miami Beach. The Forge became the after-hours venue of choice.

“We were the only place with a license to stay open until 5 a.m. so all the entertainers would finish their shows, then come over afterwards,” Al said. “It was really something, to walk in at 2:30 in the morning, look up at the stage and realize that was Liza Minnelli singing. It was like that just about every night.

I was good at choosing the right groups and really getting it all together so that it was the hot spot to go to. We had three bands performing every night. Miami Beach had a very strong Latin influence back then and we booked some big names and others that would go on to become famous. Willy Chirino, “The Judge’s Nephews,” they were both fantastic.”

Connie Francis first heard the Judge’s Nephews at The Forge. She loved their sound so much she had her manager arrange bookings in Las Vegas for the group. Band member Carlos Olivera went on from there to collaborate with Emilio Estefan right about the time he and Gloria Estefan formed the Miami Sound Machine.

Like any successful restaurant The Forge was, and still is, in constant motion – changing and improving to meet the needs of their clientele. As the years passed, other restaurants changed ownership and style, but The Forge was different.

The sole ownership change occurred when Al passed control of The Forge to Shareef in 1991. Shareef implemented changes that earned accolades and praise for his innovative approach, but the style and goal of both father and son remained constant.

Now, just months after celebrating its 40th birthday, The Forge is getting a makeover – not in a cosmetic surgery manner, but major, substantive changes. When the doors reopen, patrons will see new furniture, new china, new uniforms and a new layout. Every detail of the renovation was completed with the intention of having the changes last for the next three or four decades.

Shareef has been quiet about most of the changes – saying only that when The Forge reopens it will be well worth the wait.

The fate of the gallery-quality collectibles that filled each room? There are a few things people will recognize. Others have been shipped to Al’s warehouse which he admits is already busting at the seams. “I’m building a second storage building but I have no idea what I’ll do with any of it.”
It would be impossible not to feel some sadness seeing things go, but Al feels it’s correct that they went. “I selected and loved everything that was in there,” he said. “The chairs were 42 years old. I had them redone several times but they were the same chairs that I started with. If I didn’t like something, I would have changed it.”

That’s probably the reason Shareef framed the napkin found between the walls and delivered it to his father.

Today, both father and son are confident The Forge’s new style, and what it represents, will continue creating many long-lasting memories and new stories.

If the walls could talk, they’d have a lot to tell.

The Forge 2.0 Preparing For Launch

February 17th, 2010

Since Miami’s legendary restaurant The Forge closed its doors for renovations last fall, the whole city has been abuzz wondering when the mid-beach property will welcome diners back into its fold. Considered by many notable residents to have one of the best steaks in town, we thought that with the South Beach Wine & Food Festival right around the corner, what better time to catch up with owner Shareef Malnik to see if we could squeeze any opening details out of him.

In the latest issue of Haute Living Miami, we present readers with Q & As from some of the most recognized names that are leading the Magic City’s culinary scene. In the article, “Culinary Power Players,” Shareef tells us a little about the types of crowds his venue appeals to. “The Forge is intentionally designed to appeal to a diverse crowd. It’s all about quality and a great time. It’s about community and people feeling like they are at home, not in their dining room, but in their living room with friends.”

Malnik has been famously quiet about the renovations going on behind closed doors, though he did mention that he is finishing up the project, and is also in the process of designing The Forge in Dubai. And when we asked him to describe his dream restaurant, he replied, “I am attempting to built it as we speak.”

Find out more of what this haute restaurateur had to say about his own endeavors, as well as some of his favorite places to dine in Miami in the February/March issue of Haute Living Miami.

Miami Beach’s culinary bastion and social staple The Forge has reached new heights with the celebration of its 40 years in business. In commemoration of this milestone, the landmark and its owner Shareef Malnik were honored on Monday, April 27, 2009 with a proclamation and a key to the City of Miami Beach. The festivities took place at the offices of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower and the day was declared “The Forge’s 40th Anniversary Day.”

“It is a pleasure to celebrate The Forge’s years of success. The restaurant has made positive contributions to Miami Beach and has enhanced the city as a world wide destination,” says Mayor Bower.

In honor of The Forge’s 40-year birthday, Malnik is proud to announce that he is giving the storied venue a total multi-million dollar revamp and renovation that started during the summer of 2009 that includes a radical new interior design concept and new menu, including one for the popular Forge Bar, located within the restaurant. The Forge closed for these extensive renovations as of April 27, 2009, and will reopen very soon.

“I see this stage of The Forge as a ‘rebirth,’ not unlike a renewal of wedding vows when you get married. When we re-open in the winter of 2010, our loyal clientele will be blown away by the exciting enhancements and changes that will have been completed,” says Malnik. “Like the fine wines in our famous cellar, The Forge only improves with age. Here’s to the next 40 years.”

The Forge has been a Miami Beach legend since the 1920s and owned by Alvin Malnik since 1968. In 1991, Shareef Malnik became the proprietor of the restaurant, and proceeded to inject a shot of hipness into The Forge’s existing eloquence and glamour. The result: A full house every night of the week, successful nightclub components Jimmy’z and Glass, and the East Room, a private dining hall that was host to intimate concerts and film premieres.

The award-winning restaurant has attracted South Beach’s crème de la crème as well leading A-list celebrities over the last four decades, including Robert De Niro, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony, Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Kelly Preston and John Travolta, Elizabeth Taylor, Mikhail Gorbachev, Rod Stewart, Salma Hayek, Sir Paul McCartney, Whitney Houston, Woody Allen, Al Pacino, Jessica Alba, Iggy Pop, Matt Damon, Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Jordan, Kate Moss, Matthew McConaughey, Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade, Naomi Campbell, Mickey Rourke, Sly Stallone, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, Frank Sinatra, Jackie Gleason, Desi Arnaz, Andy Warhol, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, just to name a few.

The Forge’s current expansion plans include The Forge Dubai.

Who is Alvin Malnik?

February 8th, 2010

Alvin I. Malnik was born 05/23/33 in St. Louis, MO where he attended Clark Elementary School and Soldan High School graduating in 1950. He then attended Washington University receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1954. From 1954 to 1956, he served in the U.S. Army as a Guided Missile Officer achieving the rank of Reserve Captain. From 1956 to 1959, he attended the University of Miami of Law and graduated with high honors and achieved an LLB and J.D. degree.

He engaged in the practice of law for approximately ten years thereafter and subsequently has principally been in the real estate development and the finance business. He has never been involved in any bankruptcy or suffered any adverse judgments. He is an honorarium of the Founders Society of the University of Miami, a founder of the University of Miami/Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center; a Founder of Mount Sinai Medical Center and is the only person that has ever achieved “Life-time” Benefactor of the Make-a-Wish Foundation of South Florida.In addition to the aforementioned real estate and finance business, Mr. Malnik created the world renowned ‘The Forge Restaurant’ 40 years ago which is the second oldest restaurant in South Florida (Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant being the oldest). The Forge has been nominated as one of the flagship restaurants in America as well as having achieved the International Grand Master Wine Award and was voted #1 restaurant in America by Wine Spectator Magazine. Some of the projects that Mr. Malnik has developed are the Sky Lake County Club, California Club residences, Brandsmart Building, Cricket Club condominium buildings, and apartment complexes in California and Florida. Mr. Malnik was also honored by the Miami Chamber of Commerce as Outstanding Citizen of the Year for 2007.

Alvin Malnik’s Son Shareef Set To Reinvent Excellence at The Forge

December 10th, 2009

shareef-malnik-the-forge-reopens-winter-2010

Miami’s landmark dining establishment, The Forge, is set to re-open Winter 2010, just in time for the Season after closing in July of 2009 for a makeover. The 40 year old legendary restaurant is presently undergoing a multi-million dollar renovation and will emerge with new furniture, a fresh look and new menu. Owner Shareef Malnik took ownership of The Forge in 1991 after the restaurant survived a nearly disastrous fire, followed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that did severe and extensive damage to the restaurant and it’s famous wine cellar. Malnik said he’s been wanting to renovate for years and believes this newly updated Forge will stand the test of time again. “We’ve really come up with a new, updated version of The Forge,” said Malnik, “The only way you can stay ahead of the game is through change. I think this is going to give us another 40 years.”

Famous for it’s steak as much as it’s elegant charm, The Forge has long been a destination for celebrities and people with a taste for a truly elegant and unique dining experience. Located off the beaten paths of South Beach, The Forge is a true Miami landmark. The Forge is located in Miami Beach at 432 W 41st St. Miami Beach, FL 33140-3504. Phone them at (305) 538-8533 or on the web at www.theforge.com