His 25-seat restaurant was the hottest spot in Miami. But the pandemic shuttered it

Carlos Frías
·2 min read

Timon Balloo was on top of the Miami culinary world for all of five months.

Balloo was named a semifinalist as one of the best chefs in the country in February after opening his namesake Balloo in downtown Miami in late 2019, where he cooked the fused cuisine of his Chinese, Indian and Trinidadian roots.

But when the coronavirus forced Miami-Dade restaurants to close indoor dining March 16, it spelled the end for his restaurant.

Balloo, which remained open for takeout and delivery through late September, has closed and will not reopen downtown, his partners in the restaurant, the BarLab group, wrote the Miami Herald. A new taqueria by the chef Alex Chang, known for initially reviving the restaurant at the Vagabond Hotel, will take its place at the end of November in the Ingraham Building.

Balloo took to social media Tuesday morning to say he hopes to open in a new location. Meanwhile, Balloo will offer catering and meal kits on select days, he said.

“We’re looking for a bigger and better space to share the Balloo vibes with you,” Balloo said on the restaurant’s Instagram page. “We’re taking this time to recalibrate.”

Balloo made his name as the chef-partner at Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill in Midtown, where he earned the restaurant a James Beard award nomination. The New York Times named him one of the 16 Black chefs changing America.

Balloo broke out late in 2019 to try his hand cooking food closer to his heart, creating dishes like curried goat and housemade roti bread that shared a menu with chung fun noodles, roasted calabaza with labneh and fried rice dusted with furikake spices. People found his cozy, colorful spot at the end of a long hallway, tucked inside the Ingraham Building at 25 SE 2nd Ave. In February, the James Beard Foundation named him a semifinalist as Best Chef: South.

“If you come to our house, this is how we cook,” Balloo said at the time, sprinkling peanuts over a charred cabbage with blissful chunks of pork marinated in a mix of Asian, Caribbean and Indian spices.

Balloo told Men’s Journal this summer that the pressure of trying to run a restaurant during the pandemic had become overwhelming, and the prospect of having to open a 25-seat restaurant with half capacity was daunting.