MIAMI—For its milestone 50th anniversary on Aug. 26, landmark Miami restaurant Rusty Pelicanrolled out a three-part celebration, including a Key to the City ceremony, an employee luncheon, and the main event: an invite-only, “Havana Nights”-themed dinner gala. “We wanted to honor and recognize the community, our team members, and our guests,” said director of catering and special events Jennie Franco.

The dinner gala took two months to plan, and the upscale eatery hosted a guest list of 300 VIPs, clients, vendors, management team members, press, and city dignitaries. “Our goal was to celebrate our success with the people who contributed to that success,” Franco said.

Upon check-in, guests were escorted upstairs to the cocktail hour, which took part in a private lounge. An electric violinist strummed instrumental versions of popular tunes as guests mingled and enjoyed their first indulgences.

A festive light projection sat above the spectacular raw bar, which boasted local catches, oysters, shrimp cocktail, caviar service, and an assortment of seafood salads. “We wanted to do something over the top and interactive for the guests,” Franco said. “We are a seafood restaurant, and the raw bar was something we just had to do, but it couldn’t be something simple—we had to go big!”

Adjacent to the raw bar sat two market-style tables clad in a variety of charcuterie and cheese offerings. And at the bar, mixologists whipped up specialty cocktails for the occasion, such as mojitos and smoked old fashioned, plus the popular “Rum Away with Me,” served tiki-style and ignited with a memorizing flame.

Next, guests entered the Grand Ballroom where tables were dressed in loud hues (think: hot pink and turquoise) and decorated with stunning birds of paradise floral arrangements. John Tallichet, the president and CEO of Specialty Restaurant Group—the corporation behind the Rusty Pelican—shared a historical video of the rise, fall, and expansion of the iconic restaurant.

Then, Miami Commissioner Manolo Reyes presented the Key to the City to Tallichet and proclaimed Aug. 26 Rusty Pelican Day. Afterward, Tallichet donated a generous $19,720 check to Alonzo Mourning’s Overtown Youth Center, which assists at-risk Miami youth and their families with education and wellness opportunities.

A plated dinner followed, which began with Rusty Pelican’s spin on a Waldorf salad served inside a dragon fruit shell, followed by a hearty surf-and-turf entrée composed of short ribs, tiger shrimp, truffled potato gratin, and pickled carrots. “The dinner menu was something that we worked on for about a month and wanted to make sure we showcased the ability to take some traditional dishes and elevate them,” Franco explained. The grand finale was the “Sunset Showstopper Pastry Tower” dessert buffet, along with slices of the party’s three-tiered amaretto and rum cake with buttercream from Todo Dulces.

Following the feast, a live band invited everyone to dance and join the conga line by a stage ignited with sparklers, accompanied by hora loca dancers and an energetic LED drummer. Imbibers enjoyed shots from the ballroom’s ice luge and socialistas posed with props on the patio, including the 360-degree Snappic activation from Miami Tveo 360.

Keep scrolling for key vendors and more photos inside the Rusty Pelican anniversary bash…

Audiovisual Production: Bridge Event Productions
Entertainment & DJ: Infinity Sound Production
Florals: A Blooming Touch
Furniture Rentals & Linens: Contempo Linen & Event Rentals
Lighting & Staging: Infinity Sound Production