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We visited Pitbull’s new restaurant inside a Walmart. Here’s what happened.

Updated February 29, 2024 - 1:22 pm

Pitbull, the rapper whose stage name is as punchy as his real name is mellifluous — he was born Armando Christian Perez — has been a partner in the Miami Grill restaurant chain since 2012. Pitbull is a Miami native; the chain started as a sub shop in Key West, Florida, more than 40 years ago.

The latest Miami Grill has touched down in Las Vegas, but not on the Strip, complete with an opening party appearance by Mr. Worldwide himself. Instead (very instead), the restaurant has opened in a Walmart on East Serene Avenue in Henderson, just inside the store, on the grocery side, cater-corner from a self-checkout area.

Things that make you go: huh?

For Miami Grill, Henderson marks a first West Coast location and a first shop in a Walmart, which typically have McDonald’s. If the confluence of Pitbull, Miami Grill and a Henderson Walmart seems startling at first, on second thought, it makes a kind of city-sense. This is Vegas, after all. And in Vegas, you gotta represent. Even at Walmart.

Miami, in murals

The signature Miami Grill sign glows in hot pink and neon blue atop the entrance. On this late February day, a grand opening banner flaps just below, although the restaurant actually opened in December.

Images of Miami life brighten the place: branded Adirondack chairs beneath an umbrella at the beach; a stretch of the Miami skyline; surfboards stuck upright in the sand beside a lifeguard stand and an impossibly cerulean sea.

A mural whooshes by, composed of Miami moments: a neon pink flamingo, an Ocean Drive street sign, a vintage pink Cadillac, the InterContinental hotel on Biscayne Bay, the Southeast Financial Center, an art deco swatch of South Beach, Pitbull next to a Miami Grill sign, a private jet streaking overhead.

Glossy photographs of chicken wings and a gyro spilling its load remind a visitor to stop looking and hit the order counter.

Menu outtakes

Many Miami Grill standards are here: cheesesteaks, gyros, Cubanos, burgers, chicken sandwiches, and heaps of wings that are fried, boneless or baked. Display cases offer chocolate chip cookies, churros, and big salted or cinnamon sugar pretzels.

An original cheesesteak with onions and cheese delivers good grilled roasty flavor. The Cuban sandwich is a little thin and listless — I can barely taste the Swiss cheese, mustard or pickles (dills thinly cut lengthwise make for a better sandwich than corrugated rounds).

Both dishes, however, get the bread right: soft and slightly chewy hoagies for the cheesesteak, sliced long and griddled on the flattop (not squeezed in the panini press) for the Cubano.

Prices for items, meals and platters range from about $3 to $16.50.

What’s next? Pho?

Miami Grill could be part of a larger Walmart strategy to upgrade its food and drink outlets. The store recently opened a Wonder food hall in Pennsylvania and plans to open two more in New Jersey, according to the Specialty Food Association News Daily. Wonder operates 10 fast-casual food halls in and around New York City.

Meanwhile, back in Henderson, Miami Grill is becoming busy with late lunchers sitting down to eat or getting takeout. A Grubhub driver picks up an order. A song spills from the sound system. It’s not Pitbull.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram and @ItsJLW on X.

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