Downtown Miami's new savory spot, The Sandwich Bar, is everything simple. Simple décor. Simple concept. Simple ingredients and even simple names, as the two chefs are both named Leo. But the eatery, located near the Miami Dade College Wolfson campus, loses its simplistic edge when it comes to taste; the menu is full of flavorful options. The spot opened two weeks ago, but promises to become the new go-to lunch spot in the area.
Two of the owners, Argentineans Leo Lestrange and Leo Jaszchuq, are already recognized names in the Miami food world. Lestrange was the sous chef for Sardinia Ristorante on Purdy Avenue and Jaszchuq is still the sous chef for the Ritz Carlton's Cioppino. The Leos defend their simplistic approach by noting that in complicating menu items, many chefs drop the ball.
"The more things you have, the easier it is to not do anything well," said Lestrange.
Donning matching black pin-stripped chef's garbs, the duo prepare everything fresh and right in front of their patrons. Sandwiches include their most popular "Sandwich Bar," made of short ribs that have been braised for four hours, caramelized onions, and layers of munster and provolone cheese. Jaszchuq said they sold over 200 of these braised beauties in less than 14 days. Another notable selection is the Como en Cuba, made with braised pork, melted Swiss cheese, pickles and drizzled with mustard. The pork is saturated with a garlic mojo and is reminiscent of flavors that can usually only be found at authentic Cuban Noche Buena celebrations. Fresh breads include the choice of baguette or ciabatta and soups are also made daily. The Sandwich Bar also serves Aloha Hawaiian shaved ice in an array of flavors that change daily. This idea was infused into the bar's concept by the restaurants third owner, Juilian Mashuca, who is from Hawaii.
Starting this week, the place will offer breakfast sandwich choices like scrambled eggs and Swiss cheese on a croissant, all served with freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee.
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But the chefs don't want their establishment labeled a gourmet sandwich shop. All sandwiches are in the $8 range, and meals can be made into combos -- with an added drink and chips -- for just an extra dollar.
With its red and yellow painted walls, a plasma TV, and pillows propped up against a wall-spanning bench, the restaurateurs have created a laid-back ambiance within the quaint locale. They also play low-key tunes and offer free Wi-Fi and delivery in the downtown area.
The only thing that could work against the new sandwich gem is a lack of marketing. Hopefully word of mouth and a little New Times love will be suffice, because the small wooden street sign now marking the restaurant is easily missed.
40 NE First Ave., Miami