It's hard to believe, but it was nearly five years ago when partners Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro introduced Pubbelly — their pork-centric, Asian-inspired gastropub — to Miami Beach. The restaurant, which opened in November 2010, connected with locals who craved good fare in a casual setting.
After half a decade, the Pubbelly Boys, as they are now affectionately called, have had a series of hits (and some misses), including the opening of the successful Pubbelly Sushi, while opening and closing PB Steak, L'echon Brasserie, and various pop-up concepts, along with helping to create Barceloneta. Now the team is looking ahead to new projects.
PB Station will open at the Langford Hotel, a boutique hotel coming to the former Miami National Bank Building at 121 SE First St., sometime before Art Basel begins. Mendin says he and his partners simply wanted to move PB Steak to this space but then had a change of heart.
"We looked at the building, and it's such a beautiful, historic space. Even though we all loved PB Steak, we decided we didn't really want to limit ourselves to a steakhouse concept," he says.
Mendin says the interior decor will look like a train station. "It will have a Grand-Central-Station-meets-the-London-Underground vibe," he says.
A long tube, housing the restaurant's bar, will lead into the dining room. The restaurant will serve twists on American cuisine and will feature a raw bar and seafood charcuterie. "Everyone is doing the same house-cured meats, so we'll do lobster sausage and shrimp mortadella," he reveals. "That's another reason why we didn't want to limit ourselves to PB Steak. We're having fun, trying new things. The raw bar is very important. Being in the middle of downtown, we want to make this both a destination and an after-work stop."
In addition, the first Pubbelly concept at sea, Food Republic, will set sail on the new Norwegian Escape. Branches of Pubbelly Sushi are also slated for the new Brickell City Centre and the Dominican Republic.
With all of this news from the Pubbelly front comes one major announcement about the flagship Pubbelly restaurant, which will undergo a design and menu refresh this fall. Mendin calls the improved restaurant "Pubbelly 5.0" and explains the restaurant will have the same soul and flavor but with a bit more polish and a unique approach. "The food is solid here, but for my taste, we've gotten a little too casual in every respect. We're not going to completely change Pubbelly. That's not going to happen," he says. "We're just taking it to another level kitchen-wise and service-wise.
"I think that, right now, Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi give diners the same experience even though one is a sushi bar and the other is a gastropub. I want to give people a different experience here, so we're going to change the setting."
As part of the revamp, the Pubbelly kitchen will be expanded, and the communal table will be removed. Chairs and barstools will be replaced by more comfortable seating. The Pubbelly partner says the current chairs were purchased on a shoestring budget. "We opened Pubbelly with whatever we had," he says. "Most of the chairs are IKEA. It's time that people are more comfortable."
More important than the decor is the food. Mendin tips off the direction of the menu by pointing out his Pubbelly T-shirt. "We took the pig out," he says. "I don't want to be known only for pig when we do so many other things. If you look at the menu, it's only about 20 percent pork. We also have amazing salads, octopus, and beef."
The new menu will be segmented into four categories. The first section, classics, will be where all the favorite Pubbelly menu items will go. "These are the dishes that people will kill me if I take away," he says. Items such as the amberjack, McBelly, and short rib tartare will stay. The rest of the menu will be divided into first course ($13 to $14 each), second course (around $17 each), and third course (around $20 each), with the suggestion that diners order one from each section for a progressive dinner.
"I'm not making people order all three courses, but if you want the full experience, it's recommended that you eat that way," he says. "And, of course, people can share."
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Mendin says Pubbelly is especially important to him. "Our other restaurants are conceptual, but at Pubbelly, this is truly the way I want to cook for my friends and family."
The changes won't take effect until after Miami Spice is over — sometime in October — and Mendin says the restaurant will be closed only a few days during the transition. He stresses that Pubbelly fans will not be disappointed with the changes.
"The heart of Pubbelly will be the same," he says. "I like to cook food that you crave. That will never change."