Wynwood's dining scene is about to get clean and green when the Lunchbox opens at 78 NW 25th St. in the next few weeks.
The restaurant, built from scratch in an empty warehouse space, is the work of Carlos Dorado, best known for his Arepabox food truck. Dorado, who has fond memories of his food truck, thought it was time to expand into something a little more permanent. "The positive aspect of the food truck industry is that you do make money. A lot of the funds from this come from Arepabox. The bad thing is that it's 120 degrees inside a food truck, especially in the summer, and the amount of items you can offer on a truck is limited. We wanted to expand and decided we would have to choose between opening another food truck and starting something new."
That new project is the Lunchbox, and Dorado chose Wynwood as his destination. The economist-turned-chef says, "This neighborhood is the focus of the city right now. Everyone who has any vision knows this is the spot to be in."
Dorado, who was born in Venezuela to Spanish parents, studied economics at Boston University and then moved to Miami, where he studied culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University. His foundation in economics serves him well as a restaurateur and business owner, but his drive comes from his love of food. "Passion is the number one thing that drives all of this. I love food."
Another force that drives Dorado, and will set the Lunchbox apart from other restaurants, is his goal of having the first zero-waste restaurant in Miami. "I walk my dog in the morning, and I see the neighborhood trash bins full every day. There's just so much, and it worries me. I see the future as a world full of trash, and I really don't see much done about it. There's the green movement, but I don't see that many people taking account for their own actions, and I'd like to start with myself."
So Dorado has taken measures to ensure his restaurant has as little waste as possible. Furnishings are repurposed, and there will be no printed menus. "Everything will be done electronically. You can go online to see our menu and order. We can also store your preferences, so if you tell us once you don't like tomatoes on your sandwich, we'll keep that information."
Packaging for to-go items will be made from recycled and compostable materials, and if you're taking your food home, you won't get throwaway utensils. "You've got silverware at home, and how many plastic forks do you need? At some point, you probably throw them away, creating more waste." The Lunchbox's soups — gazpacho ($7), sausage and leek ($8), and tom kai gai ($8) — will be served in mason jars that you can use again.
The food, which Dorado calls neo-traditional, will be prepared using local, seasonal ingredients, with a Spanish take. Entrées include arroz caldoso ($12), a vegetarian dish of bomba rice cooked with carrots, sweet peas, broccoli, diced mushrooms, and cherry tomatoes, finished with homemade béchamel. Carnivores will appreciate the grilled churrasco ($17), an organic 12-ounce skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, rice pilaf, and avocado tomato salad. There's also chicken paillard ($15) and grilled Florida mahi-mahi ($16).
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Lighter fare includes a selection of salads, such as the Wynwood — made with tossed kale, button mushrooms, radishes, and wasabi peas, served with cold shrimp atop half an avocado ($8/$12) — and a portobello provolone sandwich ($9).
Fans of Arepabox won't be disappointed. Dorado's famous arepas will be available for $6 each, with a choice of ham and cheese, chicken and avocado, or a rotating choice of the day. "I love my arepas," Dorado says. "I ate them every single day for 14 months."