"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
That quote is just one of the details at Loba, a new joint opening in MiMo this Friday. It's one of Jessica Sanchez's favorite quotes, and one that exemplifies her well. The 28-year-old realtor-turned-restaurateur has invested her heart, soul, and life savings in her new eatery, and she's gotten some scars along the way.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Sanchez suffered a second-degree burn while toying with her kitchen. Fire breathed into her face, burning off her hair and eyebrows. "My eyebrows were crispy," she says. "You could have put honey on me and served me up like chicken." Chicken, of course, will be a staple at Loba, as will patacon, a traditional Colombian dish and also the name of the chain of restaurants her parents used to own.
The menu here is all about farm-to-table, changing seasonally in accordance with what's available. Sanchez partnered with FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management to bring two students aboard full time at Loba, and she found her chef de cuisine and pastry chef on Instagram.
"I found these people that all they posted were pictures of food, and totally stalked them," Sanchez says. "I reached out to them and had them meet me to pitch them on the concept I suggested -- a public place so they wouldn't think I was a creep or anything."
Jessica Hernandez has worked as the pastry chef for Michelle Bernstein's Crumb on Parchment for more than two years. She'll make sweets 'round the clock, baking for Loba by night after her Crumb daytime shift. "I'm working around her schedule -- that's how good she is," Sanchez says. Her chef de cuisine, Robert Errichetti, is a self-made cook. He's training under Sanchez's mom, who's providing authentic flavors, and he's adding the farm-to-table, contemporary concept.
The staff's family sampled menu dishes this past weekend and gave Loba its first taste of what service will be like. Divided into five parts -- small plates, garden, herbivores, piscivores, and carnivores -- the menu features something for everyone. Bite into items like charred octopus with celery relish, corn nuts, and celery leaf or warm potato salad with pickled mustard seeds and dill for starters. Then proceed with a "cast away" -- mussels and clams doused in Loba broth with spicy chorizo tarragon, cilantro, and grilled cornbread. There's also a Loba burger, MFC (MiMo fried chicken), and patacon with mom's hot sauce. Prices vary from just $5 for all garden items to $9 to $14 for small plates and $15 to $27 for entrées.
Collaboration and community is a big part of Loba's DNA. JoJo Tea, Wynwood Brewing Company, Funky Buddha, and Panther Coffee, which came in and gave full-on barista training, are all part of Loba's liquid menu. Wine by the glass and bottle will also be available.
A vertical plant garden that will debut on opening night was a gift from Matt Sherman, owner of Jugofresh, right across the street from Loba. "He came by to say hi, and when I told him what I was doing with my wall, he said he had all these plants left over from an event and wasn't using but has been watering," Sanchez says. "This is just an example of how amazing the community has been."
Whether you snag one of the 50 seats at the communal table, in the dining room, or the bar, you'll be able to spot all the details in this place. They include old cameras, vinyl records that will play as the soundtrack to your dinner (think the Fugees, Coldplay, and Amy Winehouse), and a collection of books that have Sanchez's handwritten notes in them and will be delivered to your table at the end of your meal with your check somewhere inside. Like the book? Sanchez is working on a Loba library, where diners will be able to check out books.
Move over, dinner and a movie -- Loba is here to change things up.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha
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