Bar Lab to Open Second Hoja Taqueria at Generator Miami

The bar at Hoja at the Generator Miami.
The bar at Hoja at the Generator Miami. Photo courtesy of Bar Lab
When Bar Lab partners Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi opened Hoja Taqueria in downtown Miami this past December, it was a decision made out of necessity.

"Hoja happened by default," Orta explains. "We were going to lose the space, and we decided to open a taqueria."

Orta and Zvi had been traveling to Mexico, specifically Oaxaca, for years, and had met corn farmers along the way. Hoja was a way to work with those farmers to showcase their heritage corn. The pair tapped chef Alex Chang, who'd been the chef at Bar Lab's Exchange Restaurant at the Freehand Los Angeles Hotel.

The innovative ingredients, flavor profiles and cocktails on tap proved successful. So successful that the Bar Lab partners are opening a second, larger location at the Generator hotel in Miami Beach. Hoja is expected to open mid-September with limited hours at first, eventually staying open from lunch to late night.

Zvi says that, although the new Hoja will have the same DNA, the menu and cocktail list will grow. "It's going to be a very different Hoja. This one will be bigger, but with the same attention to details. We're going to keep the same recipes and we'll add larger format items like whole fish."

Alex Chang continues his role as menu consultant, but heading up the daily kitchen operations is Coral Gutierrez, another vet of Bar Lab's Los Angeles projects who'd come to Miami during COVID to work on Hoja 1.0. Now, she will oversee the new Miami Beach location.

Orta calls Gutierrez the "soul" of the restaurant. "She's the leader of the kitchen. She's Mexican and really brings a lot of layers to her cooking. She makes badass food."
click to enlarge Tacos at Taqueria Hoja - PHOTO COURTESY OF TAQUERIA HOJA/CARMA CONNECTED
Tacos at Taqueria Hoja
Photo courtesy of Taqueria Hoja/Carma Connected
Though the menu is expanded, the focus will remain on the tortillas made with corn from small family farms in Oaxaca. "The corn is still the star," says Orta, who just returned from a visit to Oaxaca to check in with the farmers. "The corn is their way of life and we built relationships with the families. For them, the business we provide can help them buy a tractor or take their kids to school. We wanted to make an impact, and opening a second location is such a blessing."

The bar program will be led by Christine Wiseman, former bar manager at Broken Shaker Los Angeles, who relocated to Miami for this project. The cocktail list is tequila- and mezcal-forward, with a few vodka drinks thrown in as warm weather "crushers." Orta says the drinks will incorporate some of the salsas in the menu — a mole old fashioned, for instance. The bar will also have an extensive list of small-batch tequilas and mezcals.

The space will be decorated with art imported from Mexico. "We want a place that's approachable to everyone," says Orta, adding that he hopes Hoja — like Broken Shaker before it — becomes a spot for fellow industry folk to call a second home. "We want this to be the place for a happy-hour margarita or after-work, late-night tacos," he says.

Though Bar Lab's portfolio is growing, both partners emphasize that their paramount mission is to put patrons and staff first. "It doesn't matter if it's a fast-casual restaurant or a sexy rooftop bar — one of the things I believe in is that a good bar makes you feel like you're in someone's home," Zvi says.

Hoja at the Generator Miami. 3120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 786-496-5730; Opening mid-September.
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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss