Food Industry

Jose Mendin to Open La Placita on Biscayne Boulevard

Balans, the beloved restaurant that was a MiMo District staple for years, quietly closed this past week, but there's reason to rejoice.

In its place at 68th and Biscayne, Pubbelly's Jose Mendin will open La Placita sometime in December.

The restaurant, named for San Juan's bustling food market, will serve what Mendin refers to as "Puerto Rican food straight up — no fusion here."

La Placita, a partnership among Mendin, Sergio Navarro, Jonathan Balans (of Balans restaurant), and Julian Gil, will offer affordable fare in a family-oriented space. The Cocktail Cartel will create the beverage program.

Chef Mendin, who hails from Puerto Rico, calls this project his most personal. "These recipes are the things my mom used to cook, things that I eat at home."

The preliminary menu offers everyday delights such as bacalaitos, salted cod fritters with coconut aioli ($8); chicharrones de pollo ($8); a Key West conch salad ($14); octopus escabeche ($13); and oxtail stew ($12). Of course, there are plenty of pork dishes, such as the lechón asado ($18) and a pan con lechón made with house-roasted pork and mojo aioli ($15).

The eatery's interior is being completely redesigned, and an artist will paint a giant Puerto Rican flag on the building's exterior. Mendin also plans to transform the parking lot into a weekend oasis filled with music, food, and possibly pig roasts.

The chef says that although Miami is a city filled with people of many backgrounds, it has surprisingly few Puerto Rican restaurants. "There hasn't historically been a large Puerto Rican community, but Hurricane Maria has changed that. People have moved to Miami, and they want food from their home."

Mendin describes cuisine from the island as a blend of various elements: "There's a lot of Spanish, African, Portuguese, and American influences." He hopes to capture the flavors he loves. "This is very special to me. I want to pay respect to the dishes. That doesn't mean I won't have some fun with them."

Mendin is also looking forward to being part of the Biscayne Corridor. "We want to be part of the area and add to the culinary community of the Anderson, the Vagabond, and Phuc Yea."

La Placita. 6789 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. Opening December 2018.
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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