Loba is Spanish for she-wolf, which is exactly what Jessica Sanchez is. "The name came to me in a moment in my life where I felt like I evolved into what my definition of a loba is," says the 28-year-old restaurant owner. "Someone who just fights and hunts for what they want. Someone who doesn't let fear get in the way of their pursuit."
Nothing has stopped the former financial analyst and real estate agent from following in the footsteps of her parents and opening her own restaurant. The concept for the food -- Latin spice meets Southern comfort -- is as unassuming and humble as Sanchez and the rest of her team.
Short Order was invited to get a taste of Loba's offerings.
Sanchez grew up in the restaurant industry -- her parents owned a chain of famous Colombian restaurants by the name of Patacon. When Jessica quit her job, her mom foresaw what her daughter's next move was going to be (moms and their damn intuition).
"She told me, 'I really hope you don't do what I think you're about to do," Sanchez said. "I now understand why she said that. The restaurant industry is no joke." Sanchez is joined by her mom in the kitchen, who is sharing her knowledge and recipes with her daughter and Loba chef de cuisine Robert Errichetti bringing the contemporary side to Loba. "There are some recipes she won't give up and we want to be an integral part of the menu, like her Patacon, but other things we are doing our own way and learning as we go along."
First thing's first -- Loba starts you out with some Zac the Baker bread and homemade butter, with passion fruit. Though you may want to slather this fruity butter on like lotion, stick to eating.
Citrus ceviche ($12) comes two ways and accompanied by crispy-thin plantains and guacamole. "It was supposed to be served just with the red tomato based sauce, but we had a lot of people ask for a more traditional ceviche lime juice based preparation, so we added a second." Loba's all about a homey atmosphere -- let Jessica know what you want or think and she'll work on making it happen.
Vincent Van Gogh might be rolling in his grave to know there are fried goat cheese balls ($11) named after him, but who cares? Local honey makes the Vincent Van Goat a sweet gesture and one worth ordering.
Tomato & avocado salad ($9) is straightforward -- tomatoes, cucumber, onion, avocado, and cilantro. Other small plates include "chicken little," which are mom's wings with barbecue or lemon garlic sauce ($8) and a "slim ursula," a charred octopus with celery relish and crispy hominy.
Beets are pan seared and served warm with a cold avocado puree ($5).
Sections for herbivores, piscivores and carnivores will satisfy all lovers of the different animal groups, or lack thereof.
Jenga ribs are available in full or half rack. The half-rack of the slow-cooked pork ribs are glazed in chili molasses ($17).
Patacon ($27) is a typical Colombian dish and so far one of the favorite's at Loba. True to Sanchez's mom's recipe, the flattened piece of plantain is crispy, thin, and massive. It's scored so you can easily chip away your own slice.
Top it with sliced rib eye, pork belly, rice, guacamole, and some pico de gallo. Don't forget the chimichurri or hot sauce -- both are mom's special recipes.
MFC, or MiMo fried chicken ($20), is a recipe Sanchez is working on perfecting with Errichetti. For now, it's marinated in a secret ingredient and served with local honey, crispy kale, and mac & cheese.
Whole fried fish not your thing? Stop reading now. If you're into fish head then you'll dig the local catch ($25). Ours was a snapper with arugula, guava, citrus and radish.
A new addition to the menu as of Wednesday, "on guard" ($22) features local swordfish (get it?) with Alabama white sauce, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and wait for it ... crispy chicken skin.
Jessica Hernandez is the pastry chef at Loba, as well as Michelle Bernstein's Crumb on Parchment. She's been with Bernstein for two years and has taken up a second gig at night to have full reign on all things sweet. Order Frida's Secret ($8) -- a spicy Mexican chocolate brownie with sweet corn ice cream from Azucar and chocolate corn flakes. It's crunchy, sweet, and satisfying.
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Key lime crema with macerated berries ($8) is a different twist on the traditional Key lime pie.
The Cookie Monster ($7) serves up three monster cookies with milk shots. We had oatmeal and mango, peanut butter, and chocolate chip. Freshly baked, their colossal pieces of dough take 15 minutes -- order in advance.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha