Loba: Latin Spice and Southern Comfort Headed to MiMo

Not everyone grows up dreaming of owning their own restaurant and the desire to feed hungry folks who sometimes complain simply for the sake of complaining. No, it takes a special breed of person to dream about owning and operating a restaurant. Meet Jessica Sanchez, a financial analyst who took the plunge in 2013 and quit her 9-to-5 to pursue her dream.

She's opening Loba, which means "she-wolf" in Spanish, in Miami's MiMo district come early May. The 28-year-old Colombian grew up in the restaurant industry, acquiring years of experience and know-how from her parents, who owned Patacon, a chain of Colombian restaurants.

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"Miami is a great and growing city," Sanchez says. "But I believe we don't use our resources properly. We don't know how to work together, but I know we can." To change that, Sanchez has garnered the help of Allegra Angelo, former beverage director for 50 Eggs, who is guiding Sanchez and helping with the development of the beverage program at Loba.

Loba will stay true to Sanchez's Latin roots but will also incorporate Southern-style comfort food and flavors. The menu is a work in progress. She's designing it with the help of her mom and chef consultants Jeziel Colon (MC Kitchen and Mandolin Aegean Bistro), Luis Garcia (Garcia's), and Andy Yeager (Tap 42).

Sanchez will host a hiring day next week at FIU, where she will scout senior or junior hospitality and tourism students looking to get their hands dirty in the kitchen and gain some real-world experience and training from Loba's team.

"The menu has changed 12 times, and it's likely to keep changing constantly," says Sanchez, who promises to use as many local purveyors as possible. As of now, the menu is divided according to type of eater: carnivore, piscivore, herbivore, and vegetarian. There's a section for each, in addition to small plates such as "Vincent Van Goat" (fried goat cheese, honey, and black pepper) and "Ode to Wilbur" (18-hour pork belly cooked sous vide with butternut squash purée).

"I don't want to call it 'tapas' because everyone is doing tapas now and tapas have a petite connotation tied to them," Sanchez says. "Our 'small plates' won't be so small but will be somewhat tapas-style. In my house, dinner consisted of a bunch of plates and good conversation with family and friends. Loba will be the same thing."

Sharing bites and life experiences over a glass of wine seems like it will be a usual occurrence at Loba, which has a capacity of about 50 people and a communal-style dinner table. Prices haven't been determined yet, but Sanchez is looking to keep them affordable and encouraging guests to wine and dine several times a week.

At first, the restaurant will be open only for dinner, but as a lover of brunch, Sanchez plans to expand her offerings to include brunch within the first month. Foodies will be happy to know that Loba might very well be their newest late-night spot -- Sanchez plans to keep it open past midnight on weekdays and even later on weekends.

"I'm thinking I want to take some of the market share for the late-night crowd eats," Sanchez muses. "Miami restaurants typically close up shop around 10 or 11 p.m., making it tough to get good food after that on a weekday, unless you're willing to drive to Yakko-San. I love Yakko-San."

We love Yakko-San too, but it would be nice to have another option as reasonably priced and delicious. We'll just have to wait and see how aggressive and fierce this she-wolf is.

Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha

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