The who: Financial analyst-turned-restaurateur Jessica Sanchez has opened Loba (“she-wolf” in Spanish) in Miami’s Upper East Side. The 28-year-old Colombian learned the business from her parents, who owned Patacon, a chain of Colombian restaurants. Sanchez has also tapped senior and junior hospitality and tourism students from FIU to work at the restaurant.
The space: The former Namaste Indian restaurant is now revamped to evoke a modern gastropub with reclaimed wood walls, rough-hewn communal high top tables, shelves stocked with knick-knacks and a bathroom wallpapered in pages of Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, there’s a lot of personal touches that went into this project.
The dishes: Latin and Southern-inspired. Many of the recipes are Sanchez’s mother’s, while others are modern riffs on down-home classics. Prices are neighborhood-friendly with starters $7-$14 and mains $16-$27.
Slices of crusty bread from Zak the Baker are offered with passion fruit-flecked butter to start the meal. Small plates of goat cheese fritters drizzled with local honey have proved popular, as have the fried chicken wings in either lemon or barbecue sauce. The citrus ceviche comes two ways and accompanied by crunchy, thin plantains and guacamole while the “slim ursula” describes the charred octopus with celery relish and crispy hominy.
Mains include veggie-friendly plates of farro succotash with a runny egg, a generous helping of fried chicken accompanied by mac and cheese, and a grilled swordfish in a white Alabama BBQ sauce topped with chicken chicharrones (fried skin). Patacon, a typical Colombian dish, is a specialty of the house and consists of a flattened disc of plantain with sliced rib eye, pork belly, rice, guacamole and some pico de gallo.
Pastry chef Jessica Hernandez (Crumb on Parchment) entices with a decadent carrot cake, Key lime crema with macerated berries, and platters of homemade cookies and milk.
The Bottom Line: First-timer Jessica Sanchez hopes to succeed with Latin-Southern cooking in a cabin-cozy setting.