Meet MiMo District's newest restaurant, Loba, a Latin gastropub concept with New American influences and some big ideas. The 50-seat restaurant is the brainchild of 28-year-old Jessica Sanchez, a financial analyst (and later realtor) with a degree in economics, who saved up just enough to launch the concept, then quit her 9 to 5 to fulfill her long-time dream of opening a restaurant.
Sanchez tells us the lease for Loba (which is located in the former Namaste Indian restaurant) was signed back in September and she's since taken it into her own hands to slowly renovate the space. But 'interior designer' isn't the only hat Sanchez is wearing. Her small budget is lending itself to some serious DIY opportunities that she quickly took advantage of.
The first-time restaurateur has partnered up with Florida International University's hospitality management program in order to ensure her spot has chefs, but also to give aspiring chefs/hospitality professionals a chance to experience running a restaurant first hand. "I wanted to hire people who want to be there," says Sanchez, adding that "you can feel the vibe of a place … I wanted to include a community that's passionate about what they're doing. The students can use my little extension of house as a further learning experience. I'm trying to make something that can survive on its own creativity and the people that are in it."
Sanchez developed a passion for restaurants as a kid, when she watched her mom, Libia E. Sanchez, own/run a chain of Columbian eateries called Patacon. Mom has since left the restaurant industry, but she's hopped on board her daughter's project as the chef consultant along with Jeziel Colon, former sous chef at MC Kitchen. Sanchez' idea was to combine her mom's "traditional authentic flavors" with Colon's "educational culinary expertise" and leave the cooking and FOH/BOH operations to FIU students who want to dip their toes in the restaurant world.
As per the menu, Sanchez is on top of that, too. It will combine "Latin spice with Southern comfort" in a cheeky, playful way. She's still coming up with names for dishes, but "Ode to Wilbur," a pork belly dish and "Skinny Ursula," a non-fried octopus dish, are a couple of the ideas that made the final cut. As per the restaurant's name, Loba, which means female wolf in Spanish, Sanchez says, "I'm going to curse now," before telling us, "I want it to be the 'bad bitch,' adding that the wolf does and eats what it wants.
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[Photos Courtesy of Jessica Sanchez]