#FoodieFriends – Meme Menu

Everybody loves PK Banks. He moved to Miami from NYC almost 2 years ago, leaving behind the world of investment banking to start Meme Menu, a restaurant discovery app and restaurant mobile publishing platform that uses the power of images and curated content to make dining decisions easy.

While Meme Menu is still figuring out exactly what it wants to be, PK has worked hard to get to know and befriend most of the city’s foodies. From chefs to restaurateurs to journalists to bloggers, he’s the ultimate #foodiefriend. What we love about PK is that he’s a straight up, positive, glass-half-full kind of guy. He’s genuinely invested in our city, and not just from a food culture point of view. He sees the strides that Miami is making as a city – to become friendlier, more culturally relevant, and locally inclined – and wants to be a part of that, bringing us all along with him for the ride.

PK often signs off his emails, texts, or conversations with some iteration of “thanks for keeping Miami nice!” But this month, in this spirit of Thanksgiving, we’re thankful for PK, for Meme Menu, and for our friendship.

What is your favorite thing about Miami?
It’s incredibly exciting to be in Miami right now. Vibrant communities are developing in Wynwood, MiMo, and Little River. Downtown is in the midst of a rebirth. Opportunities to succeed here are plentiful.

While downsides exist — congested roadways everywhere and increasing prices for everything — these are problems associated with prosperity, not decay.

Growth like this is no accident. It is not a force of nature, it is a force of people. It is made by those who dare to take a risk and are willing to put in a profound amount of effort to enact positive change.

What are your top 3 Miami restaurant/bar picks?
I love dining at the counter, especially those that face the kitchen. Counter-top dining is an interactive experience and an opportunity to observe how much effort, precision, and coordination it takes to prepare and deliver quality food. The counter also makes dining a shared experience, abundant with opportunities to connect with the chef, kitchen, and service staff.

Some of my favorite counter dining spots include the following:

  • Alter, at the chef’s table with Brad Kilgore. Watching the kitchen work hard and work together is incredible. To see it all up close is a marvel.
  • Blackbrick. It’s so much fun to sit up near the woks and friers, with plenty of flames, steam, and sizzle. Sights, sounds, and smells make the counter a great experience here.
  • Izzy’s, with Will Crandall. The action is fun, the pace is fast, and the food is delicious.
  • Mignonette, across the oyster shucking station. There’s always a lot of action and it’s a great chance to connect with Danny Serfer or one of his talented staff.
  • MC Kitchen, next to the pizza oven. These are my favorite seats in the house. They offer a perfect observation point all the way down the line. It’s a joy to order a Black Mission Fig Pizzetta, watch the entire process, and then to have it served virtually straight from the oven.
  • Vagabond, next to the “pass” — the staging area where plates are gathered and inspected before they are served to guests. These are counter seats that often go unnoticed and they offer a fabulous opportunity to watch how serving is timed and how the team must adapt to unexpected changes or requests from diners. It’s also a great way to meet Alex Chang and interact with him towards the end of service hours.

Which Miami neighborhood best personifies you?
I live in Miami Beach, which has its fair share of appeal, but also contrasting personality traits. There are tourists, locals, and seasonal guests in-between. There is glamour, but also plenty of grit. Our habits, whether healthy or destructive, are easily served there. While Miami Beach seems big and simple, it can also be small and complex. These are qualities that appeal to me.

Other than Miami, what foodie city would you like to live in?
Vancouver is on my list as a place to explore in-depth. The climate of the Pacific Northwest is tremendously appealing. There’s strong Asian influence in the culinary scene and I’ve always liked Canadian affability.

How did you get into blogging app development?
Deciding where to go and what to order are hard to do well, especially when I’m hungry. It’s difficult to know what my options are, how to narrow them, and then make a good decision. There must be a better way to be informed and make good dining decisions and I’m determined to provide it.

Describe your blog app in three words.
Fast, easy, informative.

How do you stay informed about the Miami food scene?
Keeping up with news, trends, and events requires a lot of time, effort, and quality relationships with people because the scene is dynamic and resources are fragmented. There are traditional media sources, bloggers, public relations staff, social media, and restaurant marketing professionals. There’s also old fashioned word-of-mouth, which is the most powerful form of communication. It would be nice to have a single resource of aggregated news and information that is easy to search, browse, and share.

What is your foodie motto?
I haven’t discovered a foodie motto yet, but I’m working on it.

What are some of your non-food-related hobbies?
Tech, Knight, New Tropic, Wyncode, CrossFit.
Hockey, Panthers.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I believe in merit. I believe in doing the right thing. It is often true that life is not fair. My idea of perfect happiness exists in the world where everyone gets exactly what they deserve.

Besides that, it would be hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Time travel.
Speak any foreign language.
Communicate with animals.

If you only could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Cheesecake sounds like a delight, but may develop to be a curse with time. That could be something equally enjoyable and regrettable.

Maybe french fries? As long as they come with ketchup.

Who is your favorite chef and why?
Aside from my mom, my favorite chefs those who own the place and personally connect with their guests. Chefs in Miami do this to differing degrees, and certainly there are nights that are too busy for them to feasibly leave the kitchen, but generally speaking there’s something powerful about a great dining experience that is punctuated by interaction with the chef.

Brad Kilgore (Alter), Danny Serfer (Mignonette, Blue Collar), Dena Marino (MC Kitchen), Jessica Sanchez (Loba), and Jamie DeRosa (Izzy’s) are exceptionally good at this.

What food trend are you most into right now and what food trend would you most like to go away?
I’m really into small concepts that are away from big footprint landmark restaurants. It’s about the connection between the restaurant and the guest, but also about restaurant economics. See what Alter has done to make gourmet dining financially approachable by offering no dish for more than $30. Other small-concept, high touch experiences include Izzy’s, Mignonette, Niu Kitchen, Pubbelly, The Federal, and Seven Dials. A smaller footprint helps control for quality, makes the economics more predictable, and allows for greater efficiency. A higher level of interaction enables strong bonds to form between the restaurant and their guests.

I’m also into the move towards fast casual to manage costs while offering food of high quality and consistency. Not every meal needs to be a 4-star dining experience to be delicious and fun. Great examples of this include My Ceviche, La Latina, and Taquiza.

What I’d like to see go away are crowdsourced reviews. While anyone is entitled to an opinion, not every opinion is worth sharing. I’m also done with the the term “#foodporn.” Quality food photography of quality food deserves better treatment, such as “#foodart,” which would inevitably be truncated by the mob to “#fart.”

Although this wasn’t part of the question, a new food trend i’d like to see is the use of mascarpone cheese. Anything I have had with mascarpone cheese is incredible. If I see it anywhere on a menu I order that item and it’s always good.

Do you cook? If so, what’s your favorite dish to prepare?
I have a miso vegetable soup that I love to prepare. The ingredients include barley miso, butternut squash, leeks, collard greens, kale, bok choi, wakame, carrots, and daikon radish. It’s fun to make because I enjoy chopping vegetables and it’s really hard to screw it up. It’s delicious and I can eat it endlessly. Adding barley or brown rice for texture is a perfect combination for winter nights spent with friends, or by myself because friends are hard to deal with sometimes.

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Cheers to our #FoodieFriends and their own great adventure around our city!

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