Disclaimer: Mel and I are both unabashed LOBA Lovers. Chef/Owner Jessica Sanchez is our friend. On the blog, we’ve posted a Q&A, included LOBA in round-up posts, and done reader giveaways. However we’ve been a little reticent about writing an actual review of the restaurant because god forbid something should go wrong. Well, I’m happy to report that after a recent brunch trip any fears have been allayed and my LOBA experience was nothing short of beastly.
The ambiance at LOBA is beyond homey. As soon as you walk in, you feel welcomed by the wood, brick, and book page-lined walls. The design elements were all hand-selected by Jessica, and much of the handy work was done by her and her family. That level of personalization comes across in the sense of love and warmth that are completely palpable and overwhelming in the restaurant.
The LOBA brunch menu is divided into three sections: Bakers Pride, Small Plates, and Mains. All items can either be shared or enjoyed individually, and I kind of tackled it both ways by sharing the “appetizers” and going solo on the main courses. But, first, I started off with a few cocktails: a Watermelon Mango Mimosa, a Wilde Wolf (Jai Alai IPA, mango, cointreau, agave, and sour mix), Sangria, and a Michelada. If I’m being honest, these drinks were not the shining stars of my experience and during my next visit I’d probably just stick to coffee, orange juice, or a regular beer or glass of white wine.
What the cocktails lacked, the appetizers totally made up for. The next three plates were undeniably my favorite part of my meal, starting with the delightful Lentil Croquettes. Accompanied by beet tzatziki, avocado, and cilantro, they were perfectly crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside. An amazing start to the meal.
The Avocado Toast was equally satisfying. First of all, I loved how the avocado was both spread and in slices atop a beautiful grilled artisan sourdough. Additionally, the sea salt and red pepper flakes provided an extra layer of flavor and spice that really complemented each creamy and buttery bite.
And then, Curious George walked into my life. No, I’m not talking about the monkey from my favorite children’s book, but rather the banana bread French toast that was inspired by him. I must say, I’m somewhat of a French toast traditionalist – my mom makes a mean challah French toast and I generally limit my intake to when I’m visiting my parents’ house in MD. Anyway, I went for the Curious George at Loba and was blown away. The toast was neither too soft nor too sweet and that undeniable banana bread flavor straight up tickled my tastebuds. Combine that with a candied bacon top-off and sides of Nutella and peanut butter spread and you’re in she wolf heaven.
When it came to the main courses, I ordered the Ring of Fire. Unfortunately, as much as I loved this dish on paper, the execution didn’t quite do it for me. The kick on the Spanish fried chicken pretty much burned my tongue off and kind of killed the dish. The sweet potato waffle, jamón serrano, chipotle butter, and Vermont maple syrup all seemed like great twists on the traditional chicken and waffles, but I just wasn’t able to enjoy them properly. #SadFace
My friends, however, were totally happy with their entrees and gracious enough to let me steal a few bites. The Southern Benedict is a nice take on a brunch standard, featuring a poached egg on top of a heap of braised brisket on top of an open-faced buttermilk biscuit, and smothered with salsa verde hollandaise.
Then, the LOBA Burger… A premium chuck brisket blend, onion marmalade, Havarti cheese, a fried egg, and benton’s bacon nestled between two ends of a succulent house bun. Forget brunch, I could eat this burger in the morning, noon or night. It might just be one of the best burger bites I’ve had in Miami.
Mitch’s take: LOBA definitely showed her teeth and her beast-mode cooking chops during my brunch visit. Despite a few missteps (and what restaurant doesn’t have a few), the quality service, comfy atmosphere, and yummy food provided an overall enjoying experience that’s definitely worth repeating.
Standout dishes: The Curious George (banana bread French toast) and the LOBA Burger. In case you couldn’t tell by my gushing descriptions above, these two dishes made me “hungry like the she-wolf.”