A determined second-generation restaurateur, Jessica Sanchez gave up the life of a Brickell banker to pursue her dream.
Jessica Sanchez at Loba’s communal table, a design feature that contributes to the restaurant’s “homey” vibe.
Endless competition, fickle customers with fluctuating disposable income, and myriad other external factors combine to make the restaurant business notoriously success-stingy. So why would 28-year-old Jessica Sanchez leave a job as an analyst at a big Brickell bank to open a restaurant in a promising but relatively rundown MiMo district, even though her parents’ own stint as restaurant owners had met a “really sad” end a few years prior?
“I just became hungry,” says Sanchez, who quit when performing risk analysis and filing return on investment reports came to feel “robotic.”
Sanchez had always planned to open a restaurant. In fact, she had earned a degree in economics at the University of Florida and an MBA from Florida International University (FIU) specifically so the financial troubles that befell her parents’ eatery wouldn’t thwart her own venture. “I wanted to understand how money works so that wouldn’t happen to me,” she says.
After a few years working at the bank, her culinary ambitions surfaced on Brickell Avenue when Sanchez launched a catering company that served her mother’s Colombian cooking to hungry coworkers. It was popular, but Sanchez shut it down after a boss labeled the side business a distraction. However, that was just a temporary setback: In February 2013, Sanchez quit her job at the bank, spent the next year working as a commercial real estate agent, and then poured her savings into a 700-square-foot former Indian buffet on Biscayne Boulevard and 74th Street.
The newly open restaurant is called Loba (translation: “she-wolf”). Sanchez hardly comes across as a bloodthirsty predator, but she chose the name as a personal declaration. “My experiences have made me realize that I need to rely on myself,” she says. “‘Stay hungry,’ Loba’s motto, is a lot more than it seems. For me, it’s hungry for life. Being in that 8-to-5 rotation [at the bank]—it wasn’t for me. I’m done with being safe, and I’m going out there by myself to figure it out.”
Of course, the name also hints at Loba’s carnivore-friendly menu. There is a pork belly appetizer and large plates featuring slow-cooked pork ribs, a bacon-and-egg-topped burger, fried chicken, and a churrasco steak dish named after her parents’ restaurant chain, Patacon. (Sanchez’s mother cooks the dish using a secret recipe she refuses to share with anyone, including her daughter.)
Warm lighting, sturdy wood tables, salvaged mirrors and picture frames, and walls lined with bookshelves (made by Sanchez and her father) create a “homey, cozy” atmosphere, while the price point—approximately $25 per entrée—matches the vibe. At Loba, there’s also something of a pack mentality: Sanchez has hired staff from FIU’s hospitality management program. “I wanted passionate people here,” she explains. “This is an investment in my soul.” 7420 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 786-536-6692