An Asian Affair
Miami, the city of glitzy restaurants and fancy cuisine.
At least it was until Pubbelly came along. Opened 14 months ago, at the end of November 2010, this gastropub provides a tavern-like experience with Asian-inspired food.
Pubbelly was created, designed, built, and funded by three 33-year-olds—Andreas Schreiner, Jose Mendin, and Sergio Navarro—who had a combined 35 years’ experience in the hospitality industry.
“We wanted to do a gastropub because there was nothing like that in Miami,” Schreiner says. “We wanted it to be chef-driven with a unique menu and make it something that would be an amazing food adventure for our chef and patrons.
“We were really afraid of whether Miami was ready for this type of innovative cuisine but people were really excited about it.”
So excited, in fact, that Pubbelly has not yet had a quiet night. “It took off like a flash,” Schreiner says, which was lucky, because by opening day, the trio had $5 left in their bank account.
“It was incredibly scary putting all our money into this,” Schreiner confesses. “We were delayed by the city for a month and a half and the money kept disappearing. We didn’t sleep for weeks wondering if we would be able to open and buy food. We budgeted very healthfully and we watched every penny going in and out.”
Thanks to this, sales for the first year of Pubbelly’s operation exceeded the owners’ goals by around 20 percent. This was thanks, Schreiner says, “to controlling our costs and all three owners working line positions for 10 months before we hired more staff.”
Although Pubbelly is described as an Asian inspired gastropub, it’s a bit of a misnomer.
In fact, the preparation and culinary techniques are very European, Schreiner says, but the dishes include many Asian ingredients, which “give unique flavor profiles.”
All of the dishes on the menu are small plates designed to be shared—larger than tapas, Schreiner says—and he describes it as “global cuisine with a heavy Asian and Spanish influence.” The menu changes daily.
Why these influences? Schreiner’s partners worked at Nobu and SushiSamba so they had a lot of experience with this type of food. Plus, Navarro hails from Spain and Mendin from Puerto Rico “so we decided to go with what we knew,” Schreiner explains. Puerto Rican specialties like mofongo with porkbelly grace the menu as all three of the owners have ties to that country.
No gastropub would be complete without drinks and they’re a large part of the business at Pubbelly. There are 20 to 25 craft and microbrews from all over the world, and the wines are also global, but all from boutique wineries and all priced at $50 or less per bottle. There’s also an extensive sake collection and selection of sake cocktails. The restaurant is only licensed for beer, wine and sake.
Pubbelly is a small restaurant—just 1,400 square feet with a bar and eight tables plus a communal table that seats up to 12. The chef’s tasting menu is served at this table (upon request), and can be paired with wine or beer.
Because Pubbelly opened with a virtually empty bank account, it opened with very little publicity—but its success has continued.
Locals make up 95 percent of the clientele since the restaurant is located in a residential area of the city, although tourists are starting to come as the restaurant garners more national press, Schreiner says.
“We did Facebook and Twitter and we email blasted everyone on our contacts,” Schreiner says. “I also reached out to my concierge contacts and went door to door to all the hotels. All of this outreach meant that before the restaurant opened two local newspapers published stories, providing advance press.
And almost a year after it opened, Pubbelly spawned a sister: Next door is Pubbelly Sushi, which attracts a similar clientele, says Schreiner, some of whom even do a Pubbelly crawl, starting at one restaurant and ending at the other, providing a restaurateur’s ideal symbiotic relationship.
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