Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Occupation: Founding Partner and Culinary Director, Pubbelly and Pubbelly Sushi
Years worked as a chef: 19
Years lived in Miami: 17
Awards/Accolades: Best Chef, Miami New Times (2015)
Finalist, The People’s Best New Chef: Gulf Coast, Food & Wine (2011-2015)
Semifinalist, James Beard Foundation (2011-2015)
What do you love best about Miami’s food scene?
I love the progress that is being made and appreciate how chefs are embracing the seasonal product from the city. I think it’s great how chefs are starting to open their own places. Miami needs more local neighborhood joints.
Name the top restaurants and dishes that you think every visitor in Miami should try.
Tomato salad from Eating House. Love the flavors in this salad. The nuoc cham dressing and the texture of the frozen coconut are what do it for me.
Beef cheek burger from Tongue & Cheek. The flavor is insane. Also, the pimento cheese and homemade brioche bun are great.
Tagliolini al funghi from Macchialina. Very unique preparation of an Italian classic.
Calzone from Lucali. Best calzone I have ever had. I like it with shallots and hot peppers.
Korean fried chicken sandwich from The Dutch. This sandwich is addictive! Ask Chef Connor how many times I’ve had it. Perfectly cooked, crispy chicken tossed in a gochujang glaze, pickles and peanuts. Might go get one right now.
What’s your favorite neighborhood to dine out in?
I don’t really have one in particular. I have favorite spots in most of the neighborhoods in Miami.
If you had to name one favorite dish from each of your restaurants, what would they be and why?
The mofongo at Pubbelly – it just brings me back home.
Snow crab roll at Pubbelly Sushi – I love the butter ponzu; it makes me very happy.
Caracoles a la Llauna at Barceloneta – love the combination on the snails and rabbit sausage.
Imagine you had a limitless appetite and describe your perfect “dining out day” in Miami.
I would start with breakfast and Cuban coffee at Enriqueta’s, with a sandwich of huevo, queso y jamon. After, lunch would be at Joe’s Stone Crab. I’d follow that with some green juice at jugofresh and finally a nice dinner with a bottle of wine at EDGE Steak cooked by one of my favorite people in the world, Aaron Brooks.
You’re originally from Puerto Rico. Are there any specific places you like to go to when you want a taste of home?
Here in Miami, there are very few. Jimmy’z Kitchen makes some really good classics, and Enriqueta’s reminds me of a cafeteria back home, even though it’s mostly Cuban food.
What other cuisines do you enjoy eating or cooking, and where do you go for these foods?
Chinese – Tropical Chinese
Vietnamese – Hy Vong
Thai – Sawadee
French – DB Bistro Moderne
Japanese – Zuma
Raw vegan and cold press juice – jugofresh
Venezuelan arepas – La Latina
Argentinian – Fiorito
Mexican – Taquiza
Any great watering holes you like to visit often and any specific drinks you like to order?
The Broken Shaker at The Freehand, and anything they’ll make for me.
Since it’s Miami, we have to ask: what’s your go-to place for Cuban and what do you like ordering there?
Enriqueta’s. I like the pan con bistec the most, but everything is good.
What’s one dish that blew you away and left you wishing you came up with it yourself?
Baby chicken at Zuma.
Since Eats Abroad is geared toward travelers, are there any restaurants or bars in Miami-area airports or hotels you would recommend?
Very close to the airport, there are these really cool guys that opened a smokehouse, Miami Smokers. Their specialty is bacon, but you will find an amazing variety of sausages and hams, and all are made in-house. Go get the Asian sausage dog. It’s insane.
What’s your guilty pleasure and where in Miami do you go to get it?
The biscuits at The Federal. They are just perfect.
Are there any foods native to Miami that you particularly like and that visitors should try to find?
Mariquitas with garlic oil.
Finally, what would you say any visitor must see or do before leaving Miami?
Visit any of the Pubbelly restaurants. 😉
Chef Mendín’s Shortlist:
Pubbelly, 1418 20th Street (South Beach); Asian/Latin, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, brunch Sunday, closed Monday.
Pubbelly Sushi, 1424 20th Street (South Beach); Japanese, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily.
Barceloneta, 5850 Sunset Drive (South Miami); Spanish, lunch Sunday, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Second location: 1400 20th Street (South Beach); lunch and dinner Tuesday-Sunday, closed Monday.
Eating House, 804 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, FL; new American, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Tuesday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.
Tongue & Cheek, 431 Washington Avenue (South Beach); American, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
Macchialina, 820 Alton Road (South Beach); Italian, dinner only daily.
Lucali, 1930 Bay Road (South Beach); Italian, dinner daily, lunch Friday-Sunday.
The Dutch, W South Beach Hotel & Residences, 2201 Collins Avenue (South Beach); new American, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop, 186 NE 29th Street (Wynwood); Cuban, breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Joe’s Stone Crab, 11 Washington Avenue (South Beach); breakfast daily (take-out only and closed during summer months), lunch Tuesday-Saturday (closed during summer months), dinner daily.
jugofresh, 40 South Pointe Drive (South Beach); juice bar and health food, open daily.
Multiple locations throughout Miami.
EDGE Steak & Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Miami, 1435 Brickell Avenue (Downtown); steakhouse, breakfast and dinner daily, lunch Monday-Saturday, brunch Sunday.
Jimmy’z Kitchen, 1542 Alton Road (South Beach); Latin American, lunch and dinner daily.
Second location: 2700 N Miami Avenue (Wynwood); lunch and dinner daily.
Third location: 9050 S Dixie Highway (Pinecrest); lunch and dinner daily.
Tropical Chinese, 7991 SW 40th Street (Tropical Park); Chinese, dim sum and dinner daily.
Hy Vong, 3458 SW 8th Street (Little Havana); Vietnamese, dinner only Wednesday-Sunday, closed Monday-Tuesday.
Sawadee Thai & Sushi Restaurant, 6968 Bay Drive (North Beach); Thai and sushi, lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner daily.
DB Bistro Moderne, JW Marriott Marquis, 255 Biscayne Boulevard Way (Downtown); French-American, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
Zuma, Epic Hotel, 270 Biscayne Boulevard Way (Downtown); Japanese, lunch Monday-Friday, dinner daily, brunch Saturday-Sunday.
La Latina, 3509 NE 2nd Avenue (Midtown); Venezuelan, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday-Saturday.
Fiorito, 5555 NE 2nd Avenue (Little Haiti); Argentinian, lunch and dinner daily.
Taquiza, 1506 Collins Avenue (South Beach); Mexican, lunch and dinner daily, late night Friday-Saturday.
The Broken Shaker, The Freehand, 2727 Indian Creek Drive (Mid-Beach); bar, open daily.
Miami Smokers, 306 NW 27th Avenue (Little Havana); smokehouse, lunch Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday.
The Federal, 5132 Biscayne Boulevard (Little Haiti); new American, dinner Tuesday-Sunday, brunch Saturday-Sunday, closed Monday.
About the Chef: José Mendín was an adventurous eater from a young age. Frogs’ legs, cow tongue and veal brains were nothing out of the ordinary for him, thanks to his great-grandmother, who was a cooking instructor. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Mendín’s earliest food memories revolve around family events: Sunday get-togethers featuring a wide array of dishes, his uncle always roasting a pig in the backyard. Mendín’s parents were always on the lookout for new and exciting restaurants. Needless to say, an appreciation for food ran deep in his family.
But Mendín didn’t discover his love and talent for cooking until his college years, when he had no choice but to make his own meals. He became hooked to the gratification of cooking for others and ultimately enrolled in culinary school at Johnson & Wales in Miami. He honed his skills in Spain and at Japanese fusion restaurants Nobu and SUSHISAMBA in Miami and London.
In 2010, Mendín and his two partners launched the Pubbelly Group and its first restaurant, Pubbelly. Pubbelly Sushi followed, as well as a partnership with Spanish tapas eatery, Barceloneta. This year, the group will expand to welcome a new restaurant, PB Station, in downtown Miami.