Brothers Austin Myara and Adam Myara are dreaming big. Together, the two opened Mojos Real Cuban in Lakewood Ranch in March, and they’re already moving forward on location No. 2, set to open within months along Osprey Avenue in Southside Village.
Like most genius restaurant ideas, the concept is simple: Cuban classics served in a fast-casual, Chipotle-like setting. Pick a Cuban bowl, platter or sandwich, select your rice and beans, then pick a protein. Options include slow-roasted pork and chicken, shredded flank steak and stewed and ground beef. The menu is focused and exact, perfect for wide replication.
Austin, 20, and Adam, 30, aren’t Cuban. But their father immigrated from France to Tampa, where he fell in love with Cuban cuisine, and Adam’s wife’s family does hail from Cuba. During trips to Miami, they dreamed about opening a Cuban restaurant in Sarasota. The brothers’ family owns the Bogey’s Sports Pubs in Bradenton and Venice and Ed’s Tavern in Lakewood Ranch. When they met Cuban chef Will Marquez, they started experimenting with Cuban food at Bogey’s and eventually conjured up Mojos.
The brothers plotted the Southside Village location before opening in Lakewood Ranch. Austin tells me they’re already scouting out a third spot, looking as far north as Tampa as well as closer to home.
The time is right. The Obama administration is easing diplomatic tensions with Cuba, and high-profile visits to the island by Obama, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Rolling Stones have caused interest in Cuban culture and food to mushroom. Can’t make it to Havana? Mojos will bring it to you.
MOJOS REAL CUBAN, 11161 E. S.R. 70, Lakewood Ranch, (941) 756-0467 or mojosrealcuban.com
Color me excited. Boca Kitchen Bar Market, a small Tampa-based chain, is planning to open a fourth location in downtown Sarasota on Lemon Avenue, just south of Main Street. Boca has so far opened in Tampa, Winter Park and Brandon, with a St. Pete spot also in the works. Boca’s other locations serve a globetrotting mix of meats and seafood, but what really sets them apart is their avowed commitment to working with Florida farmers, ranchers and fishermen.
Sarasota is ready for it. Every year, Transition Sarasota, a nonprofit that supports local agriculture, publishes an interactive guide to local food growers and producers. The group identified 98 such businesses and organizations in 2011. By 2014, that number had shot up to 254. Clearly, we’ve got entrepreneurs eager to sell local food and diners eager to search it out. Bring it on.
BOCA KITCHEN BAR MARKET, 19 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota, bocakbm.com
I was bummed to learn about the recent closings of two lunchtime favorites: Russian House on the South Trail and Lovin’ Spoon Full just east of downtown on Ringling Boulevard.
Russian House served a limited but high-quality selection of East European classics like pierogi, borsch and piroshki. The restaurant didn’t inspire awe, but it showed promise. Its closing leaves our culinary offerings a little less diverse.
Lovin’ Spoon Full, meanwhile, concentrated on well-loved American favorites like BLTs, but did them up right, with excellent breads, fresh ingredients and thoughtfully constructed side dishes. Reasonably priced downtown lunch spots are growing rare. Let’s hope another one takes Spoon Full’s place. Soon.