Miami's American Harvest Cuts Food Costs with Seasonal Sourcing

On this episode of Fast Casual Nation, we talk to the founders of a concept that has quickly established itself as a loved brand in Miami.

Consumers today are demanding much more from restaurants. They expect clean, locally sourced ingredients, quick service, and affordable prices. While many restaurants try to offer all of these things, few can successfully execute without sacrificing their margins.

American Harvest Co., a concept started by Grove Bay Hospitality Group in the Brickell City Center, seems to have found the right balance.

With a menu focused on clean eating, American Harvest serves up minimally processed foods. They use words like ‘GMO-free’, ‘grass-fed’, and ‘organic,’ to support their commitment to sustainable practices and sourcing local.

With decades of experience combined between the top three minds of the leadership team, the Grove Bay Group has perfected every aspect of American Harvest Co. and now they market it as their growth brand.

Watch the episode above for more expert insights into fast casual!

 
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“Angeleno” Food Cart Brings Traditional LA Tacos to Philly

Los Angeles-native Vanessa Jerolmack has been making traditional Mexican tacos all her life, but it wasn't until she moved to Philadelphia that she thought to open up a shop dishing out the craveable bites. Now, on a lot on Baltimore Avenue, Taco Angeleno serves customers fully customizable tacos, burritos and quesadillas with an array of options, even catering to the vegan crowd.

“We make a homemade seitan here, and that's from my vegan days,” Jerolmack explains. “Like, I wanted something meaty tasting that I could eat with all the normal toppings that the other people with a meat taco were eating.”

Using a commercial kitchen ten blocks away, Taco Angeleno preps all its ingredients before bringing them to the food cart to be served. Customizable toppings like Salvadorian curtido, and staples like onions, cilantro, and lime take the tacos to the next level.

Being an outdoor restaurant, Taco Angeleno is only open from May through October to avoid the cold and rainy Philadelphia weather, but you can visit Taco Angeleno year-round by watching the episode above!

 
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Buena Onda's Scratch Kitchen Stands Out in Fast Casual

Aside from earning the prestigious title of Iron Chef in 2009, Jose Garces has many other claims to fame such as his many restaurant brands in Philadelphia. Volvér, Distrito, and Amada are just a few of his successful concepts. But you don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a taste of the chef's famed fish tacos.

The Garces Group’s only fast casual concept, Buena Onda, takes Garces’ culinary excellence and serves it up at affordable prices. Take, for example, their 5-dollar margaritas available on Taco Tuesdays! The Vice President of Culinary Operations for the Garces Group, Gregg Ciprioni, helped Foodable understand how Buena Onda is able to create top-level dishes keeping costs low.

“We featured mahi-mahi when we first opened here but there was an issue with overfishing in the past year and so it became prohibitively expensive,” Ciprioni explains. “You have to be really flexible with what you’re serving. You have to find what works right in this concept and we found that [Perch] is super consistent, it’s sustainable and delicious.”

Taking tips from its upscale big brothers, Buena Onda makes its flour tortillas from scratch daily. The tacos are topped with delicious garnishes like pickled purple cabbage, scallions and chipotle remoulade. With all this flavor, Greg also gave us some tips on retaining freshness for delivery. Watch the episode above to see how they’re doing it!

 
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The Urban Farmhouse: Bringing the Farm to the City

Coming from a number of fast food chains, Kathleen Richardson knew a thing or two about the business, but she wanted to do something a little different. So she dove back into her hometown of Richmond, Virginia and opened a fast casual of her own, The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café. Founded in 2010, the mission behind The Urban Farmhouse is to bring the farm to the city and suburbs while providing customers with local, wholesome food. Though their menu is not outrageously unique, the way each menu item is made is what makes them stand out.

“For almost all of our salads, salad dressings, sandwich ingredients, we either prepare or cut here on the premises. That to me is a difference that I feel is important in defining fast casual.”

Redefining fast casual seems to be a theme here. Coming from McDonald's, Richardson knew a lot about limited time offers (LTO’s) but at The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, LTO’s don’t exist. Instead, Urban Farmhouse changes their menus seven times a year, in accordance with the Virginia growing calendar.

In addition to using local farmers and producers as their purveyors, The Urban Farmhouse expands on its dedication to local by showcasing local artisanal products like beer, chocolates, and almonds. As Kathleen explains, they don’t do anything the easy way. “You’re working with this local for this one product, this local… Doing that for 20 different products versus being able to call up one distributor and getting all of that there. It’s time-consuming, it’s a lot of paperwork but it’s kind of who we are. We can’t be any different.”

Learn more about The Urban Farmhouse Market & Café on this episode of Fast Casual Nation.

Poké 305 Brings Hawaiian-Latin Fusion to Miami's Brickell

Video Produced by Denise Toledo

Poké 305 started as an idea by Founder Victoria Chediak. As a food blogger, Victoria was always in tune with food trends and was intrigued by the traditional Hawaiian dish, poké. Although poké has been gaining a lot of attention in the food world, Victoria noticed there weren’t really any poké options in Miami. That’s when she started thinking about what she could offer to the Brickell community.

“I went to the University of Miami. I sort of catered everything to what I felt there was a need for because I lived it first-hand,” said Victoria. “Working here, studying here, you know you need a lot of healthy options, a lot of 'grab-and-go'.”

Victoria got started on the concept with a little help from her father, Maurico. Maurico has experience opening businesses , which was especially helpful when opening Poké 305. But why ‘305’? Victoria wanted to put her own flare on the poké trend. Being from the city, she created a fusion by inserting some very ‘Miami’ flavors like guava and plantain chips.

“305 is the area code for Miami. Miami is not Hawaii but we have a lot of latin people, Latin community. We have Cuban community, Colombian, Venezuelan. So we tried to mix a little flavor, Latin flavor, into the Hawaiian dish.,” said Maurico.

Everything at Poké 305 is made from scratch, even the mayonnaise for their wasabi aioli! But Poké 305 offers more than just great flavors. Another thing that sets the Poké brand apart is their presentation and atmosphere. With nice big bowls, a fresh open space, and "instaworthy" photos of the food posted on social (this is where Victoria's past as food blogger comes to play) – customers first visit for the aesthetics, but stay for the tastes.