Miami is the ultimate melting pot, where different types of people and cultures blend together as one.
This is why oversees concepts often make their debut in the U.S. by expanding first in this especially culturally diverse city.
But local restaurateurs are also gaining traction in the market with concepts that appeal to adventurous foodies looking for ethnic tastes.
The team that brought My Ceviche, a south American fusion seafood-focused fast casual concept with six stores in the Miami area, decided to introduce a new fast casual to the Miami market.
Enter Zuuk Mediterranean.
The first store in Brickell opened in April and serves Mediterranean-inspired items. This style of food appeals to today’s diners (millennials, in particular) because it offers an array of flavorful healthy choices.
Like My Ceviche, Zuuk has create-your-own bowls and pita wraps, along with other nutritious offerings like fresh-pressed juices and Boylan Bottled soda. The restaurant also prides itself on not using a fryer to prepare any of the food offerings.
We decided to sit down with Sam Gorenstein, one of the co-founders of Zuuk Mediterranean to learn more about this new Miami gem.
How did you get your start in the restaurant business?
Gorenstein: Cooking has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I wanted to make a career out of it since I was a child. I started in culinary school right out of high school, until a unique opportunity took me to New York City. There, I worked for three years, gaining invaluable experience and building a great network of mentors and friends in the industry. Eventually, a new opportunity to come back to Miami arrived and I made my way back.
Why did you decide to open Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen?
Gorenstein: Zuuk is the perfect compliment to My Ceviche (our first fast casual concept launched in 2012.)
I grew up eating all kinds of food from the Mediterranean, while watching my mother and grandmother cook when I was growing up.
Roger Duarte (our CEO and my business partner) and I assessed and recognized an opportunity in the Mediterranean fast casual segment. We knew we could make a big impact in the South Florida market.
Zuuk has all the elements that the market currently demands including variety of flavors, affordability, and fresh ingredients sourced daily and cooked in-house. All of which is in a fun and friendly ambiance.
How is it different from your other concepts?
Gorenstein: Zuuk is all about the Mediterranean. It incorporates all the bold flavors from Greece, Lebanon, Israel, Morocco, and Syria blended together in perfect harmony.
While at My Ceviche is all about the lighter Caribbean fare, focusing on more sharp flavors like citruses & chilies.
What are some of the most popular menu items?
Gorenstein: Our gluten-free falafels are definitely a fan-favorite which are filled with fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, and parsley. Additionally, all of our dips and sauces are made-in-house utilizing fresh ingredients. They are a big hit and give diners a final touch to compliment their bowls, rolls, or salads.
Gorenstein: It's our home-town. We are a Miami-made organization.
But more importantly, Miami is experiencing a renaissance, with amazing opportunities popping all over the city.
What trends are you seeing in the industry and how does Zuuk incorporate them?
Gorenstein: Two trends that quickly come to mind that are very prominent in the market right now, and are very intrinsically related. One, the ability to "build-your-own" meal is definitely a huge segment with high appeal among Millennials. In fact, the vast majority of them expect customization in everything they get, and at Zuuk we have over 2 million combinations to offer.
Secondly, the increasing popularity of meals served in "bowls," which ingredients are prepared separately and assembled according to your unique taste profile. At Zuuk, over 80% of all products sold are bowls.
What's next to come for Zuuk?
Gorenstein: Growth. We are looking to expand the brand throughout the South Florida region. Two new locations are coming at the end of the year, Aventura Mall and Downtown Dadeland.