Chef Lorena Garcia Brings Flavors Of Latin Comfort Cooking To Miami With New Restaurant, CHICA

CHICA Miami
Rendering of CHICA Miami

Photo Credit: Rockwell Group

Chef Lorena Garcia brings her acclaimed Latin-inspired comfort cuisine back to her home in Miami as she and John Kunkel’s 50 Eggs Hospitality Group debut the second location of their acclaimed eatery, CHICA. The brand expansion is an exciting opportunity for both 50 Eggs and Garcia, as it allows her to return to her roots and introduce her beloved concept to the place where she grew up. Furthermore, they’re doing it in an iconic space that’s historic to Miami, as they transform the former Soyka restaurant to open CHICA.

The flagship location of CHICA remains in Las Vegas’ Restaurant Row at the Venetian Hotel, where it has received high praise from locals and visitors alike, cementing Garcia as the first Latina chef on the Las Vegas Strip. Expanding to Miami—where there is already a strong Latin community and opportunity for new ingredients and vibrant flavors due to its proximity to Latin America—allows Garcia to approach the latest venture with newfound excitement.

As we sit down with Garcia prior to the opening, her exuberant energy is contagious. She’s ecstatic, grateful and eager to share her cuisine with the people of Miami. Here, we discuss the second opening of CHICA, what guests can expect, what it’s like to return to Miami and more.

HL: How does it feel to be returning home to Miami for the opening of CHICA?

LG: It is a dream come true. I never thought it would be possible, traveling all over the country and seeing different locations. Miami is a difficult market because it’s all about finding the right location. So, imagine, when all the stars align, you know that’s when the magic happens, and this was the perfect storm to have CHICA opening up in Miami.

HL: Will the menu feature more local dishes that reflect the Miami market as opposed to its Las Vegas counterpart?

LG: Absolutely. When we actually first conceptualized CHICA before opening in Las Vegas, I came up with a lot of the menu in Miami. When we moved to Vegas, I had to adjust to reflect the market. So, the wonderful thing is that coming back to Miami, I’m going back to the basics of where everything started—the recipes, ingredients and techniques are very much indicative of the location. Even the colors and design of the restaurant reflect Miami. It’s a departure from CHICA Las Vegas, but very much Miami.

Chef Lorena Garcia
Chef Lorena Garcia

Photo Credit: Lorena Garcia Group

HL: Can you tell us some of the highlights of the menu and how you’ll showcase the different cultures of Latin America within it?

LG: As you know, I’m from Venezuela, and I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time in Argentina, Peru and Colombia. So, it’s a representation of those places, primarily. Also, Mexico is a huge aspect of my cuisine. It’s a combination of recipes that are based on my travels to places I’ve been throughout my life working as a chef. The Masa Program, for example, is something that I absolutely love. We make everything from scratch—tortillas, flour, corn, our arepas and tamales. Our meat program with grilled meats is also representative of Latin America—you’ll feel as if you’re in your own little corner of each country.

HL: How did you curate the menu? Was it all from scratch or did you incorporate some family recipes?

LG: It’s both. You’ll see my mother’s Asado Negro that, of course, was one of the best recipes of my family growing up. I took the favorites and elevated them with my own unique spin. Also, some of my most well-known recipes that you’ve seen elsewhere—such as my Bunuelos that I won from in Top Chef Masters—will make an appearance on the menu. Of course, the menu will be unique to Miami because the ingredients available to us here are completely different than those in Vegas. Miami is the door to Latin America. So, the array of ingredients we’re able to find and the freshness is second to none. I’m extremely excited about it.

HL: Do you have a favorite dish on the menu?

LG: Oh my goodness! How can you ask me that? That’s like asking “What kids do you love most of all your children?” [Laughs]. But if I had to choose, some of the top favorites would be my Arepitas with Huevos Pericos for breakfast, which is a traditional Venezuelan breakfast. Also, our tacos are unbelievable—all of our tortillas are homemade. And for dinner, our grilled meat platter or my Mac con Queso that is made with choclo—it’s my version of mac and cheese. The cazuela with beluga caviar, lentils and quinoa is a bright and light dish. And as we speak, I’m developing new dishes with my team from 50 Eggs. We’re making magic here!

CHICA MiamiPhoto Credit: Michael Pisarri

HL: Now that you have two CHICA restaurants under your belt, what’s been your greatest lesson learned from opening your own restaurant, and what piece of advice would you give to others?

LG: That you’re only as good as your last service. Every day is a new day, and you start from zero and have to give your very best. The day you feel comfortable doing what you’re doing is because you stop trying to make it. Never be too comfortable, and just continue to push and give your all no matter what.

CHICA is located at 5556 NE 4th Ct, Miami, FL 33137. For more information, please visit chicarestaurant.com/miami.

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