Pincho Factory Churns Out a Very Miami Burger

The namesake Pincho burger is tops. Click here for the full slideshow.
The namesake Pincho burger is tops. Click here for the full slideshow.
Photo by CandaceWest.com

When Nedal Ahmad was in elementary school, his English teacher told him he'd be flipping burgers one day. Funny thing is, the guy was actually right: As one of three partners alongside his brother Nazir and cousin Otto Othman, the burgers he's flipping are at Pincho Factory, the Miami-based burger and kebab restaurant that's grown from the original restaurant in western Miami-Dade County to a booming franchise business in just five years.

Since that time, chef Nedal has flipped quite a few patties. He did it for Rachael Ray at the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, where he won the coveted Peoples' Choice Award at the festival's Burger Bash for his croquetesa, a mashup of burger and croquette. In March, he did it on The Today Show for Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotbe when he made his toston burger for all of America. The restaurant received more national press after being featured on George Motz's Burger Land on the Travel Channel.

Now five restaurants strong and following a newly launched franchise division, it's hard to believe there was a time when Pincho Factory was nothing more than an idea dreamed up by three guys taking shots of tequila at a family Fourth of July barbecue.

"After a few drinks, we started talking about how good our food was, good enough to start our own restaurant," says Otto. "My mom's kebabs are pretty famous. Everyone loves them. And Nedal's burgers are the best. Two days later, we were looking for a site to open the first restaurant that would highlight them both."

The first Pincho Factory opened several months later in Westchester. But like any good success story, this one has its ups and downs. Today, Nedal loves to share the story of that fateful opening day in November 2010 when he had just $6.27 left in his bank account.

Sweet potato tots with apple butter dipping sauce
Sweet potato tots with apple butter dipping sauce
Photo by CandaceWest.com

Turns out flipping burgers wasn't just Nedal's calling but also a profitable one. Now you can find Pincho Factory near FIU, another restaurant in Coral Gables, and the newest corporate-owned store in Hialeah. As the first location outside Miami-Dade County, the month-old Pembroke Pines restaurant — located in the former Giraffes space off Hiatus Road — also stands as the first franchise location, operated by husband-and-wife team Nelson and ChristieanneCrabrera.

Moving forward, Pincho Factory's expansion plans include a second location at American Airlines Arena as well as additional restaurants including other franchise restaurants in Orlando, Doral, West Kendall, and Pinecrest amid loftier goals of adding up to 20 more restaurants across Florida by the end of 2016 and 50 by the end of 2017.

The aesthetics of a Pincho Factory are Chipotle-esque in nature. The menu board borrows the outline of those create-your-own rice bowls, pitas, and salads. The service, a step up from fast-casual, lets you order at the counter, take a number on a stick, and have someone drop off the goods a few minutes later. The prices, which peak at $9.49 for a steak wrap, bowl, or salad, are as affordable for fast healthy fare as it gets. There's beer here too, several on draft, including a specialty brew made just for Pincho, a lime- and coriander-spiked saison from Wynwood Brewing. It's dubbed the 627 in homage to Nedal's lowly bank account balance.

So how did Pincho Factory get to the top of South Florida's fast-casual burger chain? By slinging concoctions like the colorful toston, arepa, and pastelito burgers, says Otto. And a few foodie awards helped too.

"What really got people talking was Nedal's insane creations," says Otto. "Things like chocolate-covered fries and that pastelito burger, what were once chalkboard specials that did really well for us and got us the wins in various competitions."

Cajun fries
Cajun fries
Photo by CandaceWest.com

You might not be able to find some of the more zany menu items at the Pembroke Pines restaurant for the time being, but the best of what's been done is all there. That includes the now trademarked toston burger, a dish Nedal says was first created by his wife, a fast-food translation for pabellón criollo, the traditional Venezuelan dish made up of shredded beef, black beans, rice, and fried plantains.

At Pincho Factory, it's a five-ounce hormone-free beef patty fitted between two fat, golden-yellow discs of fried plantain and topped with melted Jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and Nedal's cilantro sauce.

But among the eight burgers on Pincho's permanent roster, I prefer the one for which the restaurant is named. To my taste, the Pincho outshines all those sandwiches that helped make the place famous, a dense brioche bun layered with melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and a house-made secret pink "flamingo" sauce.

While the basic structure has stayed the same over the years, some things have changed for the better. The patty now comes from a cruelty-free farm in New Jersey, seared on the flattop to a salt-and-pepper-seasoned crisp, and encases a satisfyingly tender bulk of meat that screams more flavor than your average burger. And Pincho no longer uses canned potato sticks but instead fresh julienned potatoes fried fresh for a satisfying crunch, much like the ones found at the best frita joints in Miami.

Just don't forget the fries. Otto says much of Pincho's early success is thanks not to its crazy burgers, all-beef hot dogs, or even the pinchos but instead the fries. And although the eatery's sweet-potato tots — nuggets of creamy-sweet potato encased in a thin-fried shell that arrive with a side of homemade apple-butter dipping sauce — are at the top of my crave list, they aren't the most popular.

Chicken California Salad
Chicken California Salad
Photo by CandaceWest.com

Instead, it's the plain shoestring ones, rolled in a ranch seasoning and fried in peanut oil. Just a few months after the restaurant opened, they were named the Best Fries by WPLG-Channel 10 over places like McDonald's, BurgerFi, and Shake Shack. It brought people in by the dozens, prompting them to add new creations over the years, including the now-popular Cajun fries, loaded with grilled onion, a robust Cajun seasoning, and a hefty dose of flamingo sauce.

Perhaps the menu's nicest surprise is its health-focused fare. Although there are a number of ways to mix and match the chicken, steak, and shrimp pinchos, the California salad bowl is a popular way to go, a rewardingly healthy proposition over fries and burgers.

The chicken pincho is served in neat cubes, tender chunks of white meat. The salad is fresh and crisp. The mango sauce dressing is light and refreshing. And the toppings — sliced tomato, fat wedges of mandarin orange, a handful of dried cranberries, and crumbles of Gorgonzola cheese — provide a rainbow of color accented with the toasty sweetness offered by a vein of sliced almonds. It will make the health-conscious luncherhappy, while the rest of us drown in the fried stuff.

"At the end of the day, I'm a comfort-food fanatic," says Nedal. "My basic food groups are pizza, tacos, and burgers. I was always that guy out back grilling them up, and I knew I had to do this for a living. I'd like to think my English teacher would be proud."

Pincho Factory
155 N. Hiatus Road, Pembroke Pines. Hours are noon to 10 p.m. daily. Call 754-888-9746, or visit pinchofactory.com.

  • California salad $7.99
  • Pincho burger $6.99
  • Toston burger $8.49
  • Sweet-potato tots $4.49 (plus 75 cents for apple butter)
  • Cajun fries $3.99
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Pincho Factory

155 N. Hiatus Rd.
Pembroke Pines, FL 33026

754-888-9746

pinchofactory.com


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