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
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
The first Pincho Factory opened several months later in Westchester. But like any good success story, this one has its ups and downs. Today,
Turns out flipping burgers wasn't just
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
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
"What really got people talking was
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
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
Just don't forget the fries. Otto says much of
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
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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
"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."
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
Sweet-potatotots $4.49 (plus 75 cents for apple butter)
Cajun fries $3.99