At Zuuk in Downtown Dadeland, dollops of roasted red pepper hummus and mint tzatziki are perched on a bed of turmeric basmati rice with baked falafel, crumbled feta cheese, Kalamata olives and tomato and cucumber salad.
You might already be familiar with the fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, which opened in Downtown Dadeland this past spring. Its founders—Roger Duarte and James Beard Award nominee Sam Gorenstein—run the popular seafood shack, My Ceviche, which first opened in March 2012 and has since expanded across Miami-Dade County.
“My Ceviche was about making fine dining seafood dishes affordable and accessible,” Gorenstein says.
“Zuuk was created to do the same, but for the less-familiar flavors of the Middle East,” Duarte adds. “For Sam, these exotic Middle Eastern flavors remind him of his grandmother’s home cooking.”
Founded in 2016, Zuuk unites longstanding Mediterranean culinary traditions inside a modern, quick-service environment. After Gorenstein and Duarte experienced rapid success with My Ceviche, the two decided to swap seafood for Middle Eastern by opening the first Zuuk location in Brickell.
“The food at Zuuk is meant to transport you on a journey far away,” Gorenstein says, “letting you experience exotic flavors in a fast-casual setting.”
Similar to My Ceviche, customers at Zuuk create their own dishes, including bowls and pitas, by mixing and matching ingredients—spreads and dips, spiced meats and salads.
Every order begins with either a fire-baked pita or a bowl with a base of turmeric basmati rice, bulgur wheat or a blend of greens and grains, such as arugula and spinach with rice. Then comes a choice of three dips and spreads, including olive yogurt dip and baba ghanoush made with eggplant, tahini, garlic and spices. Add some meat—slow-roasted beef, lamb kefta, or grilled chicken spiced with turmeric, oregano and lemon—or opt for falafel or seasonal roasted vegetables instead.
Bowls and pitas are finished with a number of toppings, including pickled hot peppers, lemon wedges, bulgur tabbouleh, sumac onions and feta cheese, as well as a drizzle of sauce, such as cilantro lemon tahini or a spicy harissa.
“We prepare every single ingredient used in our restaurant in-house daily,” Gorenstein says. “From blending hummus and hand-rolling lamb meatballs, to pickling our own cabbage and creating our own sauces.”
Unlike Zuuk’s Brickell and Aventura locations, Downtown Dadeland’s location is the first to feature the restaurant’s local artist collaboration.
“We commissioned a Gulliver Preparatory Class of 2008 student, Victor Garcia of VGA Studios, to create a special design for our ‘U’ symbol,” Duarte says. “We have since introduced a ‘U’ to our Brickell location and plan to commission local artists from each area we open in.”
Gorenstein and Duarte hope to sign five leases by the end of the year, to open additional locations within the next two years in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties.
“We are proud of what we are building with Zuuk,” Gorenstein says. “We’re elevating the Mediterranean fast-casual experience while simultaneously making it affordable, accessible and approachable.”
Location: 8880 SW 72nd Place, Kendall