For years, Lime Fresh Mexican Grill was the go-to place for South Beach locals to enjoy an inexpensive — yet fresh — meal.The restaurant, founded by restaurateur John Kunkel of 50 Eggs in 2004, was something of a unicorn at the time — an independently owned, fast-casual restaurant serving quality food by an attentive staff. The one-off Mexican restaurant grew to multiple locations and in 2012 sold to Ruby Tuesday Inc. for a reported $24 million.
The original 800-square-foot Miami Beach location remained unchanged for a while, then was shuttered to make way for several other Kunkel ventures including BTW and Spring Chicken.
Now, Lime returns to where it started — with the same recipes but new ownership.
Grant Gussin, president of Left Field Holdings, the Miami-based franchisee, saw the small space was vacant and called John Kunkel. “I knew he still controls the leases on the buildings so I reached out to him. I would like to re-create the magic.”
Gussin, who owns and operates several existing Limes including West Kendall, says he realizes there’s some confusion about the brand after its takeover by Ruby Tuesday, but he wants to restore Lime to its original status as a purveyor of quick and inexpensive meals prepared with non-GMO beans and produce sourced from local vendors, using the restaurant’s original recipes.
The menu will feature old favorites like guacamole, queso dip, nachos, tacos, burritos, salads, soups, and a fresh salsa bar that offers at least eight salsas. Items are prepared daily and the restaurant will have no microwaves or freezers onsite to ensure food is fresh.
Says Gussin: “Bringing LIME back to where it all started on the Beach is a big step. That’s how we’re going to get people to come back and love Lime again.”
The restaurant owner also will emphasize good customer service and plans on bringing back several original employees. “We have a few of the cooks that basically opened the store that have been working at other concepts. They’re returning and it’s a win for them, as well.”
Gussin says he wants to bring back the feeling of when Lime was a small burrito shop. “I want staff to recognize regulars and remember their orders. We have work to do to win people back and establish relationships.”
With plans to also open a Lime in Midtown Miami (at Midtown Five, across from Sugarcane), Gussin is ready to combat the stigma of being a chain. “Lime suffered when it grew and we have to win people back. I’m excited about that challenge.”
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Lime Fresh Mexican Grill. 1429 Alton Rd., Miami Beach. Opening in January 2018. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday; 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.