Every small town has that one spot where everybody goes and knows each other’s names – and where the food is just like mom used to make.
Flavas Restaurant is just that place in West Perrine, or “West PEEEE-rine” as owner-operator Zacchaeus Bell and many locals say it. More than just a dot on the South Dade map, he adds, “If you haven’t been here, you ain’t been nowhere.”
That’s because his small breakfast-only diner in this historically black neighborhood is serving up a lot more than amazing home-style food cooked with soul. Flavas is also the local place to be and to be seen, located at 17490 SW 104th Avenue.
Self-described owner, cook, and chief bottle washer, Bell quietly admits his family name carries some weight in town. After all, Zacch is the son of Wilbur Bell, Perrine’s first native elected official here, who served as Chair Councilman Miami-Dade County Community Council and as Vice-Chairman of the State of Florida Correction Commission, among dozens of other civic, church, and business posts.
And although Zacch, at 29 years old, is proud of his dad’s accomplishments, and extremely grateful for his mom’s guidance, too, he prefers to play down the family association. “I guess some would say we’re a big name down here, you know, but I try to be a little humble.” That is, unless he’s dropping the big names of luminaries who’ve been known to pass through Flavas’ front door.
The restaurant has served its fair share of NFL players including Deon Bush of the Chicago Bears, Keith Reaser of the 49ers, Jamal Carter with the Broncos, along with a whole lineup of notable players from the University of Miami. It’s also a popular hot spot for local politicians to meet and greet – and eat.
According to Bell, gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum comes in from time to time, as does Florida Senator Annette Taddeo. In fact, the freshman state legislator basically ran her 2017 campaign out of Flavas, according to Bell, “because we’re situated right here in the heart of her South Dade district.”
A more likely explanation for the restaurant’s crazed popularity is that Flavas is serving up the best southern-style breakfast for miles around.
So What’s Cooking…
Right on queue, Bell jumps into a riff of menu items so fast you don’t have time to wipe your chin.
“We got everything, man. We got smothered chicken, liver, pork chops, fried liver, fried chicken, fried pork chops… We got shrimp and grits, fish and grits, salmon croquette, chicken and waffle, classic waffle, Belgium waffle, turkey bacon, turkey sausage, Garcia sausage, patty sausage, pork, bacon… I mean, you name it, we got it. The only thing missing is pancakes, steak and omelets.”
If it’s so good, the big question is why Flavas serves only breakfast, during only-breakfast hours.
Bell explains that’s because there are so many lunch and dinner spots all across South Dade. “So I figured I could do better with breakfast than with anything else… And make our mark that way. Nobody is specializing in breakfast alone down here.
And so that was the seed for Flavas to become the area’s “breakfast specialists.”
Road to Success…
The road to Bell’s success started with a job he had in Tallahassee just after his college days at FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University), as manager of a busy Waffle House. Here he learned some good hard lessons – mostly that food-service management takes dedication.
“If one of the workers called out, it’s on you to fill in,” he says, which meant often working straight from early morning to late night, “with a smile – and the same salary!”
So with a set of hard-knock management skills in one hand and a fresh Business Admin & Economics diploma in the other, Bell headed back home to Perrine. He sat down with his dad, did the numbers, and set his sights on doing his own restaurant. “I knew the system, how to set it all up, and how to make everything work.”
Talk began to shift into action in 2014, and by that June, plans were drawn up for the new restaurant structure and all the necessary equipment – everything that was needed to launch his fledgling business in January 2016.
“And from there it’s all history,” he says.
In fact, the name of the restaurant has some history. Bell’s dad came up with the name decades earlier, for Flavas & Ribs Restaurant, a rib shack at the same location.
“So, when it came time to put a name on my own place, Flavas was the natural way to go.”
What’s Down the Road…
Asked whether there’s another Flavas location on the horizon, Bell says, “You never know. This may just be the first of many to come.” He envisions someday opening a Flavas Coconut Grove, Pinecrest, and even a location on Miami Beach.
“But for now, I prefer to stay in my lane. When you start to do too much, branch out too quick, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin.”
Knowing that “thin” is the furthest thing on the mind of his hungry regulars, Bell says the short-term plan is to slowly expand the menu, maybe add some more business hours, and continue doing what he and his crew do best – offer the very best first meal of the day.
“Everyone loves soul food. And if you don’t know about it, you’re gonna try it and you’re gonna love it, too,” quips Bell.
“I want to say soul food is something that’s got an extra ‘ingredient,’ because it’s made with the flavor of love – like we put our soul into it.”
Not unlike his labor of love – Flavas. “I do this because I just love it,” he continues. “And I know every plate is made with love.
“I won’t say it’s easy, but any job is hard. Everything comes with its perks and it’s up and downs… But what’s better than doing something you love, you know what I’m saying?”
I think we know what Zacch is saying.
See a recent photo gallery of images at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10156046020097557.1073741878.74593887556&type=1&l=f86bbe35ff
Flavas is located at 17490 SW 104th Avenue, Unit B, Miami FL 33157. Hours of operation are Monday and Thursday, 7 a.m. – noon. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m. – 1 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. For information, call 305-235-1955 or visit https://www.facebook.com/flavasmiami