The diner, though it seats only 24 people, had a successful start.
Benjamin Zambrano arrived in Miami in 1958, from Mantua, in the Pinar del Rio province in Cuba. After working as a cook in New York, he returned to Miami in 1972. Though Benjamin died five years ago, sons Benjamin Jr. and Nelson took over the business when their father began to get sick.
“It’s what we saw growing up,” Nelson said. “It’s what we always were involved with. Not that we didn’t go to school, because we did, but we just fell back on the family business because it was prosperous and it gave us a life at the end of the day as well. I finish at 3 p.m. and get to spend time with my daughter.”
Eventually Nelson and his wife became theowners. He and Ota live on the island, with their 9-year-old daughter. His mom, Acela Zambrano, lives next door. Nelson remembers growing up with his family at the diner, which is still nestled at a corner of an ordinary shopping center near the entrance to Key Biscayne.
But the diner remains far from ordinary; many refer to it as the island’s “kitchen.”
“You know the metaphor; everyone hangs out in the kitchen? In the house that is Key Biscayne, that kitchen is the Donut Gallery,” Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Caplan said. “That’s where everybody hangs out.”
Caplan has been living on the island for 26 years, and remembers the first time he visited the diner, in October 1986. He had just come from Massachusetts.
“I popped in and I had breakfast. It struck me, and I didn’t know Key Biscayne very well and I didn’t know everybody. There were so many people there,” Caplan said. “I felt a real neighborhood feel.”
“It is the first place to open after a hurricane. Couples have met and married. There are regular customers that have been going there for years,” Gottlieb said.
Gottlieb said his favorite dish is the “Ted’s Special:” bacon, ham, melting cheese, tomato and eggs, served on an English muffin.
The diner also has loyal employees.
Lori del Hoyo travels each morning from her home in Homestead to Key Biscayne. She has been working at the Gallery for 26 years.
“My favorite part of my job is my customers, they are sweethearts,” del Hoyo said. “My favorite thing is that I do the same thing every day.”
Nelson hopes the Gallery will continue to prosper.
“Hopefully, Key Biscayne and the community continues to support us,” Nelson said. “And, hopefully we’ll be able to stay here for another 40 years.”