Fleishman’s history of big ideas does not just include the hamburger. In addition to Umami Burger, currently 26 restaurants and counting (Fleischman partnered with Sam Nazarian’s sbe group in 2011), there is the pizza empire. Fleischman co-founded the pizza chain 800 Degrees — part of the new wave of ingredient-driven, fast casual restaurants when it opened in 2010 — which now includes 16 restaurants, both in and outside of the U.S. And then there was ChocoChicken, Fleishman’s chocolate-and-fried-chicken project, which debuted to mixed reviews in 2014 and has since closed. (Fleishman told me yesterday that he’s reviving the project and hopes to reopen the restaurant next year.)
PBJ.LA is still only one stall, as yet unopened. And Fleishman’s partners in the project are three guys he met at a gym. Fleishman, who likes origin myths (the original Umami Burger was invented, according to Fleishman and the world, one day in his kitchen), says that PBJ.LA happened after he met Payvand Salehi, Brad Greenberg and Jimmy Franklin at Sky Sport and Spa in Beverly Hills a few years ago, at a training session. That none of the men had much of a culinary history wasn’t apparently considered much of an issue — Fleishman has a BA in Liberal Arts from the University of Maryland and worked in finance and wine before opening the L.A. wine bars BottleRock and Vinoteque, selling those and using the money to open Umami Burger.
The four men loved the idea of recalibrating the old school sandwich, and eventually Fleischman took the idea to the folks at Grand Central Market.