Conch Fritter at Ortanique
I’m one of more than 50,000 Jamaicans living in South Florida. And just like my fellow island expats, every now and then I get a craving for the flavors of home. When I’m jonesing for jerk chicken, fiending for fried fish; or craving the caffeinated rush of Blue Mountain coffee, here are four of my go-to spots.
5890 NW 2nd Avenue, Miami
For almost four decades Pearline Murray and her sister Joan Chin have been churning out the kind of island fare at Clive’s that makes Jamaicans long for home and transports foreigners to its shores with a single whiff. Make a beeline to this Little Haiti diner for traditional favorites such as stew peas, mannish water (goat broth), oxtail, jerk chicken, cow foot, and Jamaica’s national dish, ackee and saltfish. The premises are Spartan, with little more than a few tables and chairs and a pair of flat-screen TVs blaring the latest installment of Jerry Springer. But when Jamaican food is this deliciously authentic, the décor is incidental.
10852 SW 104th Street, Miami
The patty (think of it as the cousin of the Latin empanada) is Jamaica’s best-loved fast food, but finding a decent off-island substitute can be challenging. Not in Miami, however, where this Kendall patty shop has been satisfying cravings for 26 years. Sonia’s menu is small – just spicy or mild beef, curried chicken or, seasonally, lobster patties – but big on taste. And all varieties of the all-natural, no-filler-added meat pockets can be ordered either hot and ready to eat; at room temperature; fully cooked and frozen; or unbaked for you to DIY at home. Lunch like a local with a doughy “coco bread” on the side; wash it all down with a bottle of Jamaica’s famous grapefruit soda, Ting; and enjoy a hearty island meal for under $10. Tip: Sonia’s bakes to order, and wait times can be long. Savvy patty fans order by phone for pickup.
Ortanique On The Mile:
278 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Not all Jamaican restaurants in Miami are casual-dining affairs. In Coral Gables, Caribbean classic Ortanique delivers creatively prepared island favorites in an elegant setting, catering to a clientele made up of local celebrities as well as well-heeled Jamaican expats. My last outing to the Miracle Mile stalwart (it’s been around since 1999; light years by Miami standards!) included a decadent jerk spice-rubbed fois gras; double pork chops with rum sauce; and a sighting of a local TV anchor. If you’re looking for island flavor in a sophisticated atmosphere, this is the place.
Pasion Del Cielo:
100 Giralda Avenue, Coral Gables; 8915 SW 72nd Place, Downtown Dadeland; and 3301 NE 1st Avenue, Midtown Miami
Jamaica’s Blue Mountain coffee, cultivated in a handful of small estates on the eastern side of the island, is recognized as one of the world’s finest, fetching prices of around $50 a pound. Which means you won’t find it at your local Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts. But you will find it at Pasion Del Cielo’s three locations in Midtown Miami, Downtown Dadeland and Coral Gables, where customers choose their brew exclusively from beans harvested in the Americas and the Caribbean. You’ll pay a $2 premium for a cappuccino or cortadito made from the prized beans, but it’ll be worth every cent.
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