For Lunch Week, we have a Man on the Street from Caitlin Granfield. “Man on the Street” brings you the dish on tasty, low budget lunch options from the men and women who work hard for their money. Back away from the desk and steer that company van over to this worthwhile recommendation.
Chez Madame Johns
975 NE 125th Street
Hours: 8 a.m.(ish)-9 p.m.(ish)
A few minutes after 9pm on a Thursday night, the entrance door to Chez Madame’s was locked. Instead of shooing me away, a woman with a bright pink floral shirt and a red visor skirted over to unlock the door and welcome me in. This laid-back Haitian restaurant in North Miami has something very serious to offer: authentic food.
If you don’t read Creole, ask for help translating the menu and you’ll get a rough but understandable idea of the dishes. I had a craving for ox tail soup, or queue boeuf. After ordering at the counter, I sat down at one of the six tables with rose pink plastic tablecloths and watched part of a weird musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy on a gray boxy television with a small sign that says “Do Not Touch.”
Most of the dishes on the menu revolve around chicken and pork. All items are $10 or less and come with brown beans mixed in brown rice with thin-sliced baked plantains (known as tostones in Latin restaurants) as large as the palm of your hand.
The queue boeuf ($10) came in a large rectangular styrofoam box–no ceramic plates here, even for dine-in orders. I also tried the fried pork or griot ($9), as well as the poule frit complete, ($9) which comes with three medium sized crispy chicken legs bathed in a milder jerk sauce with two additional sauces in side cups. One sauce is a pinkish-orange pickled onion sweet n’ spicy dip. The other is a toned down version of my super pepper-jerked oxtail stew.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my queue boeuf, but wowza it was spicy! Luckily I’m a pepper fiend (I even found myself lapping up the broth in between bites) but for those with normal stomachs, make sure you take Pepcid before and after your meal. The oxtail fell right off the bone and I loved sucking the sweet DNA juices from the pores of the marrow. Mixed within the brownish-red fire broth were lightly sauteed crunchy onion slices, the perfect companion.
The griot had a malty barnyard flavor. It got a little too funky when I became adventurous and bit into the fat and skin. It smells and tastes like what it is–pig–but like a piggy who went straight from a mud bath to the broiler. Even with a big slug of Choucoune, Haitian fruit champagne soda, there’s no way that dirty pig is escaping your taste-buds.
This place is Haitian all the way. The store hours are not concrete, as many Haitian locals strolled in even after 10 pm. If you want the real deal, try a treat from Chez Madame.
Caitlin Granfield is a New England transplant who enjoys her traditional clam chowder while appreciating Miami’s conch soup, a spicy and exotic delicacy for a Yankee girl. As a Barry University grad and Operations Manager for Miami New Times, she surrounds herself with local happenings, enjoying and exploring both city and swamp life. Writing is her true passion, where her thoughts and experiences can be remembered and relived.
If you submit a Man on the Street to firstname.lastname@example.org and I use it for a column, I’ll buy you lunch (or rather, pay you ten bucks.)