By Dinkinish O’ConnorTucked in the back of a West Indian bodega, the kitchen at B&M Market beckons with authentic Jamaican flavors.Three indicators that a West Indian takeout joint is worth one’s dime: a weathered glass jar filled with some peppery concoction instead of generic hot sauce; a crowd of men, accents flaring in what sounds like an argument, but is, in fact, friendly banter; and, an open kitchen. B&M Market on 79th Street has all three.
Set in a West Indian bodega with all the typical convenience store offerings of cola champagne, ginseng and Jamaican hard-dough bread, B&M is a rootsy hang-out for blue-collar workers and shoot-the-breezers.
“I’ve been coming here every day since I started working . . . right up the road for 15 years now,” Basil Bodie said on a recent weekday.
Bodie is Bahamian, and notes the oxtails and curry goat “tastes like good, home cooking.”
In the back of the market, to the right, is what might be described as a working man’s dining hall: two picnic-style tables, four plastic chairs, plastic rose centerpieces and the well-used jars of homemade pickled scotch bonnet peppers.
B&M stands for Bob and Mary, who owned the place long ago. It was purchased in 1980 by the Ali family, who are originally from the Essequibo Coast area of Guyana. They never changed the name, and current owner/chef Nafeeza Ali took over the business from her uncle in 1990.
Ali proudly notes that after her family took over the restaurant, it became one of the first West Indian takeout restaurants in the county.
“There used to be a lot of Jamaicans living around here,” she said. “Many have moved up north, but still come here to eat.”
Prices range from $3 for conch salad to $10 for a large oxtail platter with rice and peas, boiled yam and banana or sweet fried plantain. Lunch specials cost $5 and are available between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
The menu includes brown stew chicken, roti, curry cabbage, rice and peas and, for the weary epicure who doesn’t have a Jamaican friend who can cook, the experience of the ackee and saltfish is reminiscent of flavors captured in a Kingston shanty.
For all its services and traffic, B&M is also very clean because the food is halal according to Muslim dietary laws.
The real standout on the menu, should you be so brave, is the cow foot stew, $8, defined by a salaciously silky, gelatin-like textured meat.
B&M Market is located at 219 NE 79th St., Miami. 305-757-2889