The Bahamian Pot stirs island flavors in Liberty City

Conch salad at The Bahamian Pot in Miami. Photo by Linda Bladholm for the Miami Herald.

Every time the Miami episode of The Layover with Anthony Bourdain airs on TV, a new wave of customers flock to The Bahamian Pot in Liberty City (6301 NW Sixth Ave.). They come to try the boil fish and grits, bracing conch salad and the turkey wings. 

It moved in January to a new location, due to rising rent, and the menu was tweaked with new additions, such as waffles with fried chicken and okra steamed with tomato, onions and butter. It still has an island vibe, with fish nets filled with buoys and shells draped on the walls. There is a lifesaver called pot cake, after the stray dogs that eat the rice on the bottom of pots that islanders leave out for them.

Owner and chef Trudy Ellis was featured in the kitchen of her old place on The Layover. She opened her first restaurant in 1988 after working as a private nurse for 15 years. She is from Nassau and came to South Florida to study nursing. 

When she realized there were no Bahamian restaurants, she opened hers, deciding to nourish souls rather than nurture as a nurse. Her mother, Ethel Ellis, a retired nurse, helps out by clearing tables and rolling utensils in paper napkins at her station by a large fish tank. 

The Bahamas sprawl over 100,00 square miles of turquoise waters with more than 700 islands, cays and reefs that begin just 50 miles across the Gulfstream of the eastern coast of Florida and stretch southeast 500 miles. The original Bahamians were the Arawak Indians who probably migrated from the Yucatan. It was settled in the 1600s by British pilgrims and became a British colony until independence in 1973. 

Seafood like conch, spiny lobster and grouper are staples, along with pigeon peas, okra, plantains and breadfruit that came with slaves brought from West Africa. 

Breakfast is big at The Bahamian Pot, with stewed conch or smothered chicken wings and grits; fried or stewed snapper; eggs and pancakes; and salmon croquettes. But the real reason to come is for boil fish, made with grouper steak (beware of bones) in lime-accented fish stock with onions and habanero pepper bits to wake up your taste buds.

For lunch and dinner, there are a few sandwiches, and the gospel bird category with baked, fried, steamed or barbecue chicken selections with a choice of one side and rice and peas. You can also get fried or steamed grouper or snapper with fries; fried or stewed conch dinners; conch fritters; fall-off-the-bone tender stewed oxtails; or fried pork chops good with collard greens, potato salad, steamed cabbage or baked macaroni. 

Save room for sweet potato cake, rum cake or Key lime cake all undercover on the small counter in back. When you leave, you expect sand under your feet, not concrete.

Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer. 

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