Welcome back deficient readers (sound it out little buddy, you’re doing great) to a Camila’s edition of the Pot & Pan Handler’s illiterate blog. Today we explore the ravenous nature of the restaurant scene in the city that cocaine built, meet a dude who is qualified to run with scissors, discover a hot sauce so indelible I want to buy it by the quart. Lastly we’ll see that my tenuous grasp on Portuguese has no grasp indeed. Join us on our foray into frivolity, edition; Camila’s.
American Dream… cancelled
The unforgiving yellow orb shimmers in the piercing blue sky of Miami. The putrid heat is palpable radiating uncomfortably from all the pavement downtown has to offer. The dining options are not as static here as one might hope. The little Cuban restaurant that could, the Havana Coffee & Tea Company, turns out they couldn’t. Despite their delicious Cuban sandwiches, house made bread & wickedly strong Cuban coffees they are now closed. http://potandpanhandler.com/havana-coffee-tea-company-a-perfect-sandwich/
The French joint where I’ve had a salad before, Downtown Bistro is closed on the weekends. By all popular media channels, I’ve garnered that it’s Saturday thank God for smart phones. http://potandpanhandler.com/blue-shoes-a-french-horn-in-a-cuban-band-miamis-downtown-bistro-2-10-16/
Walking around glancing in the windows of closed restaurants is overrated. I’m fluid. I walk into the next restaurant I see and immediately wished that I hadn’t. Camila’s, once inside I see this is a buffet situation. Glaringly red & white a linear product of mass marketing, antiseptic, Camila’s inside reminds me of a Target. Or like Target & a Brazilian Golden Corral had a love child they named Purell.
Once inside, I’m powerless to avoid the cattle like trance one encounters when herded so efficiently. An unforeseen consequence of the nationwide prevalence of the TSA, suddenly it’s time to order. The electric hum of a chicken rotisserie breaks my trance and I order a ¼ chicken, side salad, black beans and a coffee. I hope the coffee is the same wicked strong Cuban coffee one can’t find outside of Miami, but this place is clearly Brazilian. Where else, outside of Brazilian joints do you see the cut of steak called picanha?
Portuguese… the new Spanish?
The server’s grasp on English is tenuous. My grasp on Portuguese is nonexistent. These facts have made this harder than expected. A bonus point, the coffee is the aforementioned wicked strong and bitterly delicious Cuban coffee not found outside of Miami and presumably Cuba. I order a bottle of water (suck it hippies) the whole point is to have some agua I can take with me back out into the Miami heat. However, bottle of water seems to mean dilapidated Styrofoam cup (suck it again hippies) in Portuguese. Who would’ve thunk? The server is curt. She deftly drops a utilitarian tray of food in front of me & promptly disappears.
Left to my own devices my attention is now on three sauce bottles on the table. Let us refer to my meticulously curated Comey-esque journal notes concerning these sauces.
#1 Aioli, lemony.
#2 acidic, lemony, avocado aioli.
#3 Red, spicy, elixir of the Gods.
After a sample of all three I judiciously covered my entire platter with the red hot sauce. Chicken, black beans & even the salad get doused in this delightfully spicy concoction. I can only imagine the decades spent perfecting this sauce. I personally want to thank the Brazilian Grandma in the back for allowing me into the family and sharing this obvious family secret recipe sauce with me.
The chicken is juicy with the requisite crispy rotisserie chicken skin. Seasoned well and then liberally doused in the tangy & spicy family recipe hot sauce. Camila’s black beans are typical, perhaps under seasoned, but that’s what Granny’s hot sauce is for. A liberal mix in and these beans are textbook. The salad was fresh & crispy and showered in the garlicy, tangy hot sauce.
Runnin’ with scissors
My coffee is gone and I’m in awe. As a restaurant refugee, I’m no stranger to breaking down a chicken. But I’ve never seen it done like this. The chicken rotisserie at Camila’s is open and the line cook is breaking down chickens at a breakneck factory pace, chicken after chicken is deftly and efficiently separated into quarters. No knife in sight he’s doing it all with a pair of tongs and a scissors!?? Like a boss.
I profess my awe to the nimble handed line cook. He turns out to be far more benevolent with his time than the absentee server whom I have yet to have seen again. I have to ask, what’s in the sauce? He doesn’t know it must be a secret only known to Grandma. He asks the manager, the manager says he doesn’t know either. This is becoming intriguing. The line cook takes a break from punctuating our conversation by quartering chickens and goes in back. In a couple of minutes he’s back with a sticker. It reads;
Products & More, Inc.
6522 W. Atlantic Blvd.
Margate FL 33063…
So it turns out that Grandma’s family recipe sauce is a premade in the factory, prepackaged and delivered food service jug of hot sauce. The mystery thickens, so do my arteries if I keep eating this sauce. I can’t stop. I squirt some more onto the beans.
You can’t stop chang
The empty coffee cup mocks me. Suddenly I hear, you neat chang? The question jerks me out of my hot sauce induced reverie. What does that mean? Oh, do I need change, I get it. Yes I will. Purell aesthetics aside, this meal was less than $20 a rare find in the city that cocaine built. I only have a $50 dollar bill. I reply yes please I’ll need some change and for good measure I also add si, por favor.
Suddenly the permanent scowl is replaced with elation. Tank you, she smiles a beaming smile that creeps up into her eyes. I wonder what is going on. She immediately went about deliberately ignoring my imploring body language. Quickly running around she’s completing side work, I’m starting to think I’ll never get more coffee. Even more I’m starting to think she’s not going to bring back any change. Where did she go anyway?
Eventually I stop the manager, I enjoyed the meal, but it was not worth a $35 dollar tip for a $15 dollar lunch. The manager eventually finds and questions the server. In Portuguese, she explains that I’m a shrill, pale tourist and as such I don’t deserve my own money. The manager empathizes, but eventually recovers and hands me the change, emphatically stating that a mistake had been made, and it’s most likely my fault. A mistake? Do you need change? Yes please. No change for you… How is that a mistake? I toss a few $1 bills on the table and give the benevolent line cook a $5. That might’ve been a mistake. I’m not sure, I don’t speak Portuguese.
Camila’s is a bargain. If you are in the neighborhood and just need a cheap, utilitarian lunch, this is one of the few places to go downtown. Do yourself a favor, learn Portuguese and try Grandma Factory’s hot sauce. http://camilasrestaurant.com/ here’s a Camila’s link for your ignoring pleasure.
Coming soon; a 3 foot waxed mustache stirs excrement into the Miami dining scene in an English Pub. We’ll also provide a glimpse into the brutally fickle nature of Miami food trends. Then a predictably climactic tropical storm chases us into the romantic and comforting arms of charcuterie. Cured pork is there nothing you can’t do? Same Bat time, same Bat channel, malevolent readers, until then may the odds be ever in your flavor. – Pot & Pan Handler
The Pot and Pan Handler are maniacal escaped restaurant refugees and food porn fluffers. We travel the nation wielding a rusty spatula in search of a burger that needs flipping. While we travel we’re bringing you with us, because who doesn’t enjoy the story of a burger that needs flipping for some reason.
Homer, we’re out of vodka. – Ron Howard