If you think there isn't a decent spot where you can get lunch for under $10 in Brickell, you'd probably be right. Up until a couple of weeks ago, anyway. That's when Palmas Café quietly opened in the gorgeous courtyard shared with Deli Lane and a few other places.
Palmas Café comes to Brickell from the owners of Oasis Café in Key Biscayne (which has been supplying all Key Rats with their coffee fix for decades) and Las Olas Café over in South Beach (providing a similar service to beach-goers).
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The sliver of a space houses enough people to make a line for the glass counter where daily specials await. On the opposite side, a salad bar is a new but welcome addition to the Brickell area. "We know lots of people here try to be healthy, so we wanted to cater to our customers," says owner Carlos Flores.
Grab a box and pack it with as much lettuce, spinach and whatever else you like your salad tossed with. As long as it closes, it's $6.85. Should you want to add select daily protein, add $2.30 to that figure.
Soups and antojos are available in the form of arepas, ham croquetas, pastelitos, pan de bono, tequenos and empanadas. We recommend the ham & cheese and beef empanadas ($2.50).
Daily proteins and specials include a weekly shrimp dish, barbecue chicken, meatballs, chicken cordon bleu, arroz con pollo, palomilla, mahi in lemon sauce, braised lamb shank, ropa vieja, braised oxtail, fried pork chunks, vaca frita, picadillo, and other deliciousness. The daily meal, priced at $9.15 comes with your choice of two sides. Choose from plantains mashed potatoes, rice and beans, or yuca.
Even the specialty of the house, which is a 12-hour slow-cooked pork shoulder costs $9.15. You can get that every day. Or if a sandwich is more your thing, Palmas Café has plenty. From a BLT and pan con lechon to croquet preparada and pan con bistec. We can vouch for the pan con bistec. For $7.95, the sandwich makes a filling and delicious working (or not) lunch. Pro tip: add the tomatillo sauce at the end of the salad bar to the sandwich. It's for the tacos but they leave it out for whatever else people want to spice up.
Which brings us to the tacos. As a nod to Flores' Mexican background, Palmas Café cooks up carnitas tacos every Saturday. It's a tradition that Flores carried over from the Oasis in Key Biscayne. There, flocks of people line up for perfectly cooked and tender pork at Oasis' ventanita. They are sold by the piece at $2.50 and are addictive. You might want to start out with three (like I did) and go from there. Our only complaint is that we wish these would be available every day, but as Flores explains of the tradition "it's something special that we do."
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End your meal with dessert. All are homemade and cost just $3.70. They change daily; you should hope they have the key lime pie when you visit.
Once upon a time, Oasis Café and Las Olas were cash only. Times have evolved, but if you pay in cash at Palmas Café you'll get 5 percent off your order. Welcome to your new favorite Brickell lunch spot. You're welcome.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha