For more than a decade Trudy Ellis had expected improvements to 54th Street in Miami, where her restaurant Bahamian Pot sat for 26 years.
"For years the politicians told me something was going to change, that there would be lights, but it never happened," she says.
So last week she left the powder blue building that's long been home and moved to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, bringing her boil fish and grits ($12) with her.
The classic Bahamian breakfast is made of diced grouper filets cooked with lime juice, onion, thyme, potatoes, and chilies. They come with jonnycakes, dense slightly sweet pancakes that aptly suck up all the savory juices.
She also brought the baby blue paint with her, and it covers the inside of the restaurant along with weathered-looking fishing nets, strings of battered buoys, and rows of conch shells. The shellfish is another highlight, and served for lunch and dinner either stewed or fried ($15). It's tenderized first to give the once-tough meat a more delicate texture before hitting hot oil to build a pale yellow crust. The Bahamian-style peas and rice piled alongside are one of the best iterations of the dish, which is popular throughout the Caribbean. Instead of water or maybe stock, the tender grains are stewed in a sweet, savory tomato sauce dotted with squares of onion and bell pepper before being mixed with meaty, broken pigeon peas.
Souse, a classic Bahamian stew with tripe and either pork ($8) or chicken ($6), is another specialty, but is served only on weekends. The tripe is cooked in an almost Jamaican, escovitch sauce with vinegar, hot chilies, and mire poix before being married into a sauce built onto various pig parts and finished with the main protein.
"I can't tell ya what else is in my souse," she says of the spicy braise. Despite the secrets, Trudy is someone you could talk to for hour. She sports an infectious, gap-toothed smile and is quick to hug guests before they make their way out
Meanwhile, in a far corner of the restaurant Trudy's 78-year-old mother Ethel Ellis keeps a sharp eye on the floor while gnawing at a toothpick and rolling together forks, knives, and napkins into what restaurant types call a setup. She saunters in and out of the kitchen to check on orders and keeps an eye on tables. It was Ethel who helped Trudy create the menu, which has been expanded over a number of years thanks to her cooks who've come back and forth from the island. Ethel, however, has been the constant.
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"We call her the CIA," Trudy says.
Bahamian Pot is located at 6301 NW Sixth Ave., Miami. Monday 7:30 to 11 a.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.