Lorna's Downtown: Caribbean Soul Food Comes to Downtown

Miami Gardens is a mecca for interesting food. Consider for example Lorna's Restaurant, the Caribbean place that for the last six years has offered up a variety of fresh dishes influenced by Jamaican, Bahamain and American cooking.

Thankfully restaurant matriarch Lorna Westmoreland's son, Matari Bodie, opened a downtown Miami outpost about a year ago. The recipes are true to mom's, and among them are spicy, aromatic curries, braised oxtails and Escovitch fish, a traditional Jamaican sauce that's spicy and vinegary with onions and bell peppers.

Here it was all about the oxtail, $10 for a small serving and $12 for a large, which Bodie said is the best-selling dish. Glistening slices with ribbons of fat on the ends came still attached to the bone in a sweet brown gravy. Black-and-white pictures of Reggae legends hung on the walls and tables were covered in plastic green and yellow cloths. Everything here is fairly priced and fresh. Curry fish goes for $13. A quarter pound of stewed conch with okra was $12.

"I learned cooking from watching my mom," Bodie told us in the middle of late lunch rush. "She's a gold mine." The sides here are straight up Caribbean soul food. Rice and pigeon peas were a welcome respite from regular black beans and rice while a stew of cabbage and carrots was crunchy, sweet and salty. They also serve collard greens and corn bread on Saturdays and Sundays.

Westmoreland was born in Jamaica. Bodie in the Bahamas. In the downtown location Bodie's sister, Rosemarie McFarlane, waits tables and lights up when told the food is good.

The clientele is an only-in-Miami mix of lawyers, judges and the downtown black community.

Once the downtown branch is running smoothly, Bodie said he's looking at opening locations in West Palm Beach and Atlanta. At the moment the downtown Lorna's is only open weekdays, but Bodie said he's planning soon to open on weekends for breakfast. The menu is to include stewed fish, boiled fish and grits, and ackee, a Jamaican fruit related to lychee, and boiled banana dumplings.

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