Cheap Eats

Ocean Deli Market in South Beach: Try the $5 Lunch Box

South Beach may have copious amounts of overpriced restaurants, but if you want the best deal in town: follow the construction workers.

Ocean Deli is a neighborhood bodega with liquor, snacks and substantial subs made with Boar's Head meat. But something funny happens during the lunch hours. Hoards of workers head to the glass case and point to things to fit in a white box. They then ignore the main line and head to the door, giving a guy who is like a bouncer a five-dollar bill and exiting with their box in a plastic bag. It is a secret society of inexpensive made-to-order lunch boxes.

In the breakfast hours, you may see some mangu Dominicano, but for lunch you see other options -- grilled chicken, roast pork, pasta dishes, rice and beans, salad, plantains and much more in daily rotations. You just point to what you want and it is like the post office, "If it fits, it ships." We talked to the woman at the register and she said as long as the people behind the case making the boxes don't indicate something extra it is always $5. This deal runs from lunchtime until they sell out, normally 4-5 p.m.

This small market on 20th Street just above Collins Avenue is the perfect location for grabbing grub before hitting the sand. The tender roast pork is reminiscent of something you might dig up in a luau and the price is surely right and allows you to pig out.

For something a bit more contained, the sandwiches ($7.99) are another quality option. They have a Cuban sandwich or South Beach variety with turkey and avocado. We enjoy the turkey, swiss and honey mustard one, but feel free to build your own if you want to think outside the sub roll.

Another favorite at this convenient store --that is so much more than a liquor store deli-- is the Papacito ice cream in the plastic ice pop container. On the rare occasion we don't buy them out of the tamarind variety, you can try that flavor along with coconut, pistachio, guava, raspberry and cake. Our new favorite ice cream/popsicle mash-up brand even have a cool jingle.

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Carina Ost