Miami’s Favorite Haitian Restaurant Started Accidentally from a Health Food Cart — Dining on a Dime


– Everybody, welcome! We are in Little Haiti, which
is a neighborhood in Miami. Where we’re going to right
now is one of the best Haitian restaurants in the entire city. It’s called Naomi’s Garden. It opened originally as
a catering company owned by an Israeli family, but
has since become a really indispensable part of Little
Haiti and Haitian culture due to the outstanding work and cooking from Haitian women who have
been working there for decades. People come every day. People have been coming
since they were children. – Naomi’s! Naomi’s! – So it’s a really interesting
story at this place. It’s a really important
place in the community and for the Haitian people. The food is supposed to be delicious. So let’s head over there now,
and I can’t wait to try it. (upbeat music) I understand that you and your brother were actually born in the building? – Yeah. – Tell me the story about
how this place started? – Okay, so my parents,
they had a food truck selling healthy food all over town. The city said, “Hey, you guys
need a commercial kitchen. “That’s how this works.” They go, “Okay, fine, we’ll do that.” They find this place through a friend. They took it, cleaned it up,
built some rooms back there, had a big tent, and that’s where we lived. We were conceived here,
born here, (laughing) and started working here. These ladies were hired, some
of them before I was born. Melissane was here when I was born. Janine was also here
when my brother was born. When my mom was gonna have us, and they’d come out with
tea and stuff like that. It was just kind of part of the family. They were cooking with my parents. The people in the
neighborhood were noticing that something’s going on. We have Haitian employees,
we see them coming to work. Haitian people, so we
focused on Haitian food. (upbeat music) – We eat here every day since 1980. I’ve been coming here, the food is great. – You’ve been coming here
every day since 1980? – Yes, they have the perfect seasoning, the perfect ingredients that I’m familiar with back home in my country. So every time I come here, it makes me feel like
I’m actually in Haiti. – We’re very thankful
because there’s not a lot of restaurants in the area that even have vegan varieties or
vegetarian varieties, so. – Are there a lot of
vegetarians and vegans in Haiti? – Yes, there’s a lot of Rastas. There’s a lot of Rastas,
a lot of us, yeah. – If you’re a Rastafarian,
what does that mean as far as what you can eat? – Rasta only sticks to all-natural foods, which is the earth, fruits, vegetables. – Ground provision. – Did you grow up in Haiti? Did you grow up in Miami? – I grew up here in Miami. I came here when I was
eight, going on nine. So basically I’ve been here since then. I’m 39 years old. – You look great for being 39! – That’s what being a
vegan does (laughing). That’s what Naomi will do to you! – Yes, exactly. – Yeah, this is Janine Mack. – Janine? – Mack. – Mack, and your name? – Melissane Kan. – Lucas. – Enchante. – Enchante (laughing).
– Enchante. – Hi, Betty? – Yes, Betty. – I’m Lucas. – Nice meeting you, Lucas. – Nice to meet you. – At first, when the
restaurant first started, it was one lady here, but
it was from their church, and that lady was working here by herself. So Yawan, at the time, asked
the lady if she knows anybody that would like to work here. So the lady went to the
church and asked her, and then when she came
here she brought her. And then she brought me here (laughing). – Now you’re here, so
everybody just keeps bringing. – Exactly, it’s just one fam, yeah. Because of this area,
they came up with the idea they should cook Haitian foods because they will sell that a lot. – Did that make people
in the community happy? – Yes, til today. – Yes. – Yeah? – Yeah, very happy. (mumbling) (laughing) – What did she say? I feel like she’s saying things. – Very, very, very happy (laughing) (upbeat tropical house music) – Why don’t we dig in to the fried fish? This is an entire red snapper
that has been deep-fried. Oh yeah, that’s good. It’s got a little bit of a
spice in the fry batter mixture, and so it gives it a little
bit of a peppery kick. And then we’ve got the riz colle. So you can have rice and beans separately, or you can have the rice
and beans is going to be integral to any Haitian meal. (rooster crowing) Sorry, I do have to talk
briefly about roosters. This is what we’re taught as kids, that the cock crows at sunrise. This is not true (laughing). They do it all the time. (rooster crowing) All the time. I learned this the hard time
when I lived in El Salvador, and there were a lot of
chickens and roosters around. And I thought they only did it to wake you up in the morning. I was like, okay, cool, I can handle that. I can wake up at sunrise. (rooster crowing) But they don’t let you sleep. They go all night. It sort of drives you crazy
until a few months go by and you sort of get used to it. Anyways, let’s have some of the mayi kole. This is cornmeal, essentially. It’s got a warm, herbal flavor. It’s comforting. Over here we have some
of the chicken curry. It’s gonna be a little bit sweet, a little bit earthy, a little bit nutty. And then this is gonna be
cooked with some vegetables with some onions, some celery. That’s very good. We’ve got some spinach here. It’s sort of been cooked in fat. Nice and soft, I love
the taste of spinach. So we have our legume,
which is essentially a hardy vegetable stew. I mean, this is something
you could eat every day. I really appreciate this
tomato-y, onion-y concoction. I have nothing bad to
say about any of this. This is a hearty cuisine. – What is a business, right? Because if a business is just a name, a legal entity, I really think that a business is only about its people. Its people is what makes it what it is. People come here and they
go, “This is my restaurant.” And I’m like, “It’s my
restaurant, what are you doing?” (laughing) No, no, no, but they feel connected. – And they feel possession of it. – And they feel possession
of the restaurant. And we closed for six months to do renovations two years ago. People would come here every
day for those six months like, “When are you gonna open again?” Somebody said to me, he said,
“My grandmother would not “eat for four days because we
couldn’t bring her this food.” – Went on a hunger strike. – I was like, whoa. We didn’t realize to that
extent, where somebody would just be like, “I’m not gonna eat “because I can’t get that food.” So it’s a huge need. After the hurricane, so many
people didn’t have power. We didn’t have power. And the ladies said, “We have to open.” I was like, how? Right? They’re like, “Well, we’ll cook outside. “We’ll do whatever.” If people had money or didn’t have money, they’d come here and they’d get hot food. You know what I mean? So it really is part of the community. (light music) – If you’ve learned nothing
from Dining on a Dime, it’s that food is more than food. There’s more to food
than what it tastes like, than how you make it,
and what it looks like. A lot of people don’t like it when I start talking about other shit on this show, but I do it anyway because
it’s important to know how food brings people
together, to know how food in restaurants can affect a community positively or negatively. This neighborhood is changed
and is changing a lot. It’s not quite Wynwood Design District realm of gentrification, but
it’s happening around here. And so it’s important to remember that businesses like this are still here and have really been
holding things together in the community in Little
Haiti for many, many years. The fact that this place and these women that cook the food here are
really able to fill this need and to serve the community, and the way that they
have for so many years really says a lot. So I think this is a really special place. You can obviously see how much it means to the people who live here. So that’s all I’m gonna say. The food’s great. Come here, come here and eat it. Thank you. I really hope you enjoyed this
episode of Dining on a Dime from Naomi’s Garden in Miami, Florida. If you’d like to watch more, please click here.

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