When the Going Gets Tough, Christine's Roti Shop Does Breakfast

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Jackie Sayet
Surviving with a smile

Raise a white flag in trying times?  Nonesense.  After 17 years in business, Christine Gouveia flipped a big white bird at all the naysayers, the pouters and the wallowers, and instead chose to open her Roti Shop four hours earlier than usual yesterday to launch a breakfast service.

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Jackie Sayet
Early bird special

The new menu is as cheap as it gets, with lively Caribbean breakfast fare like savory pastries and cornmeal porridge meeting good ole American-any-way eggs, griddle meats, oatmeal, and even the trusty bagel. Specials run $1.95 - $3.95 and most items a la carte are no more than $2 each. Christine has also purchased a small espresso machine for those who desire a stronger brew than drip. 

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Jackie Sayet
Fried sweet salt fish and egg breakfast bake

A standout is the surprising combination of fish and eggs, and it's not smoked salmon we're talking. The fried sweet bake pairs flaky, lightly curried salt cod (Bacalao) with a soft scramble.  The tender mixture is folded inside a pillowed roti that's subtley sweet like a brioche for the tropics.  It's a unique treat worth the greasy splurge.

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Jackie Sayet
Empanadas front and center

Here clientele recognizes fried pouches of egg and potato as "breakfast empanadas," but they're more like flat Indian samosa pastries.  Maybe the dense dough and filling have a heartier audience, but I can't say I prefer these to baked.  

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Jackie Sayet
With curry goat, the spice is just right

Christine's grandmother was a cook and spice mixer for the English when they occupied Guyana, a country on the northern coast of South America with Indian roots. Her family later moved to the Caribbean, but Christine uses an Indian curry of the kind her ancestors once used.  It's much darker than that found in the islands and makes for a perfectly piquant stew of goat with medallions of creamy potato. Each bite packs centuries of flavor and spice.  Don't be shy -- just dig into this must-try, fingers first. 

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Jackie Sayet
Hanging in there
As for North Miami, this den mother has nursed residents through ups and downs over the years, a bastion of Caribbean comfort in trying times.

"Half of the neighborhood comes in crying with their problems," she says, reminiscent of my favorite hairdresser, but with the power of food. "I don't kick people out, but I tell them just not to come during the busy lunch hour!"

She adds, more serious now, "I see the neighborhood suffering, with small businesses closing left and right. I'm working 16 to 18 hour days, seven days a week including holidays, just to pay the bills...  I was about to throw in the towel, but I'm not giving up.  I'm giving it my best shot and hanging in there.  When times are tough, I get tougher, better. I can't wait to get up in the morning to feed people.  And it's never too hot for me to be in front of the stove!"

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Jackie Sayet

Sitting strong

The stools out front have been around since the beginning, thrift store finds that turned out to be too tall for their former post at the counter.  So, Christine did what she does best.  She took matters into her own hands and made lemonade out of lemons -- with a hacksaw.  Back and forth, and back and forth.  Until they fit just right.  She can't bring herself to throw them away, although she came close recently.    

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Jackie Sayet
Culinary arts

This colorful collection of her past continues inside the shop, in the bright brushstrokes of her own paintings on canvas and walls filled with world currency and artifacts, including three towering African ebony wood pepper mills.  This backdrop is a reminder of where she's been that anchors her pursuit of new projects.  Christine is an innovator online among dive restaurant owners, using her new website as a hub for a franchise venture and a retail channel for her downloadable PDF "cookbook" that can be purchased via Pay Pal.  Yet for all her tech savvy, this passionate entrpreneur is going about her most important raison d'etre in a hands on fashion.  She aims to help extinguish domestic violence via a letter-writing campaign to both state and federal governments to advocate for educational reform.  

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Jackie Sayet
Obama, Clinton, listen up

So now ask what doesn't Christine do?  Give up would be your best answer. 

Christine's Roti Shop


16721 NE Sixth Ave. (NE 167th St.)

North Miami Beach

Now open for breakfast 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., seven days a week


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