Great Finds at Brickell's Oriental Bakery & Grocery, but Don't Tell Them You're With New Times
|All photos by Alex Rodriguez|
The wafting smell of shawarma and freshly baked pita bread greets customers as they mosey into Oriental Bakery and Grocery.
It's one of just a handful of Middle Eastern specialty markets in Greater Miami.
In fact, it was the first of its kind in South Florida, having opened 41 years ago.
It's a family-run business ran by Palestinian owner Okashah Monem and his son, Rafat. But while customers milled through the aisles attempting to choose from the abundance of products, hot foods, and baked goods, Rafat kept his eye closely on us. Two forms of identification later, we managed to leave with a handful of iPhone photos, a tin of Turkish apple tea mix and the notion that we probably won't be welcome there again.
We later came to find out that Rafat didn't believe we were just looking for a story for our alt-weekly's food blog. And unfortunately, we'll never know who he thought we were. Definitely not from "the others" looking to steal ideas and concepts for other Middle Eastern markets around town, that's for sure.
Despite our bizarre encounters with the staff, those customers who walked in simply looking to buy goods were greeted warmly and with familiarity. Mostly everyone greeted Okash and Rafat by first name, and all in all, their experiences seemed quite pleasant.
We found a few items in the store that jumped out at us as great finds. One might be able to find similar, Americanized products but we found comfort in knowing that this market's goods are directly imported from Greece, Syria, and Turkey.
The cheese shelf at Oriental Bakery is a good. Actually, it's great. Among them you'll find Bulgarian kashkaval, Syrian cheese, and feta cheeses imported from France, Greece and Bulgaria. Prices for these depend on poundage.