Miami's most dependable markets for locally grown and produced foods are all verifiably middle-aged or older. They're family-owned and speak to a time when Miami was more about fields, plantations and groves than it was about hotels and shopping plazas. Delicious local products - which range from honey to goat cheese to ice cream - can be found if you just know where to go. The chocolate croissant at Epicure may have been the reason why the term "to die for" was invented! — Photo courtesy of Ines Hegedus-Garcia
To get a real sense of the city’s agricultural history, start with a little drive to the Redland and Homestead areas, where the fruits and vegetables are grown. At Robert Is Here, you can stock up on all manner of tropical fruits–papayas, sapote, anon, jackfruit, avocado–as well as Haden, Kent and Keitt mangos (in season). Robert Moehling displays his favorite mangos — Photo courtesy of Robert Is Here
This Homestead fruit stand, established by Robert Moehling in 1959 when he stood street-side selling cucumbers for his father, is a Miami institution. In addition to offering tropical and citrus fruits and vegetables, the store stocks sweet, savory and spicy preserves and pickles, as well as homemade salsas and sauces.
When you first arrive, make sure to order a key lime, guava, dragon fruit or passion fruit milkshake to sip as you roam the shelves, or head outside to visit with the animals. Robert and his family keep emus, goats, geese and donkeys, and even have a park for picnics and a splash fountain exhibit on the premises. Robert Is Here opens for the season in November and typically closes in late August.
Likewise, Knaus Berry Farm, only a couple miles away, operates in season from November through April. Similar to Robert Is Here, the business started on the side of the road more than 50 years ago, run by brothers Ray and Russell, with baked goods contributed by Ray’s wife Barbara. Knaus Berry Farm is aptly named for its juicy, sweet strawberries. — Photo courtesy of Fried Dough
Known for its huge, juicy strawberries and strawberry products, including ice cream, milkshakes, freezer jam and jelly, the farm store (which accepts cash only) also sells the gooiest, stickiest cinnamon buns and pecan rolls in Miami.The gooiest, stickiest cinnamon bun in Miami is at Knaus Berry Farm. — Photo courtesy of mikeemilio Folks travel from all over the county and wait on lines to buy dozens of these and other southern treats, such as key lime cookies, guava pie and dilly bread.
In fact, you’ll know you’ve found the right place by the line–there never isn’t one, from the time the store opens at 8 a.m. until it closes at 5:30 p.m.–and dozens of visitors linger in the parking lot until every last drop of their strawberry milkshake is gone.
RIH and Knaus are great pit stops on the way down or back from the Keys, but they can be a little far to visit as curiosities in themselves. Norman Brothers Produce in South Miami is closer. Family-owned and –operated for more than 40 years, Norman Brothers has always been committed to local and seasonal produce, even before it was trendy.
As with the others, milkshakes are a big deal here–try the peanut butter or banana–and the bakery is stocked with homemade family recipes such as Buddy’s Pineapple Zucchini Cake. If that’s too rustic, look for Jennifer’s Homemade biscotti products–she’s a homegirl gone national. In addition, the hot menu, thanks to Chef Jay, is always smokin’, especially the fresh barbecue that’s available on weekends. It also features homemade dips and spreads, including smoked fish spread, and when the local lobster mini-season opens, be sure to schedule a stop at Norman Brothers to stock up on both tails and sides to go with ‘em.
Another Miami market that has seen the city grow and change (and grow and change!), Epicure Gourmet Market in South Beach has been in business since 1945. It was begun by the Thal family as a butcher shop and developed into a select spot for high-end staples such as all-natural meats, poultry and fish; gourmet vegetables cheeses; fine wines; and its own line of prepared foods. Raw meats, poultry and fish are all top quality at Epicure. — Photo courtesy of avlxyz Now owned by the Starckman family of Jerry’s Famous Deli renown, with another location in Sunny Isles Beach, Epicure remains a premier destination for fine meats, delicatessen, bakery cakes and Danish, caviar, sweets, teas and coffees, and fresh flowers from local and exotic vendors.
The two Epicure stores are a cornucopia of imported and artisanal small-batch and/or obscure products. Much of the goods are overpriced, but the ethnic staples that established its heritage are worth every penny: chopped liver, matzoh ball soup, rugelach and epic pastries.