The Place: Lil Greenhouse Grill, recently opened in the heart of historic Overtown, plans to become a green oasis with a nearby community garden. The contemporary space was built out of a former Chinese takeout joint that had been a corner grocery store. The entrance is white, with a potted palm and a charcoal portrait by Rodney Jackson of Purvis Young, the late self-taught African-American artist who made Overtown his home. The dining room has sage walls, soft lighting, wood tables with electric candles and a small bar in back with beer on tap. Soulful chill music plays on the sound system, and locals are filling the tables by word of mouth.
The History: Chef-owner Karim Bryant was born in Brooklyn but came to South Florida when he was 5 years old. His mother passed away when he was 9, and as soon as he graduated from high school he started working to support his siblings at a Fuddruckers, then Hard Rock Café, Prime One Twelve and Capital Grille. He was mentored by Ralph Pagano at Naked Lunch and became executive chef at The Butcher Shop in Wynwood. He gives back as vice president of the Overtown Community Optimus club, working with children. His partner in life and business and the mother of his 3-year old son is Nicole Graves. He met the Columbus, Georgia, native on Facebook, and they shared a vision of starting Overtown Media to help market small businesses. They met Ronald Simpkins, a developer who owns the building they are in. He liked their idea and assisted them in opening.
The Food: This is a BBQ bistro with an applewood chip-fired smoker that turns out mahogany chicken wing flaps and drumettes with celery sticks and ranch dip; half a smoked chicken; grilled chicken breast served in its juices; slow smoked ribs; and smoky saucy rib tips. There’s also grilled or fried shrimp tossed in sweet and spicy sauce and grilled shrimp skewers in lemon-butter sauce. Seafood cakes are a mix of chopped whitefish, shrimp and crab stick, pan seared for a crispy crust and served on lettuce leaves topped with Thousand Island sauce. Sandwiches include a 7-ounce Angus burger (or turkey); a housemade lightly spiced black bean and corn kernel burger and grilled chicken breast with a choice of fries or a salad of mixed greens with cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, grated cheddar and croutons. Ask for the daily special of waffles and chicken, as it is not on the printed menu. It features puffy waffle wedges with breaded and fried chicken breast dusted in powdered sugar with syrup. Sides include mac ‘n’ cheese, stewed collards, baked beans, brown rice, green beans and mashed potatoes. Desserts change, but there might be upside down strawberry cheesecake if you are in luck.
You Didn’t Know This: In the early 1800s resorts around Philadelphia served fried catfish with waffles when the fish were in season. The Pennsylvania Dutch served stewed chicken on waffles smothered in gravy, and a fried chicken version became known as a “Virginia breakfast” in plantation big houses. The dish became popular during the Harlem renaissance in the 1920s and ’40s in New York when Joe Wells saw an opportunity to boost sales and reduce waste and started offering an after hours menu at the Wells Supper Club making use of leftover fried chicken paired with waffles for jazz musicians and concert-goers as a bridge between dinner and breakfast.
If You Go
The Place: Lil Greenhouse Grill
Address: 1300 NW Third Ave., Miami
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Prices: Starters $5-$9, sandwiches $9-$10, entrees $12-$16, sides $3-$4, desserts $3.50