Some restaurants have spokesmen. These have hype men.
Miami rapper Trick Daddy grabbed headlines when he announced he was opening a Miami Gardens restaurant, Sunday’s Eatery, for home-style Afro-Caribbean and Southern comfort food.
At a similar spot two miles down the road, DJ Khaled used his social media influence and musician friends to extol Finga Licking.
Behind both restaurants is Latosia Colvin. A longtime South Florida restaurant owner, she built both businesses and their menus from the bottom up. She partnered with co-owner Elric Prince, the Miami record producer known as E-Class, to expand her creation.
He brought the fame, tapping into his famous client roster and rapper friends to put the restaurants on the map. Colvin, meanwhile, backed it up, mixing the cuisines of Miami’s Southern and Caribbean flavors on the plate.
The Licking has grown to six locations, including Chicago, the first spot outside of Florida, where another E-class client, Flo Rida, showed up to make the line (and entice social media) on opening day.
Contrary to his “Deco Drive” claim, Trick Daddy was not in the kitchen frying food on a recent Wednesday at Sunday’s Eatery. When the celebrities move on, Colvin’s cooking is left to back up the excitement.
That was more than enough for a steady and busy line of lunchtime locals to form at the counter for what they’re calling Miami-style soul food. A postage-stamp of a spot with five dine-in tables and service only in black Styrofoam containers, it encourages take out (which holds up surprisingly well after a short drive).
But a bright and pleasant dining room with a courteous and patient staff willing to walk through menu rewards dining in. Open the package right away and crunch into seriously satisfying comfort food as ‘90s baby-making music from Keith Sweat and Babyface play overhead.
You read that right. Sunday’s lightly batters its pork spare ribs in spice-dusted flour and cornmeal and then deep fries them. The thinner batter is the Caribbean take you more commonly see on chicken (rather than a thicker, heavier Southern batter), which makes the ribs crisp rather than crunchy. It also means you can eat a whole lot more of them. The spices put the flavors right on your palate, and the tender meat pulls off the bone with a satisfying snick.
If you choose to “Take it to the House,” a nod to a Trick Daddy hit on the menu board, you get a choice of rice and two sides for $13. Go with the peas and rice, generous in flavor if not necessarily peas. For the other sides to order, see below.
Put your hot sauce back in your bag. You won’t need it with the collards at Sunday’s. A subtle vinegar kick provides just the right amount of acid to set off greens cooked with chunks of roasted turkey. They’re rendered tender but never lose their texture. (Take them every time over water-logged green beans.) You could easily order out and pretend you made them at home (but then your family might wonder why you’ve been holding out on them).
Yes, there are plenty of meats to order fried, including chicken wings, catfish and snapper. But I’ll take Sunday’s fried shrimp. The flaky batter is different than on the ribs, a bit more substantial. But it’s not so thick a coating that you can’t taste the fresh marinated shrimp beneath. They even travel well if you’re carrying out for a hungry co-worker.
For too long the powers that be have told us candied yams are only for the holidays. The ones from Sunday’s would fit perfectly on your Thanksgiving plate, but they’re even better next to a plate of fried ribs. Nothing fancy here, just tender yams with caramelized edges in their own syrupy juices.
Macaroni and cheese
Nothing on the sides menu will be judged as harshly as mac and cheese, but Sunday’s version stands up. This dish is baked casserole-style, custardy and rich, and topped with golden bubbling cheese. No Velveeta goop and mushy noodles anywhere in sight.
Miami Herald critics dine unannounced and at the newspaper’s expense.
Editor’s note: Miami Herald dining reviews no longer include star ratings. We believe a restaurant should be judged on its merits and the nuance of the dining experience, not simply on a grade. — Carlos Frías, Miami Herald food editor
Address: 2675 NW 207th St., Miami Gardens
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday-Saturday. Until 8 p.m. Sunday. Closed Tuesday.
Price range: $4-$15
FYI: Limited shared parking. Take out might be a better option at busy lunch times. Accessible first-floor entry and restrooms.