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Market Lunch

I've often found it to be very inexpensive and fun to dine in a market, or specialty store, where serving
lunch may be a secondary function. Usually this means fresh food, no tipping required ( although I
normally do), and you have a vast array of assets from which to choose. One of my favorites is lunch
at The Honey Tree. This old-school health-food store is bright and friendly, and usually all of the
small tables are filled by a surprisingly diverse crowd of locals. I like to take one of the stools at the
bar, so if it isn't too busy, I can chat with Sirhan, the friendly but stern overseer, who can describe in
loving detail the Chinese Broccoli with garlic, the pasta of the day, and the savory baked tofu. There is
a rotating menu of hot food, and the cold accompaniments, including very fresh green salads, as well as
a shredded vegetable salad that is crunchy and wholesome, can be partnered with big chunks of creamy
avocado. At $8/lb., you'll walk out pleasantly full, and satisfied in the knowledge that you've treated
your body like a temple, for barely ten dollars. Get there early, sometime they run out of food by 1:30.

Asia Grocery sits between a dry cleaner and a run down pizza slice joint. You wouldn't know that
behind this ordinary facade is one of the best sources in the Miami area for Indian 'Bollywood' movies
on DVD, as well as great music CD's from the subcontinent. They also stock almost every Indian
spice, pickle, and chutney imaginable, alongside a freezerful of Indian breads, like chapati and na'an, as
well as traditional dinners, like sag paneer (curried greens and cheese), kormas (curries) and daal (like
split pea stew). These preparations seem to freeze well, and popped in the microwave at home, recreate
the dishes surprisingly accurately. There is also frozen Australian goat meat, and a large urn of hot
water from which to make tea, while you're shopping. Help yourself, it's free. It's part of the
welcoming feel you'll get from owner Khalid Khan, known as Charlie, and his wife Nazneen, known as
Nancy. They are 37-years removed from their Karachi home, but their hospitality is truly old-world
style. The best surprise is hidden away in the back of the store, however, where Nancy serves up
several hearty dishes, including the two most “famous”, according to Charlie, the chicken curries and
the mixed vegetable curry. I have seen people come directly to the store from the highway to eat these
curries, served alongside fresh bread and rice. Also one of the best homemade samosas in town, and at
$.75, you'll want to order a dozen or more. Large orders, in fact (100 and up), are not s problem for the
couple, whose two daughters also work in the family business.

At Casa Toscana Fine Foods and Wine, a retail outpost of the restaurant of the same name, Chef Sandra
Stefani sells Italian goodies, ranging from breads and pastas, to imported extra virgin olive oils and
balsamic vinegars. Each day the several chairs in this charming shop are taken by locals who adore
one of her freshly made salads of whole milk mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and greens with balsamic
vinaigrette ($7.50); panini of chicken breast, roasted peppers, fontina, and greens ($9); and the Tuscan
soup, with beans, rosemary, and prosciutto ($4). Top it off with some of Homestead's finest-Gaby's
Organic Ice Creams and Sorbets, like Black Sapote, for dessert. It's still lunchtime, but as you gaze
around at all the stacks of prettily arranged Italian products, you might want to have a glass of wine,
and enjoy a lazy afternoon. There's no view of the leaning tower of Pisa (the owner's hometown), but
you will feel transported by the charm of this local market.

The Honey Tree

5138 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
All Cards
Closed Sat/Sun

Asia Grocery
6727 SW 56th St, Miami
T-Sat 11-9
Su 11-7
Closed Monday
All Cards

Casa Toscana Fine Foods and Wine
M-Sa 11-8
Closed Sunday
9840 NE 2nd Ave, Miami Shores