A friendly neighborhood Haitian joint you don't want to overlook
If you're keeping an eye out for quality cheap eats, the car and the MBTA are not always your friends. While drivers focus on the road and buses retrace the same main-drag routes, it's only pedestrians who get off the beaten path to notice the kind of joints that quietly thrive on neighborhood trade. Camie's Bakery, a Haitian bakery/restaurant in a residential area roughly equidistant from Central, Kendall, and Inman squares, is one such slightly out-of-the-way place. It only registered as a potential budget-dining find as I happened by on foot, on my way to someplace else.
Order at the counter and grab one of 20 seats in the tidy, cavernous dining room. If you're ravenous, get a patty ($1.10–$2) to tide you over: these savory turnovers offer a bit of filling (spiced minced beef, chicken, cod, or smoked herring) surrounded by beautifully fresh, flaky pastry. Entrées are hearty stews and pan-fried dishes with occasional flashes of spice. Stewed chicken ($5) features three meaty, crisp-skinned, juicy drumsticks in a savory brown gravy topped with grilled peppers and onions. The generous plate of jumbo shrimp ($13.25) boasts a faintly spicy, tomato-based Creole sauce, again topped with onions and peppers. Fried goat ($12) is gorgeous: nearly ebony chunks of mostly boneless goat meat pan-fried crisp and topped with pikliz, a vinegary, capsicum-flamed slaw of cabbage and carrots. These entrées include big plantain slices and hefty portions of either black-bean-flecked, seasoned rice, or white rice, onto which you pour a gravy boat of soupy, pureed black beans. There are also American subs and sandwiches like BLTs ($4) and cheese steaks ($5.50) on good house-baked bread and rolls, but far more interesting are Haitian-accented options like the fried-pork sub ($5.50) topped with pikliz, cheese, mayo, and onions, featuring the kind of fatty, slightly spicy goodness that will have it in my morning-after rotation.
Drink options include the AK 100 ($2.85), a cornmeal-thickened milkshake with the flavor of a vanilla cookie; fresh ginger tea ($2); and canned coconut juice ($) with chunks of fresh coconut. The bakery case up front offers sweets both American and Haitian: standouts include bon bon sirop ($1.50), a dense, moist gingerbread; the flat, brown-sugar-dusted "plain pastry" ($1.50), like Haitian fried dough; and tablet noix ($2), a sweetly spiced fistful of cashew brittle. With its oversize portions and friendly service, Camie's is a useful reminder that the best cheap-eats deals are often found in neighborhood joints serving traditional cuisines, mostly to an immigrant audience. It's one such place you'll be glad to have ambled by.
Camie's Bakery, located at 152 Columbia Street in Cambridge, is open from Monday–Saturday. 8 am–8 pm. Call 617.661.4878 or visit camiesbakery.com.
: On The Cheap
, Cambridge, Kendall Square, review, More