Eric Nelson, a photographer and designer from Michigan and Brooklyn, came down to Opa-locka to photograph the neighborhood. On Friday afternoon, I met up with Eric to show him around the area. As I have mentioned previously, this part of town is notoriously dangerous and crime ridden. So two Midwestern former architecture grads stick out like a sore thumb -- though possibly Eric more so than I. Eric was up for partaking in the local gathering, which was a Friday night street party at Lowe’s BBQ.
Located on Ali Baba Avenue, at the northern most tip of the street, adjacent to the barricade is a small 650 square foot shop. It is a modest looking structure and on most days appears closed. Following non-traditional business hours, Lowe’s doesn’t open until 3pm when the neighborhood children are out of school. LeRoy “Butch” Major, is the owner and operator of the BBQ stand. Butch has a raspy voice and is a known figure in the area. While not too fond of Eric’s camera, he was still willing to allow us to hang out at the shop.
A ritual of sorts, an amateur DJ provides the music, after a couple drinks the locals provide the entertainment -- and of course Butch provides the food. Calling the shop “modest” is a compliment: one fryer, a stove, a grill on the back patio, and two freezers are the extent of the cooking facilities. This does not prevent Butch from cooking amazing food for the locals. Eric and I arrived just as the party was livening up. Butch offered us both a beer as we spoke to him about his time living here and the types of characters that frequent his business.
Surprisingly, Butch was not hesitant at all to answer my questions. Before we knew it, an Eric had recorded an hour worth of conversation. During this informal interview, Butch continued to serve us local delicacies only found in Miami: chicken souse, conch salad, and conch fritters. Chicken souse is a heavy soup filled with spices and roux. Conch is a type of seafood with a chewy texture. I had tried fried conch before (but have to admit that I did not like it at all). However, Butch's conch was delicious. This only reinforced our conviction that Butch has the talent and ability to run a successful food business in Magnolia North -- but he lacks the appropriate space and access to a small bit of finance he needs in order to be successful.
We met a lot of interesting people that evening ranging from military veterans to local jesters. For as much negativity this neighborhood gets, everyone welcomed us into their Friday night gathering.
-- Gemane Barnes