A Jamaican Patty Pilgrimage in Miami

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - November 26, 2014

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Twenty-five minutes’ wait for a patty? You’ve got to be kidding me!

I’ve driven 20 miles from home out to the hinterlands of Kendall, where I’ve heard from reliable sources that Sonia’s Patties bakes the best Jamaican patties in Miami. And that now I’ve navigated the traffic nightmare that is the 826 highway, I STILL have to wait 25 minutes for what should be fast food? This ain’t no Tastee!

“We make everything to order,” the woman behind the counter tells me proudly. “We don’t use any fillers or artificial flavoring; they’re all-natural. Just meat or chicken, plus seasonings and the real Scotch Bonnet pepper,” she crows.

But I can’t help rolling my eyes and wondering what’s so wrong with baking up large trays of the meat-filled pastry pockets at one time like my beloved Tastee does back in Jamaica. There, buying a patty is an in-an-out affair that takes about three minutes and costs the equivalent of about a dollar.


Here at Sonia’s 26-year-old storefront, patties (mild or spicy beef and curry chicken) don’t come that cheap – they’re $2.75 for beef or chicken and a whopping $6 for jerk or curried lobster (available seasonally). And they don’t come quickly either – it’s almost half an hour since I ordered my mixed dozen.

Still, I seem to be the only customer who’s surprised. A handful of other patrons are waiting patiently, leaning against the wall of the bare-bones outlet or seated on a small wooden bench to the side. I ask the woman next to me if this is normal. “Oh, yes,” she says. “I usually call in my order but I was on the road and just had a craving for a patty and stopped in. I knew I’d have to wait, but it’s worth it.”


Alrighty then.

I sigh and busy myself scrolling through my Instagram feed on my phone until the cashier calls my name. I bounce up to the counter, where she opens the cardboard box and shows me my bounty: six beef patties (marked with a red dot to signify their spiciness), and three each of jerk and curried lobster, denoted with red L’s and J’s.

I’m surprised and a little disappointed that they don’t look like Tastee patties. either. The crust is a cream color, not the bright yellow-orange I’m accustomed to. And instead of being relatively flat, they’re puffy and rounded, more like an English Cornish pasty than a Jamaican patty.

But the proof is in the pudding, right? I take a bite of a spicy beef and just as they are with a Tastee patty, my tongue and lips are instantly scorched by the red-hot contents within.

Steam curls from the filling, which comprises large chunks of meat rather than the finely minced beef I’m used to.

And the flavor? The patty tastes homemade, in a good way. I really can discern the freshness of the ingredients and appreciate the kick of the Scotch Bonnet.

The pastry is flaky and light, not moist as it can sometimes be if a patty has been sitting in its own steam for too long. Gingerly, I take a couple more bites until I can conclude: Hmm, not bad!

Comparing Sonia’s and a Tastee patty is like comparing a fast-food burger with the version you’d get in a sit-down restaurant. Both taste good to me; they’re related flavors, but they’re definitely not the same. And, as they say, “Vive la difference!”

Sonia’s Patties, 10852 SW 104th St, Miami, FL 33176; 305-598-6695

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