Oasis Café is an institution, one of the few locally owned spots that can boast a 65 year old history. The casual dining landmark is a relaxed eclectic mix of moms with kids picking empanadas, serious bikers on the fringes juicing, and old friends gathered at the outside tables breakfasting together while cafecitos and stogies fuel their opinionated conversations.
This island scene blends marvelously together like the traditional dishes and artisanal crafted gourmet delights served by its formally trained chef and owner of seven years, Carlos Flores.
“I’ve always been into the connections that can happen over food,” said Flores. “I love that we have a place here where people can come, enjoy our food, and talk about the topics of the day. It’s more than coffee.”
Pork is a main attraction, but this is not your Mojo Badia doused cafeteria special. The secret, Flores willingly admits, is time. “We make our own mojo…we toast our own spices, we squeeze our own sour oranges, put in fresh herbs, and completely dunk the meat in a marinade for 36 hours. Then it cooks in our special slow roasted ovens. There is no rush."
Open seven days a week from 6am to 4pm, the daily savory menu is pork, plantains, white rice and black beans, a wide variety of empanadas, croquettes, sandwiches, pastelitos; and week-day specials.
Flores doesn’t want vegetarians to feel left out of his unique culinary take on classic dishes. “We have a vegetarian sandwich on French bread, with a black bean spread, plantains, guac, swiss cheese, papitas, lettuce, tomato, and grilled onions. It’s amazing.”
The juice/smoothie stand is open daily until 1:30pm and stocked with fresh produce from the Redlands. Mildred Toledo graciously serves any combination of the seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as ginger shots with lime and honey.
At the moment Flores is having fun with his bakery concept (while in mid-construction on the expanded new-old building due to re-open next year). “We plan to start baking our own breads…whole wheat, oatmeal honey. Our cookies are already available.”
The oversized soft Chocolate Chunk and Key Biscayne Sea Salt is worth indulging in, as is taking the time in between the rush of a busy day, to enjoy the friendly faces and community conversation at this evolving local landmark.
Where were you born?
Mexico City, Mexico
Where do you live now?
How did you get your start in the culinary industry?
I apprenticed at a small seafood restaurant in Mexico City. The head chef, Raul Barraza, was from Sinaloa. He taught me to pick the freshest ingredients, and let them shine for themselves.
What is the proudest moment of your career?
At the end of a holiday shift when we are done delivering orders for our clients.
If you had to choose one meal at your restaurant what would it be?
That’s like asking a painter what his favorite color is, it depends on the occasion but I do enjoy cooking fish and seafood a lot.
What do you like to do in your free time?
What would people be surprised to know about you?
When talking about the technique in the preparation of our food that goes on behind the scenes, they’re surprised to learn I was professionally trained at the Culinary Institute of America.
What’s your advice for someone just starting out in your profession?
Be true to yourself. You can’t be all things to all people. Pick what you love and be good at it.