Ground Provisions: Keith Reed, The Conch Man of Miami

Words by Jesse Serwer, Photos Al Diaz/Miami Herald—

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It doesn’t get any more Bahamian than conch salad. But the best conch salad around might just be in Miami.

South Florida is home to a longstanding Bahamian communty with roots that go back over 100 years. In fact, you could say it was workers from the Bahamas who laid down the infrastructure upon which Miami was built. This, as well as the proximity to the Bahamas and quality conch, has resulted in conch salad becoming a South Florida staple, found on menus at mainstream seafood restaurants as well as Bahamian-owned establishments.

The most visible ambassador for the flavorful dish in the Miami area is Keith Reed, proprietor of Reed’s Catering and Concessions. Watching the colorful spectacle of conch salad’s ingredients (which generally include limes, peppers, red tomatoes and oranges, as well as its namesake mollusk) mingling before your eyes is almost as enjoyable as eating it, and Reed has mastered the art of conch salad as entertainment.

The vendor is particularly well known for stealing the show at the Jazz in the Gardens music festival, one of Miami’s largest annual concerts. The wait for his colorful conch salad, served up in hollowed-out pineapples and punctuated with two skewers of conch fritters, can take hours. As the Miami Herald noted in a story, organizers have to rope off his area to maintain crowd control and order. “I have vendors who prefer I not place him next to them,” Vannis Lopez, vendor coordinator for Jazz in the Gardens, told the paper. “He is just the one. People from New York, locals, everyone wants to know about the guy with the conch in the pineapple shells.”

The rest of the year you can find Reed serving his conch salad, fritters, steamed garlic crabs and fried whole crabs from his food truck at 12203 NW 27th Ave in Miami’s Westview area. He’s also been known to frequent other cultural events, like the Miami/Bahamas Goombay Festival in Coconut Grove, and is available for weddings and parties. The video below even has his phone number and contact info, so look him up next time you’re in the area and fiending for that quality conch salad you just can’t get outside of the Bahamas—or Florida.

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