The Ponce de Leon mall–like a lot of malls–is a lot of empty space. Belk”s is on one side, and JC Penney is on the other, and a Sears appliance store is somewhere in the middle…but other than that, it’s pretty quiet there. (Before we moved, I once suggested that the Ravens move their training camp to one of the many empty malls in Maryland…it was cavernous, out of the rain, with plenty of places to run and tackle. PLUS lots of bathrooms–add some showers, and it would have been perfect).
Anyway, an empty maill is not where you’d expect to find some of the best Cuban food in town, which is why it’s our duty to share this local secret with you.
Carmello Foods is located on the JC Penney side of the mall. It’s a small storefront, with cases of yummy pastries in the front, and a smallish menu of Cuban dishes (some of our favorites, like the best Cuban sandwich we’ve ever had, and some we had never tried before–like the plantain lasagna which was awesome!)
We like to go on Mondays, because the special of the day is Ropa Vieja, a beef dish simmered in onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Carmello Foods’ ropa vieja is not spicy, but you can kick it up with the hot pepper sauce available at the front counter.
The special comes with rice (yellow or white), beans (red or black), and one side of your choice (sweet plantains for me and the hub–seriously, there is no choice). And it’s…hold onto your bowlers…under seven bucks. Seriously! $6.99!!! And there is plenty for you to take home leftovers, too!
It’s not fancy, and it’s not in the middle of town, but it’s worth the drive out Route 1 to check it out. But don’t tell anyone you’re going–we’d like to keep it our little secret.