Karma Car Wash & Cafe: Spanish Tapas by Design in Miami

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Car washes aren’t exactly known for their cuisine, which made Karma’s mention in Gourmet magazine that much more surprising, and completely intriguing. After driving through a rough neighborhood off I-95, we arrived at a slate grey flattop building with aqua patio seating. Given the stunning design, it became evident that Karma might be exceptional after all.

Omar Frias partnered with David Tunnell on Karma in August 2006, playing off adjacent Dogma Grill when naming their sleek car wash. Tunnell left the operation last year, making Frias the sole proprietor. On this visit, Frias clarified Karma’s mission: “We’re a car wash first, and the cafe is a supplement. We try to do a spectacular job with the car wash, but we try to make you forget you’re at a car wash.” Mission accomplished.


Restaurant Miami
The glass fronted café showcases similarly high design, with a bar lined with dime-sized blue tiles, concrete floors, and plenty of natural light.

Karma specializes in tapas, sandwiches and baked goods. A blackboard menu lists Karma’s regular offerings, including Mediterranean olive mix, cheese or antipasto plates, and baked Brie with walnuts and honey. Baguettes are crammed with chorizo and blue cheese, Serrano and Manchego, or zucchini, red pepper and goat cheese.

Tapas Miami
This simple bowl or artichoke hearts was blanketed by sheets of St. Andre triple cream cheese, which is similar to Brie. The dish was served hot, with a plank of soft bread. The counterwoman could have shown more restraint with the olive oil, but the flavor was undeniable.

Tapas Miami
Mixed mushrooms ($8), including chanterelles and creminis, came seasoned with olive oil, chile flakes and garlic slivers. Topped with goat cheese and served with more of that supple bread, it was another winner.

Coffee Miami
Being Miami, it was no surprise to find a selection of Cuban coffee drinks. We opted for the cortadito ($1.50) – sugar-sweetened espresso topped with steamed milk. After a red eye from LAX to West Palm Beach, this was very necessary.

The counter showcased a massive rum cake and chocolate cake, plus chocolate chip, cinnamon raisin and macadamia nut cookies, all baked by a local woman and delivered daily. Unfortunately, our lunch reservation was less than two hours away, so we were forced to abstain.

If I was judging the same food at a sit-down restaurant, I would have been more critical. Still, the curiosity factor adds to Karma’s mystique, and the car wash gets style points for boasting such interesting design.

Karma Car Wash & Cafe: Spanish Tapas by Design in Miami

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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