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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Come Into Jamaica : Serving Up Authenticity

Come Into Jamaica Serves Up Authenticity

Some things in life seem meant to be. Like a beautiful sunrise/sunset, the laughter of children on a summer day. Reverend Skates admonishing excellence for anyone within five square blocks of Johnson Park. And, of course, Jamaican Cousine in Utica New York. Lip smacking, plate licking Jamaican Food. The type of place you tell (brag, since found it first) your friends about. A place, if allowed to feed the world, would put a smile on every man woman and child's face.

Okay, maybe I am exaggerating the importance of really good and covenient food but no one in the immediate neighborhood or anywhere else will complain about life after walking down the street and trying a out a few of the mouth watering dishes they have to offer. The humble Uticans on that block are Lucky People.

Come into Jamaica, aptly named, is centrally located at 1224 Stueben St. , one block south of Eagle in Utica has been open nearly a month. The Ambassadors of Jamaican Soul Food have already caught the attention of hungry, well informed Uticans and a few suburbanites as well. They serve a variety of dishes starting with Breakfast at 9a.m. monday thru Saturday till closing at 11p.m.

The Head Chef, known only as Courtney and his partner Fernel , have already been involved in two popular eateries (Island Breeze I & II) but unfortunately they didnt last. The fact they built a following was not lost on them. It was a matter of timing and opportunity, a perfect unity of those two elements for this current venture to materialize.

"We had to branch out" explained Fernel "We wanted to do things our way" Doing it 'our way' included gutting the old space and completely remodelling it.

People in the neighborhood, including myself (used to live in the vicinity) were curious what was going on. Dudes working non-stop. Not the encroaching mobs of suburbanites that build houses in our neighborhoods but don't employ anyone, no, these were young Black men with tape measures, tool belts and ladders. I saw Courtney covered in paint and drywall. Lets just say; word got around it was 'the cook from Island breeze' and a 'Buzz" was officially created.

A week before they opened I stopped in and chatted. "I can't wait" exclaimed Courtney "My own Kitchen, my own spot". "Ya'll gonna have Brown Stew"? I asked, rhetorically "Just The Way Barry Max Likes it" he said referring to my son's Love for all things Brown Stew. At both of the Island Breeze spots Barry Max liked them so much he had the nickname Brown Stew for a while. I must admit the excitement is contagious Courtney had me running home to my wifey to tell her.

Hard Work Pays Off

The amount of work put into the once grey, weathered space is impressive. The Facade is now Green with Yellow trim and the large front window has a bright Come Into Jamaica Logo so you can't miss it.

The space at 1224 had been home to several businesses before sitting empty for a few years. Directly across the street are fairly new single family homes, in fact, the neighborhood at Stueben and James has turned the corner against the type of urban blight that has crept into other parts of Utica.

The new business seems perfectly suited for the location and definitely adds color, life, and vibrancy to a once dead corner; the rythm of reggae music, the delicious smells of curry, jerk chicken and other mouth watering dishes provide much needed culture. The new owners had been trying to find a perfect location for roughly two years; and the building perfectly located on the corner, just needed a little fixing up(total understatement). It seems meant to be.

Unique Dishes

Here are a few unique offerings worth listing.

Callaloo- Also known as Jamaican Greens it is a mixture of Collared Greens and Cod. It has a unique texture and any fan of Greens will enjoy. Courtney and Fernel made it clear there are various other ingredients they say must be identified by the discerning palate.

Cornmeal Porridge- A breakfast dish very similiar to Cream of Wheat. "We add cinnamon brown know" Fernel explained.

They were kind enough to offer me a sample platter to re-familiarize myself when I came to interview them. I felt compelled to list these dishes.

My Favorites

They all come with choice of white rice, rice and beans and stir fry cabbage

Brown Stew Chicken/Beef

Pepper Steak


Curry Goat/Chicken

I ran out of I came back the next day.

When you come.

Tell Em' Dave The Meatman Sent you.