Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant
We’ve had bones to pick with this restaurant… and that’s good!
I don’t remember if it was Tony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern we were watching when we got hungry. I assume that it was Bourdain on the Travel Channel, as the food was attractive and all of it looked edible (not usually a Zimmern trademark). He was in Jamaica and what he was eating really looked good, so I searched for Caribbean food on a local Houston dining site. Forty-five minutes later, we were sitting in a parking lot out Bissonnet between Fondren and Gessner looking at the store front of Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant & Catering. African/Trinidadian/Jamaican-Americans were heading to one corner of the parking lot and Hispanic-Americans parking nearby were headed to a Mexican restaurant in the other corner of the lot. All families… a good sign to us.
Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant is in a strip center and certainly not fancy, but when inside, you feel like you are in the Caribbean. A colorful mural depicts an island beach scene… coolers are filled with fruit drinks from Jamaica and Trinidad (there are no alcoholic beverages sold in the restaurant)… and in one corner of the restaurant, there’s a small mini-mart selling staples and products from the Caribbean, such as fresh plantains and hot sauces (and Miss Ina’s Jerk Spice).
“Miss Ina” is the locally iconic proprietor of the restaurant and while she is evidently there constantly with her hands in everything, both times we visited, we “just missed her”. Too bad, as everyone we met seems to feel that she is part of the charm and the experience.
The menu selection opens with the typical starter/snack called a “pattie”. Actually, it is more like the Jamaican version of an empanada… a very spicy and tasty fried dish made with beef, chicken or vegetables. We had the beef pattie and quickly decided that this is a “destination dish” and it was proven by the fact that a couple of the customers in line at the counter were there to buy there then “by de dozen” to take back to the office, or a party.
A favorite in Jamaica is Roti and this delicate crepe-like bread is used to wrap huge chunky curry sauce-filled goat, chicken, potato or shrimp roti’s. When you cut the wrap open, you immediately notice that it is very hot (steam) and whatever the meat it is stuffed with, you will still get to pick up and eat it off of the bone… except, of course, the shrimp. Don’t get me wrong here when I talk about picking it up, as you CAN eat every dish here there a knife and fork, but why waste good food? We had the Chicken Roti.
On my first visit, Curry Goat was my favorite and it has plenty of curry sauce to mix with the rice and beans served with it. Rice with beans or peas are staples in the islands and look for it with most dishes at the restaurant… along with the fried plantains.
IWhen most people think of Jamaican food, the word “jerk” comes to mind. I went back a second time just to try the Jerk Chicken. That alone was worth the trip. Ina’s jerk sauce is really, really good and the chicken skin was perfectly caramelized and crispy. The extra jerk sauce served on the side got poured on the chicken, the rice and the plantains and was a good addition to all.
I asked a few of the customers where they were from and most were from either Jamaica or Trinidad. One, from Jamaica, told me that nobody makes food like his “mama”, but “dis is de bess in Houston.”
Go south on Fondren from the Southwest Freeway (59 South) to Bissonnet. Go right for two blocks and it’s on your left.