Caribbean Cruise - Eat Cheap - March 2012 - Atlanta Magazine
 

Caribbean Cruise

3/1/2012

Traditions brought over from Africa and East India help give Caribbean foods their signature feistiness. Of all the Caribbean nations with a culinary footprint in Atlanta, Jamaica dominates. Dozens of small places—mostly scattered between Stone Mountain and the southside—display the country’s colorful green, gold, and black flag. With smaller yet significant representation, restaurants featuring dishes from Trinidad, Guyana, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and Cuba contribute to the mosaic of tastes. If we could gather a defining banquet from the area’s best Caribbean restaurants into a soulful spread, it would include these wonders:

Photograph by Greg Dupree

Jerk Chicken
There are as many versions of this Jamaican staple—marinated with allspice, habañero peppers, and other jealously guarded seasonings—as there are of barbecue. None is better than the one served at Jamrock Jerk Center (1232 Metropolitan Parkway, 678-973-2532), whose tender, smoky bird with burnished brown skin comes ready to dip into a simple mixture of hot sauce and ketchup. $6

Jamaican Patties
Very few restaurants make their own patties, relying instead on Royal Caribbean Bakery (4859 Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, 404-299-7714), an East Atlanta fixture whose flaky dough envelopes come filled with spicy ground beef, chicken, or callaloo greens. $1.60 to $1.80

Roti
Once you tackle the gigantic Indian-style parathas rolled burrito-style around a filling of curried goat, chickpeas, potatoes, or salt cod, you’ll understand why International Roti House (3703 Covington Highway, Decatur, 404-534-2318) is the social epicenter of Guyanese culture in Atlanta. $7.22 to $10

Buss-Up-Shut
The Trinidadian version of roti includes this tender, unrolled bread draped like a kerchief and served with a bowl of vibrant curry (fish, chicken, or goat) at Tassa Roti Shop (224 Powers Ferry Road, Marietta, 770-977-3163), housed in a cute bungalow. $7.50 to $11.50

Ackee and Salt Fish
Prepared to order and mostly available on weekends, this Jamaican combination of salted cod and ackee, a bright yellow fruit whose boiled flesh can resemble scrambled eggs, is always excellent at Liz’s International Roti House (3901 Covington Highway, Decatur, 404-343-3914). $10.50

Kingfish Escovitch
Eat Right (1943 Wesley Chapel Road, Decatur, 404-289-1623) serves this definitive Jamaican comfort of seafood deep-fried and then marinated in a sauce of vinegar, onions, and habañero peppers. $10

Spicy Oxtail Soup (Rabo Encendido)
As much a sauce as a stew, this piquant dish involves luscious on-the-bone meat, diced potatoes, and carrots at Cafe Dominican (4650 Jimmy Carter Boulevard, Norcross, 770-723-3784). Small, $8; large, $10

Cowfoot Soup with Dumplings
Unctuous and peppery, with dense flour dumplings bobbing in its depths, this collagen-rich preparation is one of the most beloved Jamaican dishes at All Island Cafe (4747 Memorial Drive, Decatur, 404-296-0052). Small, $3.21; large, $6.42

Mofongo
The ultimate Puerto Rican dish, a mash of green bananas pounded with pork cracklings, is a staple on the frequently changing menu of Pura Vida (656 North Highland Avenue, 404-870-9797), where chef Hector Santiago serves it as a small plate thrumming with rich, garlicky flavor. $9

Moros y Cristianos
Every Cuban cook has his or her own version of a dish combining dark, brothy black beans and white rice. The robust, well-seasoned version served at Little Cuba (3350 Chamblee Tucker Road, Chamblee, 770-451-0025) sets the standard. $2.50

Stewed Turkey Wing
Fall-off-the-bone tender in a peppery gravy, this Afro-Caribbean classic comes with Haitian-style spicy rice mixed with red kidney beans and a side of soft cabbage at CariSoul Cuisine (2025 Peachtree Road, 404-254-0509), a Buckhead hideaway in the Darlington apartment building. $6.75 to $8

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