One of my fondest childhood memories is having Sunday dinner at my Aunt Claude’s home. Aunt Claude, like most Caribbean women, has a way of making her guests feel welcomed and spoiled. Her simple table adorned with a plastic floral arrangement would have convinced Martha Stewart to abandon her garden. The older guest at the dinner, born and raised in Haiti, would swear up and down that the food was cooked in home country, and somehow miraculously appeared at the table. All of the necessary spices were present, the fat properly outlined the pieces of beef, and the red beans and rice (always my mom’s contribution to the meal) had just the perfect touch of coconut.
If you’ve never had a chance to experience Caribbean hospitality and home cooking, I suggest you visit Chez Violette Haitian restaurant in Roger’s Park as well as Uncle Joe’s Jamaican Restaurant in Hyde Park. Yes, visit both; although you’ll experience a similar dose of Caribbean-feel-good, Haitian food and Jamaican food are completely different. If you visit the restaurant websites, you’ll notice many similarities in the dishes; however, the preparation and spices used are complete opposites. For example, Haitian cooking doesn’t use a jerk sauce to add spice to meats. Instead, meals are serve with a side of pikliz (pronounced pik-leez), which is a pickled pepper potion that adds flavor to a meal, and allows dinners to control the amount of spice. There are many more differences, but, I’ll let you experience them for yourself.
*PAUSE BLOG FOR AN I TOLD YOU SO MOMENT*
Most meals at both restaurants are cooked to order. Translation: Be patient. You will have to wait longer than you would at most restaurants, to be seated AND served. However, when they finally get to you, you’ll be greeted with a genuine smile, and when you finally get your food, you won’t be disappointed.
Uncle Joe’s: BYOB ($10 corkage fee) with a private room and lounge area for events. This past Saturday night, the 47th & King Drive location was overflowing with conversation, laughter and neo-soul music from the talented band Diz Crown . According the “E” Newchurch Trumpet Player, Diz Crown’s debut CD Basement to the Boulevard is the top Selling “Neo Bop” CD on the website CD Baby. Basement to the Boulevard is also available on iTunes, Amazon, Fletchers 1 Stop and Great Scott records. The band plays at this location every other Saturday. There next performance is February 25 from 6-9 PM (no cover).
Chez Violette: Check out its impressive Yelp reviews 4/5 stars. This incognito restaurant in a shopping center offers authentic Haitian meals, with large portions and quiet reasonable prices. Try the griot (marinated and fried pork shoulder served with rice and fried plantain) and the goat stew! BYOB wine and beer only (no corkage). Private area available for events.