Detroit’s African Caribbean Food Scene Alive and Well
By Kate Brennan
One of my favorite places to visit in the entire world is Jamaica. I have been there six times so far, and I plan to return again very soon. In addition to the beautiful mountains, lush vegetation, infectious Reggae music, and the beautiful and friendly residents of the Island, I of course, love the food.
I often longed for just a taste of some of that spicy and delectable jerk chicken and bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t have any back in the U.S. Then I discovered two fantastic restaurants right in my own city on the northwest side of Detroit and felt like I had died and gone to heaven!
I first discovered the Jamaican Pot when a Jamaican acquaintance, who knew I was dying for some authentic Jamaican food, referred me. I dragged my good friend and food aficionado Mary along, and off we went to try some authentic Jamaican cuisine right here in Detroit. The aroma as we walked up to the door of the unassuming establishment was intoxicating. The place was very small and had no more than four tables. Most people came in for carryout, but we decided to stay and eat right there. Mary ordered the curry goat, and I, of course, chose the jerk chicken. It was pretty spicy and very good, and we even got to chat with the proprietors, Bruce and Rose Marie.
Bruce Cunningham is the co-owner with his wife Rose Marie Forest. He calls himself the grille master. “Rose is the gifted cook,” offered Cunningham when he described his wife, who was born and raised in Westmoreland, Jamaica near Montego Bay. “I was also born on an island,” he jokes. “I was born on the island of Manhattan.” They moved to Detroit to be near his mother. He explained they started out cooking at the Culinary Studio, a shared-use kitchen in Southfield. From there they were able to find a building and open their own establishment, which they say is doing great. They were even talking about expanding.
Mary and I were so impressed with Jamaican Pot that we ventured out the following week to try another Jamaican restaurant. Elaine Dammar, owner of the Caribbean Citchen, is from Clarendon, Jamaica. She moved to Detroit in 1981 to be with her husband, whose work was in Detroit. Her first job in data processing bored her, so, fortunately for us, she decided to open her own business. Once again I tried the jerk chicken; the dish was also delicious and authentic. Ox tail is their specialty right now, and they offer a soup of the day. Again, the restaurant was very small and only contained a couple of tables, but they also had a brisk carryout business.
Dammar shared that she was completing her PhD in Healthcare Administration, and would be turning the restaurant over to her employees who will continue to operate the restaurant just as before.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to find not one, but two Jamaican restaurants within 10 minutes of my home, and I highly recommend both of them to anyone who is looking for a unique dining experience with some traditional Jamaican food. I plan to continue my search for all the best African Caribbean restaurants in the area and will keep everyone posted on the results of my quest! In the meantime:
Jamaican Pot is located at 14615 Eight Mile Rd, Detroit. (313)659 6033
Caribbean Citchen is located at 10500 W. McNichols, Detroit. (313)345 3746