I wonder if there’s a word for that great feeling you get when you find your new go-to takeout place? It’s a combination of pride, gratitude, satisfaction, and excitement to share the news.
It was lunchtime and I was hungry. Wanting to avoid pulling my car out into the ugly August traffic, I took a walk down the sidewalk by our office. I never walk anywhere anymore, but I remembered how often pedestrians get someplace quicker than I do in my car. Every day I watch them whoosh right past me, while I’m stuck in my pollution-emitting machine. I figured they must be onto something.
Along the journey to my usual lunchtime haunt, I noticed a new, brightly colored sign out of the corner of my eye. It was Vineyard Caribbean Cuisine, a new restaurant just opened in July by Chef Newton Wait and Anthony Foster. Inside, an assortment of folks sat chatting at the counter. It smelled great and the prices looked good, so I decided to check it out. The two friends are both chefs and co-owners, and come from different backgrounds. Mr. Foster is originally from New Haven, Conn., and is classically trained. Although he moved to the Vineyard in 1990, Mr. Foster pulls from both his Southern and Caribbean heritage, and he has cooked all around the U.S. Chef Wait is from Jamaica, and originally came here for work in 2006. Five years ago, he moved here year-round. Last year the two came together through mutual friends and decided to open a restaurant.
The most important thing for Chef Wait is the authenticity of the food. There are other Caribbean places around, but this is where people who are looking for an authentic Caribbean dish find their favorites. He says if someone is looking for something they can get in Jamaica, they will make it for them. They have a variety of customers coming in, including many Jamaican people looking for something familiar to eat.
I got a little nervous when the woman behind the buffet asked me if I like trying new foods. This is heavy food, she said: “It’s different, but you’ll like it.” I’ve watched too much Anthony Bourdain, and he’s got me thinking that I’m some kind of foodie, which I’m not. Bourdain orders blood soup, and I order Caesar salad. Still, I decided to venture out that day, which ended up being a great decision.
The restaurant supplies traditional Jamaican fare in a lunchbox with your choice of meat — jerk chicken, pork, curry goat, or oxtail — served with rice and beans, steamed vegetables, and fried plantain. The two chefs originally put Caribbean-themed sandwiches on the menu, thinking that they would be more popular than a traditional entrée. As it turns out, the entrées were much more popular, so they have plans to update the menu. Still, every day there are rotating choices. “You’re gonna laugh when I tell you what we have today,” Chef Wait said to me. Cowfoot. “It’s a very traditional Caribbean thing.”
I didn’t even know what I ordered that first day, but I went again and got the same appealing meat as before, which turned out to be oxtail. “Americans love oxtail,” Chef Wait had told me, so I figured I had to try it. He was right.
Vineyard Haven is turning into a small hub of international foods, and I’m happily taking advantage of it. If you’re into trying something new, or maybe something you miss, stop into Vineyard Caribbean Cuisine at 13 Beach Street Extension for some traditional, and delicious, takeout.