Is it kar-uh-BEE-uhn or kuh-RIB-ee-an?
Let’s not worry about the pronunciation. Caribbean Delight is a smaller eatery and novelty shop, tucked away in a strip mall just north of 72nd and Blondo. The hip Benson strip, pulsing with art, booze, and a rash of new restaurants, is just a few blocks away.
But here, the food and atmosphere are just as interesting.
Inside, original folk art shares space on the walls with the occasional Red Stripe poster. One wall is devoted to the shop, where you can get a Jamaica swimsuit, a Bob Marley t-shirt, and yes, even a Rasta hat. Dueling televisions reported the news and reality TV headlines at first, but were later muted in favor of some reggae.
The menu is predominately Jamaican, but we started with a more widespread favorite, a side of fried plantains ($2). Four pieces of the sweet banana arrived with little fanfare. They weren’t much for presentation, and a little on the greasy side, but they were gobbled up quickly.
The whirring blender heightened my anticipation of the frozen cocktails. Omaha is no island, but a pineapple daiquiri ($4.25) seemed appropriate for the heat wave, and it was also a worthy pairing for the spicy meats. Bottled beers, wines, and a homemade lemonade and fruit punch rounded out the drink list.
Before the main course, we passed a cup of thick Red Pea Soup ($3.25) around the table. Red peas are the Jamaican term for kidney beans, and this traditional soup came with bread dumplings and tender shredded beef. Though it looked more like a stew, it still maintained a delicate flavor, and was perfectly seasoned. Along with the piping hot, sticky, and sweet Jamaican Coco Bread ($2.35), this would make a fine meal on its own.
When the entrees arrived, no knives were necessary. Extremely tender meats can sometimes fall short in flavor, but this was not the case, no doubt due to the sauces and the braising technique. The Jamaican Jerk Chicken ($9.25) appears to be the staple menu item. It didn’t seem dry-rubbed, but the all-white meat was coated in a rich sauce dotted with allspice berries, and the spice blend delivered an even level of heat. The Brown Stew Chicken ($9.25) was similar, but tangier and less smoky than the Jerk. The Jerk Pork on special was remarkably juicy, and the three bone-in pieces of Oxtail beef ($10.25) wound up as excellent leftovers.
We hit a spicy snafu when, halfway through the meal, three of us swallowed a clump of pepper seeds and were unable to speak for several minutes. To be clear, those affected had requested their dishes “extra spicy.” If you’re up for the challenge, it could be a good point of conversation.
The meats were cooked with a lot of tenderness and care, but the side dishes were the fun part, since some were made with ingredients not seen everyday around these parts. I ordered the bami, a type of fried cake made from cassava, the starchy root vegetable popular in the tropics. The triangle-shaped pieces acted as little sponges for the brown oxtail sauce. The fried dumplings had a very buttery quality – the epitome of comfort food. We also liked the sweetened fried bread known as Festival – aptly named because it is such a blast to eat.
For dessert, the first bite of the Jamaican Fruit Cake ($4.99) tasted like alcohol, but I later determined my booze-soaked palate was getting the better of me. This house-made treat incorporates prunes, raisins, and a decent amount of red wine – conveniently all ingredients “they” say are good for you. The mountain of whipped cream soaked nicely into the cake, but I wished it was more of a garnish and less of a blanket. Rich but not overly sweet, it was a satisfying end to the meal.
Haute cuisine this is not. At Caribbean Delight, they do a good amount of takeout business, offer $5.99 lunch specials, and I needn’t remind you that you can get a Rasta hat here (with the dreadlocks attached). But the drinks are strong, the service is friendly, and the portions are pleasantly large. Easygoing and satisfying, the generic-sounding name rings true for this place – it’s a real delight.
Caribbean Delight is located at 2304 N. 72nd Street. Open Mon – Sat, 11a.m. to 9p.m., closed Sun. Call 402.391.1081 or visit caribbeandelight.info for more information.