After spending my Friday morning hunting around Santa Monica for unique and welcoming coffee shops with Assistant Life and Arts Editor Rachel Paprocki my stomach told me it was time to fill it with something other than espresso and chai. Cheap and delicious being my main concentration my foodie friend and I pulled over at the first place that caught our eye.
Despite its modest size the sunny yellow and mint-green paint of Port Royal Caribbean Food was hard to miss. We were welcomed in by the low prices listed out front as well as a customer who chatted with us as we examined the menu.
“This is the happiest meal I’ve had in Los Angeles in 18 years of living here Evan the Diner told us. The vibes in here are really high— plus it’s not a chain so it’s not like you’re contributing to this big establishment.”
What’s that? An opportunity to stick it to the man? Sold. Zoey the owner of the restaurant came out and greeted us with a sweet British accent explaining the lunch specials; for that day we had the option of mango chicken and steamed rice or a “beef patty” (which as Zoey explained to us really had more in common with an empanada than a hamburger) that came with a side salad.
While the seating indoors was indeed Caribbean-like with its wide-open French doors and cool breeze blowing through the bamboo-bead curtains Paprocki and I decided to sit outside on the small patio and enjoy the autumn sunshine.
After Zoey said goodbye to Evan calling him by name which was sweet in itself because he had mentioned to us that it was his first time there we ordered our meals.
“When people come here it’s more like they’re friends than customers Zoey said.
Shortly after ordering a lunch special each, our food was served to us, hot and enticing. Zoey seemed to be the only employee in the restaurant but she worked quickly and with a cheery disposition (although Paprocki and I were the only customers at this point, probably because it was right between lunch and dinner time).
Steaming mango-chili scents wafted through the air as Paprocki and I each took a taste. The result of the first bite was as if a mini tropical bomb had just gone off in my mouth. The sweetness of the mango combined with the Jamaican spices rollercoastered over my taste-buds and left me salivating for the next bite. The fluffy white rice was a nice accompaniment to the juicy chicken, which was so tender it fell apart every time I tried to scoop it up with my fork.
Next, I moved on to the salad. It was pretty much your everyday garden salad with a French dressing and poppy seeds on top. I didn’t care to finish the whole salad because it was just a bit lackluster after the mango chicken.
Last was the aforementioned beef patty.” The color of the pastry surrounding the spicy meat concoction was almost a replica of the building’s walls. After pondering for a second about whether it was saffron or just food coloring in my crimped-edged crust I dug in.
The flavor of the meaty mixture inside its little yellow pocket made up for its unappealing appearance. It had just enough of a kick to have me reach for my ice water a few times before the meal was over. The pastry brought to mind a pot-pie crust not too flaky and a little on the thick side.
After talking with Zoey about how much we had enjoyed our first Jamaican meal we were convinced we’d be returning soon for round two of this Caribbean cuisine.
“We don’t do voodoo on you— not bad voodoo anyway— but it’s all about the hands she said. If we make love to the food you’re gonna be happy.”