ALEX COGGIN ’16
I stumbled across the website of Caribbean Food Concepts and had to visit given the success of the last Caribbean food I had in Hartford, at Jerk Pit Café.
Caribbean Food Concepts is located in Newington, CT, and is only about a ten-minute drive from campus. It focuses on all aspects of West Indian cuisine, offering many different dishes, baked goods, and snacks.
Caribbean Food Concepts is solely a take-out and catering restaurant, so the storefront is very modest. The interior features a small order counter, and a large kitchen in the back. Take out orders are placed online or over the phone, and are prepared promptly for timely pickup. I ordered my food and immediately left campus to pick it up and it was ready in the 10 minutes it took to drive there. I placed my order at about 3 P.M., so the wait might be longer at peak hours.
As soon as you walk in, you smell the huge variety of flavors that Caribbean Food Concepts offers. You can smell jerk chicken and pork ribs roasting, as well as plantains coming out of the fryer and traditional Jamaican beef patties coming hot out of the oven.
The menu is quite large. There are a variety of appetizers, entrees, desserts and sides, all of which seem to be traditional and represent many varieties of West Indian Cuisine. I ordered one order of jerk chicken and one order of the oxtail stew. Orders are served with rice and peas and vegetables, however there are other side options that can be substituted.
The jerk chicken was spicy, tender, and extremely moist. The seasoning was the perfect blend of heat, pepper, spice, and a subtle hint of cinnamon and cloves. The chicken was served on the bone, with pieces of breast, thigh, and leg. The chicken was perfectly cooked- juicy and practically falling off the bone.
The oxtail stew was the highlight of my order. Oxtail is literally the upper portion of the tail of an ox, and it is some of the most tender and flavorful meat on the animal. Because of the amount of bone and fat in that area, it becomes extremely tender, flavorful and moist. The flavor is somewhat comparable to a short rib. The oxtail stew was prepared in a traditional Jamaican brown stew sauce. The stew is rich and a tad spicy. The oxtails were extraordinarily tender and flavorful. The meat simply fell right off of the bones.
The rice and peas was an excellent side dish. It is a seasoned rice and bean mixture, a staple to many, if not all, Caribbean cuisines. The rice and peas was delicious, and went especially well with the oxtail stew. The rice absorbed much of the delicious brown sauce from the stew, making for an even more flavorful experience.
The vegetables consisted of roughly chopped cabbage and carrots. They seemed to be either very lightly cooked or raw and the mixture was very mild in flavor. It added a bit of sweetness and freshness to the rich meats.
Dishes at Caribbean Food Concepts come in medium or large. I ordered both the jerk chicken and oxtail in size medium, and the total came to $18.00. The oxtail stew was about $10 and the jerk chicken was around $8. Portion wise, the take-out orders are generous. One medium sized order would be plenty for one person. The container comes packed to the rim with rice and peas, meat and vegetables. I ordered two for the sake of trying multiple items and had an overwhelming amount to eat.
The service was extremely friendly when I arrived to pick it up. The young woman at the counter was welcoming, and I could see and hear the chefs in the back of the restaurant laughing and talking. Caribbean Food Concepts had very lively and friendly atmosphere.
I would highly recommend taking a trip to Caribbean Food Concepts for some authentic West Indian Cuisine. Considering it is just up the road in Newington, and its prices are relatively modest, it really is a great spot to try when you are looking to mix things up from the regular take out spots. I would highly recommend the oxtail stew and will be returning there just for this item. There is no public transport to Caribbean Food Concepts that I know of, but find someone with a car and order some take out. You will not be disappointed by this authentic and quick food.