Earlier today I stopped over to Jefferson Avenue to meet with someone over a cup of coffee. The intended destination was Golden Cup Coffee. Fortunately, I made the mistake of going to their original location, only to find out that they had expanded into a new location just down the street (more on that to come). So why do I say “fortunately”? Because I ended up discovering Island Mix Restaurant, an unassuming take-out joint that specializes in Caribbean island cuisine.
Since I had a couple of minutes to spare, I popped in to grab a menu, and as I did, three ladies (who were waiting for their food) told me that I would be a sucker if I didn’t order the food right there and then. They said that it was the best island food… The best? Where? On the block? In Buffalo? In the world? They didn’t say. They simply said that it was the best, and that my life was not complete until I tried it.
After snagging the menu, I headed down the street to the new Golden Cup Coffee. During the meeting I continued to glance over at the folded paper menu that sat on the table. “The best island food…” rang in my ear, over and over. So after the meeting was over I headed back down Jefferson and rolled right back into Island Mix Restaurant. After perusing the menu, I decided to get two of the jerk chicken meals, for me and my wife. “You want the mac ‘n cheese with that, right?” asked the woman behind the counter. “Yes ma’am,” I replied. “And the cabbage?” “Yup” “And the rice and beans?” “Uh-huh.” I figured that since all of these sides came with the meal, I was not going to voluntarily axe anything.
I only waited about five minutes for the meals to arrive, but within that time a number of drivers from Skip The Dishes stopped in to pick up food orders. In the old days, you could judge the popularity of a take-out restaurant by the number of people waiting in line. These days, it’s by the number of delivery service drivers that stops in for a pick-up. My how times have changed.
When my food arrived to the counter, I picked it up, and as I did, I caught a glance from the chef. In his eyes, I saw “great food”. It was a look that told me that I was really in for something special. Before I walked out, I asked the woman who rang me up, “How long have you been open?” She answered, ” Five years.” Wow! How did I miss you?” She said, “Business really began picking up the last year or two.” Apparently so.
When I got home, I presented the feast to my wife. The bag was so heavy that I could have used it to pump some iron before lunch (all for $17). We each opened our containers to find a steaming hot meal. My wife picked up a drumstick and, I kid you not, 100% of the meat fell off the bone! She looked at me and stated that she had never seen anything like that before. “How the heck did they get it this tender,” she exclaimed as she took her first bite. And that’s all it took for her to be hooked. My wife is a big fan of island food (especially rice and beans), and she’s super picky. “Oh my God,” she said. “This is incredible.” After taking my first bite, I agreed. It was something truly special – probably the best jerk chicken we had ever had, if not the best. This is not the typical grilled version that most people are familiar with, which is what made it so remarkable. We’re still trying to figure out how they cooked it, other than real slow with a super long marinade? The chicken was so moist and delicious, and there was a lot of it! By the time we were done, there were only a couple of tiny bones left on our plates. It had all but disappeared within minutes.
My wife also said a number of times how much she loved the cabbage, which I found surprising because I would have thought she would have commented on the mac ‘n cheese first. But the mac ‘n cheese was done southern style, which is good, but it ain’t no Ballyhoo mac ‘n cheese, which we both hold up on a pedestal here in Buffalo. She did say that the rice and beans side was perfectly seasoned with a slight kick, which I agreed. As for the jerk chicken, the flavors were superb. We could really taste the “warmth” of the chiles, thyme, allspice, and even cinnamon and/or nutmeg (she believed). We both continued to rave about the food until it was only a memory, although in a case like this, a memory can still be super tasty.
Aside from the Cajun chicken, Island Mix Restaurant also serves up curry dishes, brown stew chicken, ox tails, pepper steak, curry goat, fish fries (every day), escovitch, stew fish, jerk fish, ackee & salt fish, lambi (stewed fried conch), BBQ chicken salad, shrimp dinners, plantains, Haitian pastelitos, jerk and curry subs, and a number of other dishes.
If all of these other dishes even come close to what we had today for lunch, then we’re going to find a lot more heavenly surprises in future visits. When it comes to island food, these guys are as good as it gets, on the island and off the island. Lucky for us, they’re not on the island, but on the East Side of Buffalo!