It’s a shame Caribbean cuisine is such a rarity here. Jamaican dishes offer an array of flavors as complex as the cultures that have influenced the island nation. Fortunately, the recently opened Stay C’s Jamaican Cuisine & BBQ is a welcome peek into the culinary delights of the land of reggae and jerk chicken.
The menu is simple, centered around several smoked and grilled meats, including chicken, oxtail — hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it — and goat. Stay C’s also has a great jerk hamburger and curries, and, judging from the size of the dessert menu, Jamaicans share Texans’ sweet tooth.
The restaurant is spacious, the walls painted in the bright green, black, and yellow of the Jamaican flag. And, yes, on a recent visit, the offbeat riddims of reggae were blaring through the room.
The food is served cafeteria style, and the two staff members (who also own the place) were cheerful enough. As a guest and I waited for our order, I struck up a conversation with one of them. He said he was using hickory wood to smoke the meats but was waiting on a shipment of pimento wood (indigenous to Jamaica) to get the taste just right. “Could you use pimento wood with traditional Texas barbecue?” I asked.
We agreed it might be a great idea waiting to happen.
The evidence of hickory was really prominent in the jerk chicken: four large wings with a thick, dry-rubbed crust served on a bed of romaine lettuce. The dish’s complex mix of tropical herbs and spices didn’t overpower the natural deliciousness of the smoked bird. After hearing horror stories of Jamaica’s notorious scotch bonnet peppers, I had my glass of water ready, but the wings –– accompanied by a tomato-based dipping sauce steeped in chile powder, cloves, thyme, and sugar –– were only mildly spicy. The sweet sauce complemented the smokiness perfectly.
The oxtail had us ready to move to the tropics. Served with beans, rice, grilled plantains, and a medley of steamed cabbage and other veggies, the slow-stewed tender cuts of meat, still wrapped around the bone, had a dense beefy flavor that was lightly accented by hints of garlic and onion. The plantains were cooked to golden, caramelized perfection, and the unseasoned veggies had a nice crunch. The soft rice and beans added mild garlic and allspice notes.
The dessert menu featured mostly mainstream-American goodies, but we wanted to try something authentically Caribbean. Our server recommended the bun and cheese. Though “bun and cheese” may not conjure up images of confectionary nirvana, the spiced bread had the perfect blend of cinnamon, cloves, and raisins. The cheese, inserted into the middle of the bun sandwich-style and melted, was a thick slice of American, the combination making for a rich, filling dessert that was unlike anything we’d had before.
While some of the side dishes were reminiscent of familiar South American cuisine, the overall Stay C’s experience was something uniquely Jamaican that probably has to be experienced to be fully understood.
Stay C’s Jamaican Cuisine & BBQ
6204 S Cooper St, Arlington. 844-690-8852. 12pm-8pm Tue-Thu, 12pm-9pm Fri-Sat. All major credit cards accepted.
Oxtail …………………… $10.95
Jerk chicken wings …. $6.25
Bun and cheese ……… $3.50