Caribbean


Bahama Breeze surprised me a little. I thought it was a singles bar, but turns out to be a casual food concept, with a lot of space, wicker furniture, reasonable if not ambitious eats. It affects a bit of island influence, but is hardly that. Food similar to what they serve here can be found in Cheeseburger in Paradise, Frontera’s, and some of the simpler dishes from Red Lobster.

The lack of ambition is heralded up front when the chef’s special the night I came was wood grilled fish. In fact, that’s what I had when I came here, a beer and their wood grilled salmon. Understand, wood grilled fish isn’t the special on most seafood places, it’s a central part of the repertoire. I can get a decent cedar plank salmon at Shucks in Loganville and theirs comes served on the plank of wood. Not so at Bahama Breeze.

Wood grilled salmon.

Wood grilled salmon.

That said, it was a good plate of fish. The salmon had a lemony balm, the vegetables were decent, the service was very good to excellent. The bar, where I sat, had wry understated staff, very likable. It’s a perfectly good restaurant as long as your expectations aren’t exceptional and you avoid any really ambitious dishes. Otherwise, your dining experience could end up like Chloe’s, here.

Last, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how the driving habits of Bahama Breeze patrons affected everyone for some years. It was typical for Bahama Breeze patrons to stop in a no stop zone at the corner of I-85 and Pleasant Hill, waiting for enough traffic to clear so they could cut across three lanes of Pleasant Hill Road traffic in about 100 yards. Why they didn’t just continue on to the light, turn right and then do a quick 180 off a local lane, I never understood. But it happened so often and so frequently, it was easy to hate this restaurant. The recent redesign of the bridge and all the intersections nearby has eliminated a lot of these issues.

Bahama Breeze
3590 Breckinridge Blvd
Duluth, GA 30096
(770) 935-6509

Bahama Breeze on Urbanspoon

This place is an original, a Caribbean-Southern fusion buffet with food good enough to talk about. It has bits and pieces of other cuisines as well. They had a General Tso’s chicken that day, and some dishes with Italian roots. It’s the Caribbean and Southern foods, however, that will keep folks coming back.

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The curries here – chicken and goat, are respectable. They’re flavorful and relatively mild. They have jerk chicken too, a good looking dish, but it doesn’t hold up to the steam the way the curries do. They have southern style vegetables and dishes. I tried collards, green beans and fried chicken. I liked the fried chicken, liked the collards, felt the green beans to be a little watery and lacking flavor.

Curried chicken, curried goat, fried chicken.

Curried chicken, curried goat, fried chicken.

Still for as much curry as you can eat, for 9 dollars including drinks, for decent Southern vegetables and a bite or two of fried chicken, it should probably attract more attention than it does. It’s a relatively new restaurant and concept, so we’ll see.

Fusion 78
5150 Stone Mountain Highway
Stone Mountain, GA 30087
(678) 344-5497

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Surprisingly delightful, S & P isn’t the easiest restaurant to find. Tucked into a corner of the Burlington strip mall on highway 78, roughly across the road from Fisherman’s Catch, this may be the best new restaurant of the “no fanfare” variety I’ve found in a while.

In the mall with the Burlington store.

In the mall with the Burlington store.

The inside is pretty. There are plenty of tables in this American-Caribbean hybrid, and sayings and art dot the walls of this attractive restaurant. Behind the counter is a flag of Jamaica, and patties and desserts are available on the countertop. There are at least two menus available here (and I’m guessing three), as I’ve had items off their breakfast and lunch menus.

Breakfast is a mix of American favorites and Caribbean specialties. You can get pancakes, or two eggs, or salt mackerel, if you wish. For breakfast I had their liver, and the mild, tasty meat was good enough to give me the “best thing I’ve eaten all week” vibes.

S & P's liver. Genuinely tasty. Highly recommended.

S & P’s liver. Genuinely tasty. Highly recommended.

Lunch offers a variety of appealing Caribbean items (jerk chicken, curries, goat, ox tail, jerk wing appetizers, etc). Their jerk is a wet jerk, with an aromatic beginning and subtle heat. In fact initially I thought it had no heat at all, and then it grew on me.

Jerk chicken, peas and rice, kale. All very good.

Jerk chicken, peas and rice, kale. All very good.

Staff are polite and pleasant. The food is good. It’s a small independent restaurant. This one is immediately in the conversation about best Caribbean near Snellville, and further, has to be considered in the “Top 10 spots to take a family” near Snellville.

S & P Hot Pot Restaurant
4051 Highway 78
Lilburn, GA 30047
(770) 676-9484

S&P Hot Pot Restaurant on Urbanspoon

There is a feeding frenzy going on in Lawrenceville, all around this South Florida chain that’s moved in at the corner of 316 and 120. Pollo Tropical has opened, and the wait to get into this modest chain is something like half an hour, cars are lined up out of the lot to get to the food. The crush for $5.99 chicken plates is tremendous. It’s been open since August 16th and taking the local area by storm.

The crush is amazing.

If you examine Urban Spoon for typical Pollo Tropical chain locations, they are rated anywhere from the low 70s to high 80s, quite a spread. Central Florida’s Good Eats (an Urban Spoon prime reviewer) has an article here on the Sanford location, which might give you a feel for one blogger’s perspective on the restaurant.

I haven’t eaten there. For work and home reasons I can’t really wait this out. When the crush becomes bearable, I’ll try, but heads up for those of you who are “into” the fusion of Florida and Caribbean cuisine this chain represents.

Pollo Tropical
825 Duluth Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
(866) 769-7696

Pollo Tropical on Urbanspoon

PS – Kudos to Lawrenceville Patch, which has a nice intro article on Pollo Tropical. This chain is also referenced in the Wikipedia.

Located at the corner where Jimmy Carter and Holcombe Bridge separate, in the very space that used to house C. K.’s Pizza, is a modest Caribbean eatery, named Caribbean Fiesta. In places like this, I can usually have one of their meats and a safe vegetable, usually the cabbage. So that’s what I did this day.

They serve a wet jerk here. The jerk chicken was tender, and it was easy to see the grill marks and smell the smoke in the meat. Taste? Quite good. The man who served me was also diabetic. We ended up sharing war stories before I sat down and ate.

Caribbean Fiesta
3375 Holcomb Bridge Road
Norcross, GA 30092
(678) 205-2539

Caribbean Fiesta on Urbanspoon

I found Papi’s on a day when I couldn’t choose a place to eat. I ended up on Duluth Highway, heading south towards Lawrenceville. At roughly the intersection of 316 and Duluth Highway, I caught Papi’s out of the corner of my eye and turned. At the time I thought Papi’s was a “one of”. Only later did I find out it’s the fourth edition of a small Atlanta chain, and very well respected. At the time, though, I was just hungry and curious. I’d had conversations with men wanting to set up Cuban restaurants in the Lawrenceville area. Was this one of those, a new start up?

Inside, there were chairs and booths mostly circling around a bar in the middle. There was outside seating, but the day was too warm to really want to sit outside. The crowd ranged from ordinary families to beautiful couples dressed to the max. Staff was around; my waitress was good and dropped by my table often. Seating was soft and woven, as opposed to wooden, and the green plastic palm tree leaf place mats on the tables kind of cute.

Though there is Caribbean in the name, there is precious little Caribbean food here. It’s essentially a Cuban eatery, with the option of getting jerk wings and a jerk chicken sandwich. No peas and rice, no patés, none of the accoutrements of a serious Caribbean place. It does have a nice selection of Cuban foods. While looking over the menu, I ordered a salad and also a Cuban sandwich.

The salad was decent, not overwhelming. The mango vinaigrette wasn’t bad, but I’d much have preferred a balsamic. I don’t need stray sugar in my foods, and the mango product was a little sweet. The Cuban, as well, was good, and the shredded pork, ham slices, and melted cheese quite welcome. But the bread looked like a regular po’ boy loaf, and not the flatter grilled breads I’m accustomed to seeing with a Cuban sandwich. The taste was just a little different as well. As I had Cubans regularly when I lived in Orlando FL, it left me wondering what accommodations had been made in the sandwich so far “north”.

I’ll note that other reviewers (examples here and here) of other locations have much the same reaction, that the food is good and worth some trouble, but not really exceptional. As there is simply nothing like it in this part of Lawrenceville, I’m sure Papi’s will do well.

Papi’s Cuban and Caribbean
911 Duluth Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
(770) 237-8889

Papi's Cuban and Caribbean Grill (Lawrenceville) on Urbanspoon

Other locations include:

(Midtown)
216 Ponce De Leon Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
(404) 607-1525
Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill (Midtown) on Urbanspoon

(Kennesaw)
745 Chastain Rd NW
Kennesaw, GA 30144
(678) 797-0502

Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill (Kennesaw) on Urbanspoon

(Stockbridge)
1375 Rock Quarry Rd
Stockbridge, GA 30281
(770) 506-9664

Papi's Cuban & Caribbean Grill on Urbanspoon

Macky’s Caribbean Cuisine is in the same complex of strip malls as Lavender Asian Bistro and Caribbean Flavors, and so if you’re heading down 124 from Snellville to Lawrenceville, remember to turn left when you see the Aldi’s. Once you’ve turned, Macky’s will be in the strip malls to your right, but not in the same physical complex as Lavender and Flavors. It’s in the one just before that, sandwiched between the gas station and the final bit of strip mall. It’s new enough to have the “NOW OPEN” sign up when I visited.

Being brand new and next to a couple pretty good restaurants, there weren’t very many customers when we arrived. It’s a small place, with maybe 6 to 8 pretty green booths, and a counter where you order. The windows are silvered to the point you really can’t see inside while outside. It is neat and clean, however, and the menu is on a board above the counter top.

Mack’s is largely Jamaican, so unlike Caribbean Flavors, things like jerk chicken will be available. I asked the people there what I should order, as I was diabetic and I wanted something I could eat safely. They suggested jerk chicken with a vegetable as a side. My daughter ordered the small curried chicken plate. We got our drinks and waited. The entrées arrived shortly.

The jerk chicken, as I received it, was a dry jerk, no sauce on the meat. The smoke flavor was thick in my jerk chicken, and it left me wondering why the simplest Jamaican places can succeed at making excellent smoked foods, and the regional spots that should know how to smoke food really do not.  Yes, and the Vietnamese are Atlanta’s best chefs when it comes to inexpensive Cajun foods. So go figure.

I really liked my dish, both the chicken and the cabbage. My daughter liked her dish, but would have liked more chicken and less sides. Next time I guess I have to get her the large dinner plate.

Verdict: Well smoked meats. Inexpensive and good Jamaican food. Recommended.

Macky’s Caribbean Cuisine
1215 Scenic Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 979-8484

Macky's Caribbean Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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