As Caribbean Flavors demonstrates, not all Caribbean is Jamaican, and not all Caribbean is created equal.  This is a Virgin Islands joint, not something easily determined from the outside. It’s located one block north of the intersection of Webb Ginn Road and Scenic Highway (Highway 124), a block past Poblanos and Bonefish Grill. It’s in the same strip mall as Lavender Asian Bistro. Inside, it’s pretty, clean and neat, with a nice yellow and orange color scheme (that seems loud I know, but the colors are well coordinated and muted) and there are a few tables surrounding the kitchen area.

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One thing that’s just true about Atlanta food writers, professional, blogger or just aggregation site fan, is that Caribbean restaurants are seriously underrepresented in their writings. People either don’t talk about them, ignore them, or forget to talk about them. Jamaican and Caribbean stores and restaurants abound on Memorial Drive and Covington Highway, and how many of these can even be found in the discussion of best Caribbean in the city? Even in other places where these eateries have expanded into, they’re not well represented. People would rather talk about the new bar in Grant Park, or a new paint job in Two Urban Licks, than find the next hole in the wall while headed to Stone Mountain.

I’m guilty of this too. I saw this restaurant while reviewing Lavender and then waited a while to check this one out. And wow, was I in for a surprise. For one, no frozen patties shipped in from New York here, and microwaved. The patés, as they call them, are hand made:

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That’s true of all the food here. It’s made from scratch. As this is a Virgin Islands restaurant, there is no jerk chicken. Dishes are things like rotí, or conch stew. Oh yes, and Johnny cakes, can’t forget those. These are a kind of fried donut, and Caribbean Flavors has good ones.

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They have a decent sized salad if you eat in.

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The conch stew is quite good

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But the chicken rotí is heavenly, bliss wrapped in a chickpea tortilla.

as served.

as served.

opened and half eaten

opened and half eaten

And they do a nice dessert too. This is made from scratch rum cake. They don’t fly in their desserts either.

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I took patés home, and when my daughter tried one, her response was,

“Oh my god, this is really good.”

And the words aren’t as important in gauging her response as the pitch of her voice, which drops when she wants to emphasize a point. It seemed as if my daughter’s voice dropped an octave when she was talking about Caribbean Flavor’s patés.

If I had any advice for those near Snellville, I’d say you have to try this restaurant. For those a bit further out, I can’t gauge what you should drive for. A great Caribbean restaurant could be around your corner. You won’t know until you look.

Service here is good and relaxed. The chef is in on nights and weekends and approachable.

Verdict: Good to excellent from-scratch Virgin Islands food. Very highly recommended

Caribbean Flavors
1195 Scenic Highway
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 978-6800

Caribbean Flavors on Urbanspoon

Notes: easiest way here from, say, I-85, is to exit at Pleasant Hill and head east. Go to Ronald Reagan highway. Head to Snellville. Exit on Webb Ginn Road and take a left. At the intersection of Webb Ginn and Scenic Highway (Poblano’s will be on your left), turn left and go one block. At the the gas station, turn left and immediately enter the strip mall-gas station on your right. You won’t see Caribbean Flavors at this point, but this is the right place to turn. Head to the far end of the strip mall.

Agavero Cantina is a very attractive restaurant, brick and thick wood used freely throughout, plaster where appropriate, and in the main dining hall, a ring of tequila bottles above the tables. It’s roughly a half block north of the Beaver Ruin – Lawrenceville Highway (29) intersection, on the right as you’re heading north.

It’s a bit of a hard restaurant to place. It has Atlanta Tex Mex dishes, but perhaps only 1 of the 4 pages of the menu are devoted to that kind of food. They have a vegetarian section, for one, and most of the dishes seem to be Mexican, Tex Mex favorites, or cantina originals. So, unlike Frontera or El Jinete, trying to break free of that Atlanta Tex Mex mold, this one is, oh, 3/4 out of the shell.

I came here during lunch with my daughter, and we were served quickly and chips were rapidly brought to our table. We ordered queso fundido as an appetizer, and for entrees, I ordered the Acapulco cheese steak and she ordered a Mexican omelet.

Queso fundido is melted cheese with a healthy dose of chorizo, and Agavero Cantina’s version was not the soft white cheese you see often served. It was a melted pale yellow cheese, with a consistency closer to a semi-hard cheese. We ate bits of it with chips, and as the dish also came with pico de gallo and steamed tortillas, we put some in tortillas, along with the pico, and ate it that way too. It was good, but as the chorizo tended to generate fat over time, you had to eat it fast or forget it.

The Mexican omelet was stuffed with chorizo, salsa cruda, and it had enough bits of spicy green pepper to let you know it had a bite.  My daughter liked it a lot. My “cheese steak” was a tortilla filled with sauteed onions and sauteed strips of steak, with molten white cheese poured over the top. It was very good, reminiscent of the burrito al carbon served elsewhere.

Serving sizes, as noted elsewhere, were good and the cost pretty low. Service was very good.

Verdict: Recommended, Good to excellent food, good service, a welcome addition to the Mexican repertoire of Lilburn GA.

Agavero Cantina
4140 Lawrenceville Highway
Lilburn, GA 30047
(678) 924-1970

Agavero Cantina on Urbanspoon

Lavender Asian Bistro is on 124, about 1 block north of the Webb Ginn Road-Scenic Drive intersection. Formally this is a Lawrenceville, Georgia location, but again, it’s one of these Lawrenceville addresses that seem more Snellville than Lawrenceville. It’s in a strip mall on the left as you’re heading towards Lawrenceville, and it’s really easy to pass. If you will prepare to turn left when you see the Aldi, you’ll be in great shape.

I didn’t know about this place until someone posted a tip on Darla’s site, Snellville Eats. I took a look for reviews and they seemed promising. It was an easy drive from the house, and so we decided to go there.

Inside, it’s roomy. There are a lot of tables and a decent number of booths. The waiters were well dressed, wearing ties, and all rather tall men. In general I thought our service was really good, absolutely no complaints there. And the menu is large, with dozens of choices. They also have a rather extensive bar, so if you want beer or wine with your food, they can provide that too.

Lavender Asian Bistro was once known as Lavender Thai and Chinese, and those are the two main cuisines on their menu. At this point in time, however, the Chinese entrees are shown first and in my opinion, it’s the Chinese foods at Lavender that are more dynamic and innovative these days. Though they have a nice selection of Thai dishes, the Thai choices not as extensive as some of the other local options, such as Sri Thai and Danthai.

Once we were seated and had a look at the menu, we ordered the “birds nest” (perhaps called the Seafood Nest; we used both speaking of the dish). My wife ordered a vegetable lo mein plus chicken, I ordered a beef masaman curry, and we ordered Thai spring rolls as an appetizer.

The spring rolls were good. My curry, a Thai curry, was good, but just that, good. My wife’s lo mein was a far better dish, with more interesting flavors and spicing.  But the most impressive dish, and quite an eyeful, was the “bird’s nest”. It was a nice collection of seafood, snow peas, green beans, water chestnut slices, and red bell pepper in a dish made of fried noodles, curved into the shape of a bowl and frayed on the ends to resemble a bird’s nest. It was just a visual delight, and given how fast my daughter finished it, must have been really really good.

Next time I go, I’ll be ordering from the Chinese side of the menu.

Verdict:  Recommended. Good food and very good service. Lavender serves both Chinese and Thai, but the Chinese foods are where this restaurant shines these days.

Lavender Asian Bistro
1195 Scenic Hwy
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
(770) 982-3887

Lavender Thai & Chinese on Urbanspoon