With less than three weeks of winter to go, I don’t know how we will ever survive temperatures in the 50s and 60s for much longer. Before we know it, spring will have its rainy way with us before giving way to summer heat, humidity, passion, Red Stripe, roti, jerk chicken, Ting, roots reggae and bogling in the street…BIG UP!
You might be asking how I know these things. Well, there is a little time machine on West Houston that told me so. It’s not discrete and there is no special knock or handshake. In fact, the only payment they take is a smile–really cash and credit, but you’re feeling my vibe. As the prophet Bob Marley said, “You’re in Jamaica. Come on and smile!”
If you’re a Manhattanite in the mood for some Jamaican victuals and atmosphere but can’t make it out to the bastion of dynamite Caribbean eateries on Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn or to the outer boroughs, head over to Miss Lily’s (132 West Houston St., (646) 588-5375, www.misslilysnyc.com). This was the site of my good friend and Amsterdam News Managing Editor Kristin’s birthday brunch celebration. It’s almost as if her Jamaican roots dictated the destination.
I had stumbled into Miss Lily’s only once before, at the end of a group dinner that I missed. I had to make sure I was still in New York City and not a retro island respite. The vibrant, rainbow-colored space, accented with iconic Jamaican images including “My Jamaican Guy” herself, Ms. Grace Jones, along with the naturally beautiful moving art (aka the staff), makes for a full reggae motherland experience.
After a brief wait at the counter for the rest of the group to arrive and a glass of sorrel, we were seated at the red Formica booth with excitement and expectation. The brunch menu proved to be the most indecisive moment of the meal. Should I get the jerk pork belly hash or the smoked mackerel scramble…oooh or the curry lobster roll? It would be none of the above, spelled in two words: Jamaican breakfast!
Three of us succumbed to the Jamaican breakfast, which includes the noble staple ackee and saltfish with sauteed callaloo, festivals (fried dumplings), ripe plantains and a side bowl of fruit ($18). Awesome plate of food! I was full by the first festival, but I would be dammed if I wasn’t going to finish the plate. Midway through, I added a ting-a-ling–Miss Lily’s version of a shandy–a mix of Red Stripe and Ting.
The fourth of our party got the architectural brioche French toast with bananas foster topping and a side of jerk chicken sausage for the table. The French toast was light and each piece had four sides of caramelized deliciousness. The sausage was good but needed a little more flavor (fat) and heat for my taste.
Of course we had to have dessert for the birthday girl. It would be Miss Lily’s banana pudding and, Kristin’s childhood favorite, Grape-Nut ice cream. Y’all know how I feel about anything banana, especially real banana flavor. This did not disappoint and, unfortunately, marked the close of the meal and our time at Miss Lily’s.
By the time you are ready to leave Miss Lily’s, you will be angry you are not met by white sands and crystal water outside the front door. You can turn back for another glance or head next door to Miss Lily’s Variety to shop for books, music and gifts while listening to the live Internet radio broadcast, Lily Radio, from the booth perched in the window like the WE-LOVE station in “Do the Right Thing.”
Should your hunger arise again, Miss Lily’s Bake Shop & Melvin’s Juice Box is just up the stairs. Grab a beef patty or roti and keep ‘winin dem hips to the cool island sounds. When asked how you’re doing, just smile and say, “Irie!”
Enjoy, get eating and thanks for reading!
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Kysha Harris is owner of SCHOP! which is available for weekly service or for home entertaining. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Email kysha@iSCHOP.com.