NYC Restaurant week features twenty-two Black-owned restaurants for its Winter 2023 edition. Running Jan. 17 through Feb. 12, the semiannual program offers prix-fixe lunches and dinners in participating restaurants. Amongst the few Black-owned Caribbean restaurants featured during the four-week food program, only one stands out, literally, on its block.
Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine is in midtown on Restaurant Row, a historical culinary street where this food establishment is the only Black-owned restaurant on the block.
“I wanted people to taste good food, especially tourists,” said Jasmine Gerald, co-owner of Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine. Jasmine’s serves authentic Caribbean food with a Jamaican head chef, a Trinidadian chef and Gerald’s mother’s influenced Dominica cooking. “NYC Restaurant Week gives people the opportunity to come in and taste different foods at a reasonable price,” said Gerald. The St. Thomas native opened the multi-Caribbean infused restaurant with her husband in 2020, shortly before the pandemic hit NYC. They survived COVID-19 by offering delivery services and by the power of social media which helped spread the word about their business. They have been a part of NYC Restaurant Week since their opening in early 2020.
The restaurant has seen a growth in customers thus far in 2023 from more people becoming comfortable dining outside again. Jasmine’s gains new customers from word of mouth and from people spontaneously walking in. “I like [NYC] restaurant week,” said Gerald. “It’s good for me and the customers.” Gerald loves having customers walk in who have never experienced Caribbean food and walk out with an unforgettable dining experience.
Hospitality is key for the Caribbean restaurant as Gerald mingles with her customers to guarantee a unique experience during their time at this food haven. Gerald describes her niche as being authentic, consistent, and providing top tier service. Her customers are very diverse from all ethnicities including African American, white, Asian, and Latino customers. “Everything I do is with love,” said Gerald. “I want to uplift people and make them feel good.”
According to data from unitedstateszipcodes.org, people living in ZIP code 10036, where Jasmine’s is located, are primarily white. White people make up 63.7% of the population in that neighborhood, while Black people only make up 9.3%. Midtown is one of the most accessible places to travel to in NYC, especially by MTA. According to its site, the New York City subway has a daily ridership of approximately 2.4 million and 1.2 million riders via its bus services.
Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine is embellished with lively, colorful decorations which provokes the feeling of being on an island. “I wanted to be a part of bringing New York back; I wanted people to come in and feel like they’re away like, ‘ooh, I’m in the Caribbean,’” said Gerald. It was important for her to decorate the restaurant like this for people to have a getaway during the chaos and fear of COVID-19. The restaurant has accompanying Caribbean and island music to match its aura, along with tasty drinks.
Gerald grew up in the restaurant business due to her mother’s time managing a restaurant when she was a child. This inspired her to pursue opening a food establishment. Many people are pleasantly surprised when they find out how authentic Jasmine’s dishes are to Caribbean cuisines. From dishes like Jazzy Pasta, which resembles the classic Rasta pasta, to their tender, fall-off-the-bone oxtail dinner. Jasmine’s also has meals like Curry chicken and Jamaica’s national dish Ackee and Saltfish, all served with an edible orchid flower.
Gerald expressed how her legacy and destiny are to give back. “With whatever businesses I have, it’s all about giving back with giving job opportunities, helping people who are homeless and helping young girls in leadership programs,” said Gerald. “If you know Jasmine, you know she walks in faith, not fear and she spreads love to everyone.” Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine will be a part of NYC Restaurant Week until its duration on February 12.