Jamaican Spice is easily missed; on the corner of Dorr and Byrne, the hidden gem sits adjacent to the recent road construction gumming up the area, nestled in the corner of a gas station. But like any good mythical treasure, Jamaican Spice is worth the search.
Across from a small kitchen and window counter in the S&G gas station, eight chairs and two tables create the entirety of Jamaican Spice. Head chef and co-owner, Richard Reid, explained that he discovered the space after having worked at another Jamaican restaurant in the city (Dexter’s, now Carribean Breeze) for three and a half years. Once he left that restaurant, Richard went back to his homeland of Jamaica for a month to take some time off. When he returned to Toledo, he started cooking out of his own house.
His skilled command of his home kitchen attracted the attention of his current business partner Carl Byrd, who asked Richard to come back to the restaurant business, “Just find me a place to work,” Richard said to Carl; “Ill do the cooking, and you can do the paperwork.” Thus the kitchen in the S&G became Jamaican Spice’s home on June 1st, 2012.
Richard’s approach to the restaurant is simple: word of mouth. “Whenever I get people in the restaurant, I always tell them that they can’t talk about (the food) without eating it. If you love it, spread the word.”
A festival of flavors
On a busy Saturday, I ordered a large Brown Stew Chicken and Goat meal ($11.50) which came with a choice of two sides. I chose sides of white rice and festival, something neither of us had ever heard of. My friend picked up a small Jerk Chicken meal with rice ($5). Both meals were generous portions (with leftovers to spare).
Two surprises came out of this meal. First, the rice was mixed with the sauce that the meat was prepared in. It was a treat when combined with the chicken, which was overflowing with flavor. The sauces coating the chicken made it fall-off-the-bone tender.
The second surprise was the mystery side dish called festival. If you tend to be an adventurous eater like me, sometimes your curiosity is awarded with amazing foods you wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Festival is a Jamaican street food that tastes and feels like a mix between cornbread and a Mexican churro. The sweetness mixed with the nuttiness and texture of the corn meal is something different, yet familiar, and totally delectable. Just this side dish alone has made me definite return customer.
I remember Richard’s words well, “You can’t talk about it without eating it.” Having eaten at Jamaican Spice, that is all I want to do: tell everyone. If you take the time to dig through the construction, you’ll feel the same desire, to spread the word about Jamaican Spice.
11am-10pm Monday through Wednesday, 11am-1:30am Thursday through Saturday, noon-8pm Sunday.
Jamaican Spice, 1223 Byrne Rd.