Think of Rite Spice Caribbean in Lynn as an extension of the Edmond family home. You might talk over the menu with Noyan Edmond, a New Orleans native with a kind face, who moves between the counter and the kitchen as needed. Her son, Julien Lebeau, could be helping his stepdad behind the stove. Noyan’s brother, Steven Arnold, designed the colorful space. Complete with sparkling new takeout counter, massive Jamaican flag painted over the open kitchen, and a Bob Marley documentary playing on the TV, you get Caribbean comfort food.
Just ask Jamaican-American cashier Natisha Dunnbar, who couldn’t be more enthused about what’s coming out of the kitchen. At the heart of the restaurant is Noyan’s husband, Shawn Edmond, who presides over the open kitchen in crisp chef whites and a towering toque. With a background at Ritz-Carlton and Sandals resorts in Montego Bay, Shawn is re-creating the soulful dishes he learned to cook as a child back home in Jamaica. The family opened Rite Spice in August. Stews, jerks, and patties (traditional Jamaican hand-pies filled with meats and vegetables) make up the menu.
We are perched on stools at a large picture window devouring jerk pork ($8.50 small, $12.50 large). The jerk method involves marinating meat in a garlicky blend of allspice, thyme, and chilies, then slow-cooking the meat, and giving it a turn on the grill. This version is milder than what we’re expecting. Shawn tells us he doesn’t want to scare anyone off with something as spicy as what they serve on the islands. If you are looking for more heat, ask for homemade hot sauce. We order the small, and it’s plenty. Especially when you add a combo of coco bread and cheese with patty ($4).
Coco bread is sourdough with coconut milk, which gives it a rich texture and slightly sweet flavor, just a bit thicker than Indian naan. Here it comes with “Jamaican cheddar” tucked inside, which hits the same nostalgic pleasure center as mac and Velveeta or grilled American on white bread. The pastry pockets called patties have a tender crust (though we find the veggie version a bit bland). Shawn is still trying to perfect them, he tells us. You can also order coco bread on its own ($1.50), and individual patties ($2).
We dive into jerk chicken ($8 small, $12.50 large), with juicy white and dark meat; it has the same punch of garlic and subtle spice as the pork. Curry goat ($8.50 small, $12.50 large) comes in a mild yellow sauce that tames the deliciously gamy meat. Each meal arrives with a saute of cabbage, red bell pepper, and shavings of carrot that is surprisingly addictive. Also on plates are rice and peas, a hearty portion of the white grain cooked in coconut milk, thyme, and Scotch bonnet peppers, studded with red kidney beans. A few sweet fried slices of plantain round out the meals.
This is food that gets your hands dirty. Whether it’s sumptuous braised oxtail ($8.50 small, $12.50 large), goat stew, or jerk chicken, you will want to pick up the pieces and gnaw them off the bone. As far as we can tell, this is acceptable. A customer who sees us hollers, “So good, right?”
Though we would prefer a Red Stripe Jamaican lager with this food, Rite Spice has a cooler stocked with nonalcoholic beverages such as Jamaican ginger beer and pineapple soda ($2) and Irish moss drinks ($3). Irish moss is the seaweed thickening agent familiarly referred to as carrageenan. Here it gives body to a sweet, milk-based drink in peanut and vanilla flavors. It tastes like melted ice cream. Shawn says it will make me strong. The nutritional info suggests chubby and cavity ridden. Apparently, Bob Marley loved the stuff.
There’s a dish named for him. The Marley combo ($8) gets you cabbage, tomato, carrots, and peppers in herb curry sauce. We mean to order it, but can’t tug ourselves away from the delicious braised meats.
The Edmonds seem a little surprised by the clamoring for their food. One night they are sold out of jerk chicken when we arrive at 7 p.m. A customer tells them, “I’ve been dreaming about the jerk chicken the whole drive over here!” He lets out a belly laugh, and orders something else. Noyan tells us about curry crab on Saturdays ($9 small $12.50 large). It sold out too.
We’ll be back real early.Catherine Smart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.