In an area replete with mom-and-pop eateries specializing in Jamaican, Guyanese and Trinidadian fare, it may seem a bit out of place to focus attention on a fast-food chain. Then again, Caribbean fast-food chains are somewhat singular entities themselves, and foodies unfamiliar with the cuisine will find this spacious bakery and grill a proper initiation to island fare.
Of particular note are the Jamaican beef patties ' those staple semicircles of flaky goodness sold on streets from Kingston to Spanish Town. Golden Krust takes great pride in their signature patties, offering nine different varieties from traditional spicy beef to soy. The parents of company founder Lowell Hawthorne ran a bakery in Jamaica for more than 50 years before Hawthorne himself opened his first bakery in the Bronx back in 1989. Today, there are more than 100 franchises across the country, with one in Orlando, one in Kissimmee and three more slated to open on John Young Parkway, in Ocala and in Clermont.
Having devoured Jamaican beef patties since childhood, I can't say I was all that impressed with the ones served here. Sure, the turmeric-yellow crust of the beef patty ($1.20) is as advertised, but the somewhat overprocessed seasoned meat lacks the essential spice to give it that gusto ' no slivers of Scotch bonnet peppers; no stinging vinegary-ness. It's as if GK is purposely toning it down for mass appeal. The end result is a decent, though not great, patty. Same goes for the vegetable version ($1.40) with steamed carrots, cabbage and broccoli pulp filling inside a whole wheat pastry, and the fish patty ($1.80) with seasoned cod. Both fell a little flat. One good thing is that for 75 cents, you can order your patty with no filling at all.
(Aside: If you're a true patty-head like myself, head down the road to the Caribbean Sunshine Bakery, located on the corner of Colonial and John Young Parkway, where the patties are more corpulent, crumbly and fiery.)
The jerk chicken ($6.50) fared a whole lot better. Five chunks of bone-in chicken rubbed with jerk seasoning and doused with jerk sauce gave it a righteous flavor. Curried goat ($6.99) is an exotic dish often enjoyed by hungry island expats looking for a taste of home, and the fatty pieces of meat lolling in rich, luxuriant gravy easily made this my favorite dish. Also worth a try is the oxtail ($8.25), the slowly braised, slightly gelatinous and subtly sweet meat that's similar in texture and taste to beef brisket. All the above dishes were ordered 'small,â?� but were generously heaped with meat, rice and peas (the 'peasâ?� here being red beans) and steamed veggies.
Post-meal pastries and baked goods are plentiful and made on-site. I liked the moist, buttery carrot cake ($2) with its semisweet icing layered with walnuts. Rock cake ($1.15), a crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside mound of coconut cake with raisins, is best enjoyed with a spot of tea or, better yet, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (neither of which are available here, unfortunately). Bun and cheese ($2) features a thick wedge of mild cheddar between two thicker slabs of sugary, raisin-specked spice buns. A dense treat, to say the least.
The space itself is anything but. It's airy and brightly lit with a pounding R&B beat and Carib vibe. Just call ahead, as they're prone to shutting down before the posted closing time of 9 p.m. After all, island fare and island time are a matched set.
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