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—Update 1/2/17: Calabash Island Eats announced on Facebook they are officially closed.

With the number of places to dine in Midtown, and let’s not forget the great watering holes, I find myself wondering why I don’t spend more time in the area. Well let’s start with the fact that my commute from the suburbs is a bit of a party pooper. However, a few months back, Swanky Girl and I went on a Midtown mission – a mission for some good West Indian eats! And although Calabash Island Eats had been on my radar for some time, it took a recommendation from a friend to up its position to numero uno.

Since the West Indies is comprised of many islands, and the menu is reminiscent of those cultures, I was excited to get my hands on a few on my long lost favorites. It had been years since I’d enjoyed roti and having my fill of jerk was also a distant memory. So what to order?

The Calabash Empanadillas were fantastic! Well-seasoned ground meat enclosed in a buttery and flaky crust with hints of curry and cilantro were the perfect start. This dish originated in Puerto Rico and can be found in many forms. However, the slight heat from the peppers makes this version Caribbean bred.

“You must order the Duck Jerk Wings!” And that’s what I did. This Jamaican styled dish served with Calabash cucumber dipping sauce was good, but not great. The flavor was there in all its glory (the jerk seasoning rubs are made in house), however, the wings were slightly undercooked. I few more minutes in the oven would have taken these from good to great.

Speaking of greatness, let’s move on to the Stewed Oxtails. Oxtails can be very dry if the preparation is not on point, but that was not the case at Calabash Island Eats. The pull-apart large strips of oxtail meat were succulent paired with the expected fattiness of this cut. There is very little meat on an oxtail but the amount you get is well worth it. These savory oxtails were served with macaroni pie and the “rice of the day”. The sides were underwhelming in comparison but did I mention how great the oxtails were?

They were out of the Chicken Roti that day so I went with the Lamb Roti. I missed my trips to Trinidad and Tobago and this was a welcomed reminder. The roti was soft and chewy and the fried plantains served on the side were perfectly caramelized enhancing the sweetness of this banana-like treat even more. My lamb on the other hand was a bit dry. Most likely from being overcooked. This doesn’t take away from the dish as the roti made up for its shortcomings. I would order this again.

My visit wouldn’t be complete without a craft cocktail, or two. Since I was on my daiquiri kick at the time, I opted for the Calabash Daiquiri. Made with white rum, grapefruit, lime juice, rose water, and orange curacao it was refreshing, light, with just enough sweetness to balance the cocktail.

There were some misses but a lot of deliciousness still awaits at Calabash Island Eats. They also host live music on specific evenings during the week. Check their website for their next Salsa or reggae night.

Shanna Jones

Shanna is the co-founder and editor of Urban Swank. She focuses on food and travel.

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