We here at Urban Swank have made no secret of our admiration of The Breakfast Klub, home of H-town’s best fried catfish and grits platter. And, the people behind The Breakfast Klub, in turn, have made it clear that they want Houstonians to also give some love to their sister restaurant, Reggae Hut, by not-so-subtly marking every one of their tables with advertisements for this Caribbean comfort food joint in the heart of the Museum District. Well, why not?
More conservative diners may initially hesitate upon seeing the menu, which includes such hallmarks of Jamaican cuisine such as fiery jerk chicken and curried goat. Visitors quickly learn, however, that Reggae Hut has a wonderful way of making the foreign and unfamiliar accessible and indeed enjoyable. The interior dining area, for example, an airy room fitted with warm milk chocolate brown tables against a backdrop of colorful commercial murals with slogans such as “Sweet Jamaica”, seems designed to put even the most harried diners at ease. Unsurprisingly, Reggae Hut is a popular lunch spot for medical workers and businesspeople, who no doubt feel transported to a more relaxed space the moment they walk in the door and catch a whiff of simmering spices. A rotating mix of Afro-Caribbean artwork also adorns the walls, and on special occasions, a local musicians playing the steel drums, completes the island them.
The food is classic Caribbean, composed of simple ingredients but painstakingly prepared. Although entrée portions are generous, start off with some patties nevertheless as an appetizer. These “patties” are not, as some hamburger fans might expect, circular discs of ground foodstuffs, but rather sunny yellow pastries stuffed with beef, chicken, or vegetables and seasoned with curry, pepper, and cumin. Didn’t think Jamaica was famous for its pastry dough? Well, you’re half right. The pattie, in fact, is a hybrid dish that reflects the influence of British colonials on island cuisine, combining the flaky shell of the traditional “pasty” with the local proteins and spices.
Main course selection is limited to straight-forward staples such as meat and seafood curries, oxtails, and the infamous jerk chicken. Aficionados of this potentially tongue-searing spice bomb of a dish may be slightly disappointed it’s just “pretty” hot. The other 95% of the population will pant a bit from the pleasant heat of the tender fowl and alternate forkfuls with bites of rice or cocoa bread to quell (somewhat) the fire. Other entrees, such as the curry shrimp, chicken, or goat, are milder but by no means boring. The wonderful though terribly misleading things about the word “curry” is that it describes a wide range of flavors produced by inestimable combinations of different spices. That is to say, curry is not the same as curry is not the same as curry. Reggae Hut’s version is earthy, slightly sweet, with garlic and onion front and center.
The hefty servings combined with sides of sautéed vegetables and rice won’t leave you yearning for a large dessert. But if you want to end your time at Reggae Hut on a sweet note, go for a glass of sweet homemade sorrel or lemonade. Get it to go if you’re in a hurry, though by the end of this meal, you’re likely not to be.
Reggae Hut Cafe
4814 Almeda Rd.
Houston, TX 77004