This week, I am going in a slightly different direction from what I usually do. I love concentrating on food carts but, I also love finding little mom & pop restaurants around Portland. I found this place by way of Groupon. A few years ago I used Groupon quite often because they always had great deals, especially for newer establishments and other little-known restaurants. Eventually, I got kind of bored with it. Every time I opened the app, it seemed like it was always the same restaurants and eateries as the previous time. So, I uninstalled the app and sort of forgot it existed. Then, a couple of months ago, I decided to download it, again, to see what they had to offer. I was in need of some inspiration. One of their offers was for two vouchers to Yaad Style Jamaican Cuisine (to be used on separate visits). Immediately, I was down! As much as it pains me to say it, I had never been to an authentic Jamaican restaurant. I have had some Jamaican inspired dishes before but, not anything that I would have considered as authentic.
From the outside, the place doesn’t look like much. It’s situated in a small complex with a couple of other businesses. It has a small sign, and, although the exterior is decorated with the vibrant colors of the Jamaican flag, it’s easy to miss. You could drive past it and not even notice it. I would imagine this works to their disadvantage. We have yet to see it busy. Granted, each time we’ve been there has been either before the dinner rush (one time around 4 pm on a weekday) or after the lunch rush (twice, around 2 pm each). I expect that it gets busier during the actual lunch and dinner rushes but, I’m still shocked at how slow it seems to get in the afternoons considering how good the food is.
Our first visit to Yaad Style Jamaican Cuisine was great. The restaurant was occupied by only one other party when we arrived, so it was a pretty quiet experience. The interior is bright, decorated with pictures of all things Jamaican, and painted, of course, in the colors of the Jamaican flag. The young man working the front was friendly, and the service was good. We ordered a couple of Jamaican sodas (or Sof Drinks, as the bottle says) along with an appetizer, which came out pretty quickly.
Our appetizer was an order of festivals. A festival is a fried, elongated sweet dough, made with cornmeal – a very simple, yet tasty snack. I’m pretty much a sucker for anything fried, so my opinion might be biased. I’ve seen some websites that say festivals are served, traditionally, with jerk meats, others that say they are to be served with fish, and even more that say they are served with any meal. I don’t know one way or the other. All I know is that they’re pretty good, and they were bigger than I thought they would be. When ordering four, I guess I sort of expected them to be similar in size to hushpuppies or something. It may be difficult to tell by the photo but, they are much bigger than a hushpuppy.
It took longer than expected for our entrées to arrive (considering how empty the restaurant was) but, this is not a complaint – just an observation. The food was well worth the wait. When it finally came, both dishes looked and smelled fantastic. I had ordered the jerk chicken while my fiancée ordered the brown stew chicken.
The jerk chicken was phenomenal. It had a great smoky flavor, and it was fall-off-the-bone tender. In other words, perfectly cooked. The sauce that comes with it is excellent, too. It’s spicy but, not so spicy that it leaves your mouth feeling like it’s on fire. Instead, it gives you a nice, slow-burn type of heat – enough to get your nose running a little bit but, still allowing you to experience the full flavor of the meal. Just now, as I’m writing this, I realized that I don’t know if that sauce is a jerk sauce, or if it’s a Scotch bonnet pepper sauce that I’ve read about online. The chicken, by itself, has a ton of flavor, but that sauce puts it over the top. Next time I visit, I’ll have to find out exactly what it is.
The brown stew chicken was, to my surprise, way better than I expected. So much so that I almost wished I had ordered it, instead. It’s a little bit sweet, a little bit salty, and slightly spicy (if you ask my fiancée, anyway; I don’t think it is). Every single bite of this dish packs a ton of flavor. Initially, I assumed the jerk chicken would, easily, be my favorite but, this dish was equally amazing. And, just like the jerk chicken, the meat was fall-off-the-bone tender.
On our next visit to Yaad Style, there was a young lady running things up front this time, and she was just as cordial as the young man who took care of us before. Plus, she was super patient with us as we waited for our friend, who was running late, to arrive. Once again, the restaurant seemed to be in the midst of a slow day (or slow time of the day). There may have been two other parties besides us, if I remember correctly.
For starters this time, we ordered saltfish fritters. We had hoped to grab a couple of festivals but, they were sold out. The saltfish fritters are cod, battered, then fried, and served alongside a sweet sauce that I never did figure out what it was (and, as always seems to happen, I didn’t get around to asking). It was a perfect pairing for the saltfish, though. The sweetness of the sauce helped to tone down the saltiness of the fish. I liked them, although the festivals are far superior, in my opinion.
This time, I ordered the brown stew chicken, my fiancée ordered the oxtail, and our friend went with the curried goat. Despite having tried the brown stew chicken on our previous visit, I wanted the dish to myself this time, as opposed to having just a few bites. Although the chicken, this time, was not fall-off-the-bone tender like it was the first time (slightly overcooked, perhaps), the flavor was still outstanding. And, not spicy despite what my fiancée would have you believe.
The oxtail was pretty damn good, too. Like the chicken, however, it wasn’t super tender. I only had a couple of bites, but those bites were delicious (though more fatty than what I prefer). The oxtail is rich, hearty, and a little bit spicy; at least, more so than the brown stew chicken.
I was not a fan of the curried goat that our friend ordered but, he seemed to enjoy it. This is not to say that it wasn’t good – I’m just not the right person to judge the taste of goat. I have now tried goat on two separate occasions, and both times I have not liked it. Too gamey for me. The meat was tender, and the curry flavor was good, though. My guess is, if you like goat and curry, you’d probably enjoy this dish.
Our third visit to Yaad Style was much like our first. The same young man tending the front, business was slow (we were by ourselves this time), and the meats were once again fall-off-the-bone tender. Additionally, we revisited our original orders (the jerk chicken for me and the brown stew chicken for my fiancée). The only difference, this time, was the time of day, so we ordered the dinner plates.
As much as I love the brown stew chicken, this meal confirmed that the jerk chicken is the one for me. I could probably have it for lunch every day and never get tired of it. My fiancée felt the same way about the brown stew chicken. The dinner plates come with a side of sweet plantains and a side of mac & cheese. I had not read the menu, so these additions came as a nice surprise. The sweet plantains, especially, go very well with the spicy jerk chicken. The mac & cheese is good, but nothing special (which is not a complaint). I wouldn’t want it to outshine the main course.
My verdict is that if you haven’t already, you need to give this place a try. I think Yaad Style Jamaican Cuisine may be one of Portland’s hidden gems, and it’s somewhere I’ll recommend to friends, family, or anyone who asks me for suggestions on places to eat. If you’re just visiting Portland, sure, there are plenty of elegant and more well-known restaurants where you can dine but, I’d tell you not to sleep on this place.
If you’re looking for other places around the Portland area to try, you should check my other posts. Even better, you should follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You can also subscribe to my blog via email to stay up to date whenever there is new content!
Until next time…