My wife’s boss has been harping on me, through her, for years about eating Jamaican food. He insisted that I give it a try. I have largely ignored his suggestions, namely because the one time I had Jamaican food was at this “fast food” type shack that played loud reggae music. I found the food to be too sweet and boring. I changed my tune a bit during my spring break as he went all “promposal” on my ass. He filled my car with a bunch of vegetarian Jamaican patties with the message “Will you eat Jamican food with me” spelled out on them. How could I decline?
The day came and he escorted J-Fur and myself to Caribbean Crown on Busch Boulevard. His reason for choosing Caribbean Crown is that they have a vegetarian menu that J-Fur and I could select from. Upon entering Caribbean Crown, I was surprised to see that it reminded me a lot of some pizza places back in PA. There was a very small seating area, beverages were all bottled or canned and in a cooler off to the side that you grabbed yourself, your order was taken at a counter, the food was cooked in back, brought out on a tray and wrapped in paper. Payment for your meal was collected at the end.
My paper wrapped doubles, tastes way better than the paper looks
The vegetarian menu included a number of different rotis and a “sandwich” called a double. I had no idea what either of these were so, on recommendation from the counter person, I ordered two doubles, a roti and a side of fried plantains. Judging by the prices, I figured the food amount would be small (these four items would run me about 12 bucks). Boy did I botch that one. The waitress brought out J-Fur and her bosses’ trays first. Then she went back for my TWO. Yep, so much food it wouldn’t fit on one tray. One things for sure, Caribbean Crown doesn’t skimp on their portions.
But would it taste good? That’s what I was about to find out. I decided to start with one of the double sandwiches. They were unlike any sandwich I’d ever had. The “bread” was similar to an Indian puri meaning that it was puffy and unleavened. The texture reminded me of bread that had been soaking in liquid for a bit. It was firm and held together, but it had an almost slimy feel. I’m not doing the meal justice, comparing it to slime, but I really have never eaten anything that was similar. Inside the bread was a chickpea and potato mixture that had a bit of sweetness (cinnamon?). I added some hot pepper sauce to it. The sandwich was excellent. I loved the sweet/spicy/sloppy combo and the softness of the bread. I would return (and did a few weeks later) just to eat a double.
What does a double double look like?
Next I turned my sights to the roti. Caribbean Crown’s version of the roti was very similar to a burrito but instead of stuffing the insides with lettuce, salsa, guacamole, cheese and beans, it is filled with a potato and chickpea mixture (they have other vegetarian roti fillings, but this is the one we went for). The roti lacked the sweetness of the double but upped the spice a bit. It wasn’t enough to make J-Fur back away but it made its presence felt. The roti was huge, completely filling and delicious. I would call it some of the best ethnic cheap eats in Tampa.
The Roti Outside
The Roti after being gutted like a fish
Overall impressions? I returned two weeks later. Does that say enough? I loved it. I enjoyed both sandwiches and the unique qualities they brought to the table. Caribbean Crown gives you a lot of food for very little price. I picked up the tab for the meal and three rotis, two doubles, three drinks, fried plantains and dessert only set me back a little over thirty dollars. They’ve got an extensive collection of vegetarian friendly rotis and side dishes too, so the selection is pretty big. I hope to return and give the samosas and spinach roti a try (although on my second visit, I ordered the same roti and double I got the first time so I’m not sure if/when I’ll break that habit).
Pujol has just released “Pitch Black” from his upcoming album Kludge. The description of the album reads as follows:
KLUDGE idiosyncratically captures life as it exists in our weird almost future world of flying robots, cancer from food, cell phone wire taps, metadata, $7.25ish minimum wage and $15.50 an hour endless choice buffets. Yet, the album possesses that inherent sense of timelessness that exists in all great music. Thanks to its combination of addictively fetching rock ‘n’ roll and Daniel Pujol’s lyrical brilliance, the end result proves yet again that Daniel Pujol is, first and foremost, a songwriter.
“Pitch Black” perfectly displays Pujol’s blend of skepticism, humor, idealism, earnestness and lizard hissing. Check it: