The Caribbean food scene on Long Island is a dynamic one: Develop a crush on one place and it might have closed one or two years later; drive down a familiar road and a new Jamaican or Haitian place may have sprouted there.
So it is with three new Jamaican restaurants on Long Island that have opened in recent weeks: Two are resurrections of eateries that were once elsewhere, while the third is a midcareer shift for a couple who long dreamed of their own spot.
One Bite Jamaican Restaurant & Bakery
"We decided to go for it," said Sonia Jackson-Scott, a former salon owner, of that place, One Bite Jamaican Restaurant & Bakery. Two years ago, when she and husband Boswell Scott (who worked in the trucking and auto industry) first leased the bright storefront on Bay Shore Road in Deer Park, the couple realized they had a major renovation on their hands; the space lacked a kitchen, for instance, and the bathroom was in the wrong place. "We had to start from scratch," she said.
Yet creating One Bite and bringing it up to code took longer than either anticipated. This spring, when they were poised to open, coronavirus upended the food industry. "We were so new, and didn't know the community yet, so we had to wait it out," said Scott.
In late June, they finally unlocked One Bite's doors. Up front, Sonia Scott oversees a sunswept dining room with a hot bar, a bakery case and three white-tablecloth-covered tables (less than originally planned, though there are more tables outside). In the kitchen, Boswell Scott, a longtime cook, works alongside chef Charlie Henderson, who said he learned to cook growing up in a huge family in Saint Mary Parish, Jamaica. "Cooking has always been my passion," said Henderson, who has worked in restaurants and hotels in New York City.
Their days begin in the early morning with tasks such as making rice and peas or marinating chicken for hours in a dozen jerk spices before cooking. Around lunchtime, they carry the food out front — jerk chicken, curried goat, curried and stew chicken, oxtail, rice and peas, plantains and steamed cabbage. There is tangy escovitch fish and rasta pasta on the menu, and unusual for a Jamaican restaurant, the Scotts have set up a salad station so customers can lighten the load of this calorie-rich food with greens. Their son, Ryan Rankine, also helps out with the business.
Baked goods such as cupcakes, guava cheesecake, cocoa bread and flaky currant rolls come from a collaborator in Brooklyn, and One Bite gets their meat patties from the city, too.
More info: 175 Bay Shore Rd., Deer Park. 631-940-9900. Open daily for lunch and dinner, starting around noon.
Rasta Shack Island Spices
Deer Park was also once home to Tasty Bite Jamaican, but owner Miriam Fogah has moved a new iteration of her business to Huntington, closer to where she lives. In late spring, she opened Rasta Shack Island Spices in the tucked-away spot where Mobay Breeze used to be.
Fogah, who's from Saint Catherine Parish, Jamaica and has lived on Long Island for decades, cooks Rasta Shack's food alongside her son, Jermain Campbell. The usual characters — jerk chicken, curried goat, goats head soup, rasta pasta ($4.50 to $12, mostly) — are ordered from a counter inside the tiny restaurant, which has a few tables both inside and outside. Fogah said she hopes to have a liquor license soon.
More info: 46D Gerard St., Huntington. 631-923-3544. rastashack.org. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
Further east, the new Port Jefferson Station spot Caribbean Flavors is a redux for chef-owner Steven McKail, who once owned Marvie's Caribbean Cuisine in Coram. That restaurant's standout coconut-curry chicken is also on the menu at McKail's new spot, a renovation of a drive-through market that he's painted with bright green trim, is slightly smaller than his old digs but the drive-through window remains. McKail is known for occasionally cooking jerk salmon or lobster tail besides the usual chicken; in addition to the "yard food" of oxtail, curry shrimp and red snapper, beef patties with cocoa bread and carrot cake are also on the roster.
More info: 407A Patchogue Rd, Port Jefferson Station. 631-743-9500. caribflav.com. Open daily for lunch and dinner.