Good parking has been responsible for more niche Long Island eateries than you might guess. Whether their background is Chinese or Nigerian or Thai or Ecuadorian, local restaurateurs have realized that the schlep into Queens or Brooklyn coupled with the lack of parking once they get there is a good reason to open a comparable spot in the (relatively) parking-blessed counties of Nassau and Suffolk.
That’s what inspired Renee and Courtney Davis to open Trini Bites in Lynbrook, at any rate. "We were so frustrated having to go all the way to Liberty Avenue in Queens for Trinidadian food," Renee said.
In April, Trini Bites debuted its weekly pop-up takeout on Atlantic Avenue in Lynbrook, in what for many years was A La Carte Cooking School and is now a rental kitchen. There, every Saturday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., customers can pick up the true taste of Trinidad — while their cars repose in the capacious lot in back.
In the kitchen, Renee uses two spatulas to manhandle a roti (rich flatbread) that’s cooking on a cast-iron tawa (griddle pan). "It’s not supposed to come out flat," she explains, "it’s supposed to look like a busted-up cloth — that’s why we call the dish ‘buss-up bites.’"
Each of Trini Bites buss-up bites is a roti accompanied by a protein — curry chicken, curry beef, curry shrimp or a vegetarian mix of chickpeas, callaloo greens and potatoes. If you’re thinking that sounds a bit Indian, you’re right. More than a third of Trinidad’s population has roots in India, descended from Indians who were brought to the Caribbean as indentured servants. The island is also home to a small Chinese community which Trini Bites honors with fried wontons, filled with either curry chicken or curry beef.
Also available are doubles, a Trinidadian street food consisting of fried bread encasing a filling of curried chickpeas (i.e. channa dal). "They were so good, people always wanted two of them so they started calling them doubles," Renee said. Doubles are a great excuse to drizzle four of Davis’s homemade "accents": tamarind sauce, cucumber chutney, mango chow (chutney) and spicy "peppa" sauce.
Both Davises grew up in Trinidadian families in Brooklyn, but didn’t meet until they were students at University of Buffalo. Courtney went on to be a financial consultant; Renee got a nursing degree and managed corporate nursing education at Northwell before leaving in 2018 to focus on their three kids. But they were both passionate about food in general, and Trinidadian food in particular, and had long talked about opening up a restaurant of their own.
During the pandemic they decided it was time to pull the trigger. Unable to find the right location for a restaurant, they decided to get their feet wet with a weekly pop-up that would allow them to perfect their recipes and start to cultivate a customer base. As predicted, they’ve attracted Trinidadians from the immediate area, but also non-Caribbeans from such points east as Baldwin, Freeport, Centerport and Islip.
One thing Renee Davis misses as a provider of takeout meals is the opportunity to watch her customers enjoy the food. The restaurant they hope to open, she said, will be laid out like a sushi bar, "so people can watch us cook and I can watch them eat."
Trini Bites is open every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 4:30 to 8 p.m. at 32 Atlantic Ave., Lynbrook, 516-253-8208, trini-bites.com.