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Family, Food and Fun Define Caribbean Style at Taste of the Islands

By S. Mathur

Even though Plano, TX is home to diverse cultures, it was lacking one thing: a Caribbean restaurant where homesick native Caribbean and travelers alike could go to get their fix of jerk chicken, beef patties, roti wraps and ginger beer. When Taste of the Islands opened in 2004 as restaurant, community center and grocery store all in one, it filled a real need in the area.

Taste of the Islands is very much oriented to families and communities. According to Rehan Bacchus, owner, "Taste of the Islands is a simple family restaurant. We want to keep it as close to the Caribbean as possible, where everyone is welcomed and they can enjoy some home-cooked Caribbean cuisine in a chilled and relaxing atmosphere."

The food consists of classic Caribbean favorites - jerk chicken, stew chicken, oxtail stew, beef patties, and authentic bottled drinks. The cooking is home-style, with the spices pitched just right. The vegetable sides, usually cabbage and spinach, keep the regular diners coming back for more. The shrimp and fish dishes have their own devoted following.

The decor is basic, and the focus is on the food. The food generally earns rave reviews, with some admitting that the curry goat is actually better than mother makes it at home. While "doubles" - a favorite Caribbean breakfast street food consisting of spicy chickpeas and sauce sandwiched between two pieces of fried dough - are not officially on the menu, the owners can make them on request.

The grocery section has frozen foods and spices that customers can take home to cook. There are also Jamaican cream sodas, and a small but excellent bakery section. Those wanting to order takeout can call in their orders, and even order online.

Though located in an unpretentious strip mall, Taste of the Islands is a favorite location for weddings and other celebrations in the community. The hall attached to the restaurant hosts celebrations - weddings, birthday parties, graduations- and regular offerings of reggae and other music concerts and dance nights.

A major attraction is the Friday Comedy Club, when stand-up comics perform for diners and visitors. One comic's hilarious reworking of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales might even leave you feeling sorry for the big bad wolf.

On occasion, Taste of the Islands will take the party on the road, participating in parades and celebrations like Guyanese Independence Day and the Dallas Carnival. Bacchus says, "We are a part of the Caribbean Association of North Texas and we have a Family Picnic in one of the Plano Parks every Summer. We also do fundraisers for communities here and also for different organizations back in the Islands."

Taste of the Islands has just celebrated its 11th anniversary, and in that short time has already become an important part of the Caribbean community in the Plano, TX area.

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