1316 Antioch Pike. 832-3547
Call to verify hours
A few weeks ago, I received a flyer announcing the opening of Caribbean Hut Restaurant. “Come and enjoy a taste of the islands,” it beckoned. Having fond memories of some trips to the Caribbean, I could hardly wait. So last week, I invited a friend and her boys to join me and my children for dinner. But I thought I’d better call just to make sure the restaurant was open before I drove all the way out to 1316 Antioch Pike.
“Hello, Caribbean Hut Restaurant.”
“Hello, could you tell me what time you’re open until?”
“I think about 6.”
“Oh, only until 6?”
“Umm, probably? Your flyer says you’re open until 9 at night.”
“We weren’t busy enough to stay open until 9. Sometimes we stay open until 7. But tonight we will probably close earlier.”
“So are you not serving dinner?”
“Did you want to have dinner?”
“That was what we were thinking.”
“What time were you thinking of eating?”
“Around dinnertime, like maybe 6:30 or 7.”
“What time can you get here?”
“We can probably get there around 6:30, I think.”
“OK, we’ll wait for you.”
“How will you know it’s us?”
“How many are you?”
“Two adults and four children.”
“Do you all want dinner?”
“OK, we’ll wait for you.”
Anyone who’s ever been to the Caribbean will take that conversation as a matter of course, typical of the way business is conducted on the islands. But the Caribbean Hut worker was a woman of her word. We headed out from Nashville just past 6, taking Nolensville Road to avoid the notorious traffic pileups on I-24reportedly now alleviated by the completion of constructiononly to encounter traffic-lock anyway.
When we got to the restaurant at 6:40 p.m., we were greeted by four young children sitting at a table on the front porch, one of whom went in to announce our arrival. Inside were two womenone server, one cook. “Were you the ones who called?” one asked me. “Yes, thank you for waiting for us.” “No problem,” she replied with a smile.
Just as Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is not an actual shack, the Caribbean Hut is not a hut. It is a small stone house that has been refurbished into a one-room restaurant in the front and a nightclub in the rear. The club, which occasionally has live music but typically features a DJ, has a small bar/seating area and a large room for dancing. It has been open weekends for two years and is quite popular with reggae fans.
The dining room is painted in cobalt-blue and terracotta, with a cheerful decor one would find in a casual island restaurant. The menu is short, and save for fresh fish and conch, it offers many of the dishes one might find in Jamaica: curried chicken, curried goat, curried potatoes, beef patties, fried plantains, roti, oxtail and beans and rice. The server takes your food order at the table, though you will want to check out the large repertoire of soft drinks lined up behind the counter. The colorful though unfamiliar array of exotically named beverages caused some degree of choice paralysis among the children; no such worries for the adults, thanks to the cold Red Stripe beer in the cooler.
With the exception of the callaloo soup and oxtail, which they were out of that evening, we sampled the whole menuwhich made sense, considering its brevity and its lack of descriptive entries. What we ascertained is that the chicken and goat curries can be ordered à la carte or as a plate, which will come with rice and curried potato. The jerk chicken comes as a plate. And the ripe plantains, sliced into inch-thick nuggets and sautéed with butter and a bit of sugar and salt, come on the side of most plates or can be ordered à la carte.
Roti is an unleavened whole wheat bread cooked in a skillet to the size of a platter; it has very little flavor and is quite dry, which actually makes it the perfect wrap or sop for the curries. There are three types of beans listed for the beans and rice: black, red or black-pea, but they don’t actually cook every kind every day. Child-sized plates are assembled on request.
The initial communication challenges detracted not one bit from our experience at Caribbean Hut, nor from our enjoyment of the food. Even the children liked the curries, which they noted were spicy but not too hot. There are no veggies and plenty of bones in the stew-like dishes, but the meats are cooked to fork tenderness. The goat in particular was very flavorful, and if you are a fan of that meat, you will definitely want to try this very popular Jamaican dish. The jerk chickenthe term refers to the spice rub, not the poor bird’s personalityconsisted of legs and wings; though it was well-seasoned, it was not hot, somewhat disappointing to me, but suitable to the children’s sensitive and picky palates.
There are two types of rice listedCaribbean cook-up and calypsoand we weren’t sure which one was on the side of our plates, but it had a bit of a kick. Our only disappointment was the Jamaican beef patties, which came frozen from a box instead of being freshly made.
Everything at the Hut is served in Styrofoam boxes with plastic utensils; plates are $6 to $8. Our group of six, with three beers and four Caribbean sodas, ate for $52, about what one would pay for the same meal on a Negril beach. Caribbean Hut is well worth the drive from town, but be sure to call first to let them know you’re coming; they’ll wait on you.