This time of year, you may find yourself overtaken by a particular flavor of malaise that can only be eased with vacation planning. While the next few months may be barren of three-day weekends and company holidays, the promise of a few beach-filled days is often just the brand of anticipation needed to see one through these monotonous times.
But maybe your piggy bank is anemic or you dislike flying over open bodies of water. Maybe the prolific availability of tropical cocktails cannot outweigh the clamor of cruise-ship vacationers eager to gulp down some local flavor. Maybe you need the Jamaican getaway a little closer to home.
Enter The Island Spot. With one location in Carrollton and one in Oak Cliff, this restaurant delivers Jamaican and Caribbean cuisines to North and South Dallas. We visited to the Carrollton location, which is tucked into a nondescript shopping center off of Midway and Frankford. Outside, a few sun-beaten artificial flowers rim the patio, and inside, faux shutters frame photos of beachside living, creating a window to the Caribbean.
While this artifice is charmingly cheesy, the brunch menu is no laughing matter. Entrees are slotted into one of two categories: "Jamerican" or authentic (referred to on the menu as "From Di Yawd.") The former category includes crab cakes, an egg plate and a host of jerk-inspired dishes, with prices ranging from $8.95 to $14.95.
The jerk chicken and waffles ($13.95) might at first seem an anathema to jerk chicken. Jerk is often compared to barbecue in that it can encompass a variety of techniques, marinades and spice rubs, and it's a source of personal and regional pride for those who make jerk meats. And just as some will insist that nothing but a sheet of butcher paper come into contact with their brisket, so too might one look at a blistered jerk chicken leg atop a waffle and think that an egregious act has been committed.
But there's nothing egregious about The Island Spot's take on chicken and waffles. Here, a few pieces of jerk chicken — perfumed with signature jerk flavors of allspice and scotch bonnet peppers — are grilled until the sugars caramelize, almost blackening. And while the skin affords big bursts of warm spice and smoke, the meat carries those flavors throughout, falling from the bone at nary a touch.
This chicken needs no accompaniment, but The Island Spot has taken great care to craft its rendition of chicken and waffles so that the other components compliment the chicken, which is paired with a great, cake-like waffle. The toothsome, sweet waffle makes an ideal base for the highly seasoned chicken, and the pair are made better still with a drizzle of syrup, tangy jerk sauce and floral mango chutney. In more traditional versions, this dish can seem disconnected, with gravy or syrup doing overtime to bring some sense of cohesion to the plate. The Island Spot's rendition is unified, and we would challenge you to find a better version of chicken and waffles in DFW.
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On the less Americanized side of the brunch menu, entrees range from $13.95 to to $20.95. If you've ever wanted a reprieve from Benedicts or biscuits and gravy, this is your chance. Try the whole red snapper, served steamed or escoveitched; a sauté of cod and ackee fruit; or braised oxtails. Expect a side of simple, soulful rice and beans and cabbage to be served alongside these hearty dishes. The goat curry ($15.50) continued the trend of the jerk chicken in that the meat was fall-apart tender. A current of earthy, savory goodness ran throughout this curry, imbuing the meat and sauce with a flavor profile akin to a file powder-driven gumbo. A few chunks of sauce-soaked potatoes punctuated the curry, which otherwise remained a meat-and-bones dish.
Of course, you give Dallasites some Jamaican food, and they'll want umbrella-adorned drinks to go with it. A bevy of tropical drinks awaits you, from those served in whole pineapples to those that arrive sporting a flaming lime. The Negril punch ($9) doesn't disappoint with its requisite umbrella and highly classified combination of fruit juices and Appleton rum.
Who needs a vacation when there are pink drinks and goat curry to be had right here at home?
The Island Spot, 309 W. Jefferson Blvd and 2661 Midway Road, Suite 105, Carrollton. Brunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekends.