It’s my last free Friday for the summer. Next week we go back on our regular schedule, which on the plus side means shorter days Monday through Thursday. At least once during the summer, now on my free Fridays, I like to wander downtown, look in the shops, and try a new place to eat. On this rainy Friday I selected Island Blend Jerk and BBQ.
It still amazes me the variety of cuisine that is now available in Greenville. You would have been hard pressed to find anything like Island Blend anywhere in the Upstate even ten years ago. Opened by Jamaican Chef Cecil Lawson in 2004, the small cafe is located on Main Street in between Washington and McBee.
The place is small, with about 14 tables, and appears to be open only for lunch. In keeping with the name and cuisine, one wall is adorned with with a palm tree and beach photo-mural, and the tasteful decor features the Jamaican green-yellow-red-black color motif. Everything seems quite relaxed, with reggae playing in the background, naturally.
Jamaican jerk is the specialty. Several meats and styles are available in three sizes. There is a sampler with small portion of meat and rice with beans for $3. For $6, you get a larger portion with vegetables and fried plantain, and an even larger portion can be had or $8.
As I stood at the counter looking at the menu, I noticed curried goat. I ask the lady behind the counter if that was real goat, and the reply came back with the sweetest Jamaican accent you could imagine, "Now you wouldn’t expect us to serve fake goat, would you? It’s very good." I politely replied that I wasn’t that adventurous today, and ordered the jerk chicken, an animal I’ve at least eaten before. I also noted that oxtail is one of the meats available. There are also some limited seafood options.
While the food portion of the menu is limited, one entire page is devoted to beverages – specifically, lightly carbonated fruit beverages from Jamaica. I ordered a grapefruit sode with my meal, and it was wonderful.
When my jerk chicken arrived, I wondered if I should have ordered the smallest size instead of the medium. The portions were huge. I’m not sure I want to see how big the $8 plate is, but $6 gets you more than enough for lunch. The flavors and spices blended nicely, with the jerk flavoring giving an added kick. Nothing was overly hot. If I have one criticism, it was that the chicken was a bit dry. If served with the rice alone, this might have been a problem, but the plantain, and grapefruit soda kept everything in balance.
I love ethnic cuisine, and I’m glad to see this option available in Greenville. The food is good, and I wish that Island Blend were open in the evenings.