Caribbean On The Cusp Of The City
Ripe Kitchen & Bar, Mount Vernon
When you invite your city pals to dine in Westchester, do they shuffle their feet and make funny noises? No more excuses—just tell them to take the subway. The #2 to the penultimate Bronx stop (with a bus connection) or the #5 to the end (plus a $7 gypsy cab) get you to this Caribbean place, one of the only Westchester restaurants with subway directions on its website. Mind blown.
The site says the building has no sign and “looks like no one’s home”—just “look out for the Chinese lanterns.” But the name is in the window, and the fare from Chef Nigel Spence—who’s worked with Emeril Lagasse, Bobby Flay, and Mario Batali—is worth a trip down this street peppered with jerk-chicken joints, past a club where you can “Feel the Vybz.” Enter the brightly colored, low-ceilinged, dimly lit house full of Jamaican art and pumping reggae, and you’re not in Westchester anymore, Toto. The staff is welcoming, too—and then the food arrives.
Spence’s Best-of-Westchester (2008) wood-smoked jerk chicken is used in all the jerk chicken dishes. Wanting to try many things without committing to a large plate, I ordered the jerk chicken quesadilla appetizer, wondering why I was ordering Mexican food in a Caribbean joint. But, at $8.95, it was almost a main course and so good that I can’t wait to have it again. Other starters include codfish spring rolls and a Cuban plantain boat. A side salad is large enough for two. Fried plantains are charred outside, creamy within.
Main courses range from the audaciously authentic (“Be careful; this curried goat is served just as in Jamaica,” notes the menu) to adaptations like Rasta pasta with shrimp, mushrooms, spinach, and cheese in a garlicky sauce. A Fish Inna Foil special—tail-on roasted red snapper—was just plain excellent, served in pumpkin broth on a bouquet of thyme, surrounded with spinach, okra, ginger, and tomato. You’ll also find Big-Ass Jerk Rib-Eye Steak, and perhaps wine-braised oxtail (seasonal). Mango mousse is the perfect ending.
But you could also go to Ripe just to drink—indulge in the house rum punch or another fruity libation, like Sexy Mother F**cker or Indecent Proposal. Happy Hour is 5 pm to 7 pm Tuesday through Friday, with $6 peppered shrimp or plantains and three-for-$9.95 tacos on Wednesdays.
151 W Sandford Blvd, Mount Vernon
(914) 665-7689 | www.riperestaurant.com