Jamaican Me Hungry
An oasis of Caribbean cuisine in the heart of New Rochelle at A Place 2 Go.
Most every entrée at Caribbean-American bistro A Place 2 Go, including this plate of jumbo shrimp sautéed with vegetables in a ginger plum sauce, is under $20 and, according to reviewer Julie Ruggirello, delicious.
A Place 2 Go
273 North Ave, New Rochelle
(914) 365-2525; aplace2gowestchester.com
You may walk past the front entrance before finding A Place 2 Go, but this Caribbean-American hidden gem is worth the search.
Enter to discover an always-bustling bar area with bare white walls that make it seem unfinished. The dining room, however, decorated with portraits of famous musicians, is much cheerier. If you’re seated in the raised section, watch your cocktail intake or risk tripping onto the tables in the center of the room, as one diner I witnessed did, emerging unharmed (except for a slightly bruised ego).
If you’re not familiar with Caribbean (heavy on the Jamaican influence) fare, ask your server for a suggestion—diners at the table next to you might chime in with ideas as well. The waiters will tell you that everything is good (they’re not lying) and help you get started with some appetizers, which are mostly fried. Order the coconut shrimp, crunchy with a syrupy-sweet coconut flavor, and jerk-chicken spring rolls, which are well-seasoned, expertly fried (crispy and no grease marks left on your fingers), and served with an all-purpose sweet ginger-plum sauce that pops up in other dishes.
The oxtail at A Place 2 Go is braised in a Caribbean mirepoix and served in its own gravy.
The codfish cakes are fried, flavorful, and served with the same addictive Scotch-bonnet aoli as the decent, but skip-able, crab cakes. Calamari is standard in a good way; the marinara sauce is fresh with just a hint of a kick, making it a good option for those with spice sensitivities. If you’re a heat junkie, try the pepper shrimp—it’s hot enough to get you sweating, but not so much as to cover up the delicate, almost floral, flavors of the pepper.
As you might expect, the menu is composed of mainly classic Caribbean dishes like braised oxtail and jerk chicken, which are both delicious; the oxtail is served in its own gravy and falls off the bone, while the jerk chicken is juicy with crisp skin, and the dish’s heat is kicked up with a spicy relish. The Dutch pot chicken, marinated and then fried, is juicy, tender, and crunchy all at the same time and served with some of the rich oxtail gravy for dipping and mustardy slaw to lighten up what could seem like a heavy meal. Red snapper escovitch, served whole or fileted, is breaded and fried, with a delicate, flaky flesh and the aforementioned spicy vegetable relish, the perfect complement to brighten up the plate and wake up your taste buds. The shrimp stir-fry, although tasty and enjoyable, should be saved for those who can’t handle heat.
Most entrées come with a side; go with the sweet fried plantains or rice and peas (this really means rice with beans, and is reminiscent of Cajun dirty rice). Baked macaroni and cheese is also a winner; the cheesy goodness outshines the sometimes-overcooked pasta.
Desserts are not listed on the menu, but the Jamaican black cake, made with lots of rum and dried fruit, is moist and not too sweet, and far better than the much-maligned fruitcakes that rear their ugly heads during the holidays. Sweet-potato pudding is not pudding at all, more like a dense brownie made with warm spices, and perfect for those who don’t normally enjoy sweets. The whipped cream and maraschino cherry garnishes almost detract from the simple, rich desserts, but they shouldn't stop you from enjoying every last bite.
You may come for the food, but you’ll stay for the half-price house cocktails during Happy Hour (4 to 7 pm Tuesday to Sunday) and live music on Thursday and Friday nights. Comedy performances are held on the last Thursday of every month, and draw larger crowds than weeknight dining. The only negative to the good vibes of live performances is that bathrooms are located behind the stage, which may make for some awkward bathroom breaks.
If you think you’ll be having more than a few of the sweet and peppery Dark and Stormy cocktails, take the train. A Place 2 Go is across the street from the New Rochelle Metro-North station, making it a good stop before a night out in the City.
Regulars and first-timers alike are welcomed and greeted individually by Chef Chrissy Crisp, who checks in during the meal to make sure everyone is enjoying the food. As he explained on my second visit, the food is so good because it comes from the soul, and I have no trouble believing that.