On the West Indian strip of Old Winter Garden Rd. between Hiawassee Rd and Pine Hills Rd, one establishment closes and another one takes its place. A while ago this spot was occupied by Naraine’s Bakery, who has since moved somewhere by the West Oaks Mall. Now another Bakery with an interesting addition has taken up roots.
Daily baking of West Indian breads and pastries is done by an in house baker. Some sweets are sourced from other local vendors. But the real Caribbean food is made by a grandma. There are three generations of lineage passing on customs and old recipes. The youngest handles the counter and dashes in the back to make sure foods are prepared in a timely manner.
What is a snackette? As the name suggests it has to do with snacks. In the Caribbean, there are endless small little nibbles. Several bagged and bottled goodies line the shelves. Fresh made juices and concocted portions from roots and barks are served chilled. No alcohol is served. Traditionally, a snackette serves as an extension to ones home as they entertain neighbors and friends.
This place has managed to capture that extended family vibe. There are copies of West Indian newspapers laying around to take or read while waiting. A few tables and chairs allows for seated dining. One big absence, as in most West Indian restaurants in Orlando is a bar, or serving of alcohol.
The cooked portion of the menu is a compilation of Caribbean cuisine. They boast a full Caribbean Vegetarian menu and meats. Their plastic take out containers are snap shut and almost spill proof. How many times have you ordered something with a sauce, like curry and when you got home the liquid is all over the bag or in your car? That will probably not happen from here. Most of their pastries and breads are individually wrapped for freshness and cleanliness.
Black Eye – The famous Asian Black or Red Bean cake, sold in Asian stores, packaged from as far as New York stored for who knows how long. It is baked daily here. What a difference! A bite into this reveals very thick filling versus thick pastry dough in store bought varieties. The dough is effortlessly flaky, just there to hold the filling. Very rare to find this quality in Orlando.
Coconut Choka – made from roasted whole dry coconuts. The dried coconuts are spilt, roasted, grated and mixed with spices to give a shredded yet moist texture. This is an extremely labor intensive dish that not many restaurants even attempt to make. Well balanced spiciness with distinct coconut flavor.
Curry Shrimps – little nuggets of succulent shrimp in a well balanced, slightly spicy curry broth. The spices strike a delicate balance that does not leave a heaviness on the palate.
Dhal Pouri – popularly served at East Indians of Caribbean origin weddings and major religious events. This is a flat bread like item stuffed with grind flavored split peas. Like every bread it is the perfect vessel to sop up juicy curries and fried items. Tender, spongy with great absorbing powers. The dhal (split peas filling) was delicately seasoned to leave no burning sensation in the stomach.
Dhal – split peas mashed to a liquid. This is a classic re-creation of East Indian style dhals of all different preparations. West Indians boil split peas in water and add spices. At the end a mixture of toasted garlic and geera (cumin seeds) is added to give a distinct pungent flavor. Delicately balanced as to not overpower any flavors.
Jalebi – popular Indian sweet delicacy transplanted to the Caribbean. This is wheat flour deep fried in a circle then soaked in sugar syrup. The crystallized sugar interior gives a nice crunch. Great for cooling off the palate after a hot curry.
Peanut Punch – made with crushed peanuts and milk. Heavy peanut flavor with creamy milkiness cools off any lingering spiciness. This is made fresh in house.
The concept here allows for a family or anyone seeking to adventure into real Caribbean food. Service is very amicable and gentle. Questions are answered in detail with no rush or pressure. There is no big extravagant buffet with items sitting for who knows how long at what temperature. Everything is cooked or heated to order.
It is always refreshing to see ethnic restaurants willing to share their originality with the world. If these few items that I’ve tried is a testament to their consistency, then I can’t wait to try other items.