Jamaican Restaurants in West Broward: Hidden Gems Everywhere

For a slideshow of Auntie I's Jamaican Restaurant, click here.

Jamaican Restaurants in West Broward: Hidden Gems Everywhere
Aunt I's co-owner Tanya "Top Cat" Cunningham; akee and saltfish. For a slideshow of Auntie I's Jamaican Restaurant, click here.

U.S. Highway 27 marks the border between the Everglades and suburbia. The contrast is stark: On one side of the highway, a paved, subdivided, and strip-malled South Florida stretches all the way to the ocean; on the other, mangroves and squat emerald saw-grass marshes go as far as the eye can see. At 8:30 p.m. on a recent Wednesday, the setting sun cast orange, magenta, and violet stripes across the sky.

At the Seminole Truck Stop, a few leather-clad bikers pulled in and made their way under a thatched tiki hut for a drink. A hundred yards away, long-distance truckers waddled into the gas station's quick mart to restock on 5-Hour Energy. From behind a tall wooden fence came the pungent smell of charred meat. It was the first inkling of a storm yet to come.

Near the fence was a pop-up tent; above it, a red neon sign that read simply, "FOOD." Under the tent sat a countertop deep fryer, a bright steel heating case, and a wide cutting board with a gleaming cleaver. Lenox Frater, who's short with close-cropped hair, bounced between splitting up big hunks of jerked pork ($8) and rolling out sticks of raw dough to make Jamaican fry bread, a doughnut-like sweet treat — then dropping them into bubbling oil. In a high-pitched voice, he alternately chatted into a blinking Bluetooth and reluctantly divulged some of the ingredients in his jerk sauce: scallions, thyme, and scotch bonnet peppers.

Aunt I's oxtail, prepared using Mom's recipe.
Aunt I's oxtail, prepared using Mom's recipe.

Location Info

Map

Auntie I's

1178 N. State Road 7
Sunrise, FL 33313

Category: Restaurant > Caribbean

Region: Sunrise/Plantation

Donna's Caribbean Restaurant

3294 U.S. 441
Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33309

Category: Restaurant > Jamaican

Region: Lauderhill

Hammonds' Bakery

4224 NW 12th St.
Lauderhill, FL 33313-5817

Category: Restaurant > Jamaican

Region: Sunrise/Plantation

Seminole Truck Stop/Cafe 27

4690 U.S. Highway 27
Weston, FL 33331

Category: Services

Region: Weston

Details

Aunt I's Jamaican Restaurant, 1178 N. State Road 7, Lauderhill; 954-321-0190.

Donna's Caribbean Restaurant, 3294 N. State Road 7, Lauderdale Lakes; 954-733-3353.

Hammond's Bakery, 4224 NW 12th St., Lauderhill; 954-583-3554.

Seminole Truck Stop/Cafe 274690 U.S. Highway 27, Weston; 954-434-0660.

For a slideshow of Auntie I's Jamaican Restaurant, click here.

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A few hours later, he was just one in a sea of people gyrating to a mix of pounding dancehall, chilled-out reggae, and fast-paced Latin rhythms. For about six years, the truck stop has been hosting Jamaican night on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and hundreds, by some reports thousands, of people gather on the edge of civilization for the party. Frater quickly ran out of escoveitch fish ($10): whole red snappers, flash fried, then topped with a thin, vinegary escoveitch sauce made with wide slices of onion and red pepper and chunks of numbingly spicy scotch bonnet peppers. Every so often, you could hear someone laugh, cough, or wince in pain as he realized he'd bitten into a pepper and burning began.

There's a huge Jamaican and West Indian population in the western part of Broward County. Driving north and south along U.S. 441 near Sunrise Boulevard is a dangerous proposition for an ethnic-food enthusiast. Caribbean markets, roti shops that sell the Jamaican version of south Asian flat bread, and Jamaican bakeries easily distract the eye from the road. An endless stream of Caribbean restaurants boasting island-style cooking and under-$5 lunch specials kept us driving in the far right of the three-lane road, ready to pull off and get eating.

Although South Florida is often treasured for its endless beaches and pristine weather, the myriad people who over the decades have moved here in search of a better life, bringing their culture and cuisine with them, are what really makes the area special. Consider driving west the next time you're hungry.

Wayne Hammond, owner of Hammond's Bakery, says part of the reason so many Jamaicans now call Lauderhill home is due to the bus terminal on 12th Street and NW 47th Avenue.

"It gave people the ability to move about, to get to work," he says. "When Jamaican businesses started opening there — you had bakeries, restaurants, grocery stores."

In a shopping center directly across U.S. 441 sits Aunt I's Jamaican Restaurant, which has another outpost in Miami Gardens, according to owner Cary Grant. The I comes from his mother, Inez Grant, who had moved the family from Kingston to South Florida a decade earlier.

For a slideshow of Auntie I's Jamaican Restaurant, click here.

"Our original business was suit manufacturing, but my mother was always known for her cooking," Grant says. "When she came to America, her thing was she always wanted to open her own restaurant."

So Inez began cooking out of her house while Cary and his older brother, Winston, ran around the neighborhood making deliveries.

The oxtail and curried goat are still prepared according to his mother's recipes. Both can be had with two sides: rice and pigeon peas, and sweet stewed cabbage with carrot for a mere $11.49. The oxtail meat was fall-apart tender with rich, slippery chunks of fat clinging to each bite. Grant wouldn't give up his mother's oxtail recipe, but he offered a peek into how the curried goat, a deep greenish stew with chunks of fork-tender meat attached to bone, is made.

"You have to boil the curry [powder] to a very high temperature for it to break down," he says. "Sometimes you even have to burn it in a pan."

After that, the curry-powder slurry is added to a pressure cooker with black pepper, onions, and garlic and cooked for 45 minutes to an hour.

Few communities seem as adept at making more with less as Jamaicans. They know how to make use of secondary cuts; the daily specials at Aunt I's on a weekday afternoon were stewed cow foot and goat head.

The story of Hammond's Bakery bears many similarities to Aunt I's. Wayne's parents, who owned two bakeries in Jamaica called Hammond's Finger Lickin' Good, relocated the family to South Florida in 1979 so the children could attend school.

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