There's a huge Jamaican and West Indian population in the western part of Broward County. While immigration to South Florida is perpetual, it seemed as though the seeds of this community began arriving in the late 1970s. As we wandered around Sunrise and Weston, eating everything from slow-cooked oxtail to salty codfish for breakfast, we learned many Jamaicans at first settled in Miami Gardens. Later Lauderhill became the destination, where a nearby bus terminal provided transportation. Soon after, restaurants and markets began cropping up, and a sort of Little Kingston started developing.
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. Aunt I's, which has outposts in both Lauderhill and Miami Gardens, began in the kitchen of Inez Grant shortly after she moved her family to South Florida from Kingston.
"Our original business was suit manufacturing, but my mother was always known for her cooking," said Cary Grant, who today runs the restaurant. "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 he and his older brother, Winston, ran around the neighborhood making deliveries.
Centuries of colonization, slavery, and immigration have all helped Jamaican food what it is today. Next time you're hungry, head west, and try to keep an eye on the road.
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