During a recent visit to Palatino Jamaican Restaurant, my entrée took longer to make it to the table than it took Food Network's Sandra Lee, Anne Burrell, and Melissa D'Arabian to cook full meals onscreen.
At this small Jamaican restaurant, there was more than an hour wait for lunch. During that time, all I heard was the whacking noise of vegetables being chopped and the ringing of a bell attached to the front door. Crowds filed in and out to pick up their food to-go. It was a smart move, because Palatino's homestyle cooking demands homestyle patience.
Owner Nadine Patrice took a seat at my table to catch her breath while she took my order. Some things, such as curried goat, weren't available, she explained. Patrice's husband, Ian Curtis -- AKA Chef Slim -- runs the tiny kitchen. Palatino's limited menu and lengthy waits are hallmarks of understaffed mom-and-pop restaurants.
Patrice and Slim bought the place, which was originally a Latin eatery, from a family member's business associate. They swapped the Latin eats for a Caribbean theme -- inspired by Nadine's Haitian roots and Slim's Jamaican ties. They covered the walls in bright, abstract paintings and placards with inspirational quotes.
Homestyle cooking usually means huge portions of warm food. It also means kindness. Patrice offered us an extra salt cod fritter to apologize for the long wait. She said the fritters ($1.50) were assembled and fried to order. Indeed, the fritter's crisp outside and creamy inside were worth the wait.
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With the restaurant, Patrice wants to capitalize on Wynwood's confluence of art and culture. During Art Walk, local artists hang their work on the walls. "Food brings cultures together, and in this area there isn't a lot of Jamaican food," Patrice says. "This is island food. Everybody can relate to it, and everybody's welcome."
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