Caribbean Cuisine Plus More
Caribbean Cuisine is the quintessential strip-mall restaurant. It's small, cheap, slightly alien, clean, well-run and -- since its recent relocation from an invisible flank position at a big strip mall at 15445 East Iliff Avenue to a much more obvious (and larger) spot down the street at 17200 East Iliff (at Buckley), in another strip mall anchored by a Starbucks and a King Sooper's -- big enough to handle a rush, but not so big that the emptiness between rushes is intimidating. Owner Vivienne Donaldson, her kin and her crew are dedicated in just that way that restaurant families must be in order to make a go of their dreams: willing to work long hours, to greet every customer with a smile even if he's the only customer of the day, to cook everything to order and right every time. Walking into the place, you have no doubt you're in a place run by a family who wants you to love its food. The walls are almost bare, painted with just a few slashes of abstract color, and the decor consists of family photos on the counter, a half-dozen black tables, a cooler for drinks, a few pictures of Bob Marley and a Jamaican flag. The menu is short and tight, too, offering only the best of the Jamaican, Caribbean and American soul-food cuisine that the Donaldsons know so well. But what the kitchen does with this menu is pure magic, turning out fried plantain that's sweet and starchy and pan-seared in gobs of butter; delicious cornbread; authentic, pepper-shot curries; and jerk chicken served over rice and peas for around ten bucks. The Jamaican meat patties and coco bread are pure street food, only served under a roof -- with ground beef or chicken, red-pepper flakes, onion and spices sealed inside a baked pastry shell that tastes like a giant Cheez-It. I love the oxtail and the curried goat served roughly on the bone, and while I haven't tried them yet, the kitchen also offers some serious traditional Caribbean favorites like boiled bananas with dumplings, callaloo (like gumbo, the way it's done in Trinidad and Tobago) and ackee; all are listed on the bottom of the menu, available with 24 hours' notice. Caribbean Cuisine also has a special children's menu offering fried chicken and mac, kids' curries and jerk -- not mini-pizzas or fish sticks or junk. For an authentic, everyday taste of the islands, you won't do better than this Aurora strip mall.
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