Mr. Foodie here. As regular readers may know, I am Ms. Foodie’s fulltime tasting assistant. I also occasionally help out with photos, but this is my first full post here at What to Eat in Birmingham. In order to keep pace with all the yummy tips coming in from our readers, I am going to help out by writing a post here and there from now on.
Ms. Foodie and I were jonesin’ for some Jerk chicken as tends to happen from time to time. We decided to check out a tip about a restaurant that sounded like it might be a great new place to get our fix.
We pulled up to Tropical Grill, which we recognized from the sign – it features the Jamaican flag and cartoon palm trees. I am a sucker for signage with cartoon palm trees. There’s a very convenient parking lot in the back.
As soon as we walked through the door, we were greeted by the owner with a broad and welcoming smile. Something about his enthusiasm and charm tipped us off that this place was probably going to be good. We later found out the owner is from Montego Bay, and actually owned a restaurant in Jamaica years ago. After moving to the US and working in a factory for many years, he jumped at the chance to start a restaurant when this current space opened up. (Longtime Birminghamsters may remember that the previous restaurant in this location, Gwen’s Caribbean Kitchen, closed awhile ago. We have heard it was beloved by many though unfortunately we never had a chance to try it.)
Here’s the menu:
After some debate over which items to order, we knew we had to try the brown stew when the owner mentioned that they had just finished cooking up a fresh batch. The aforementioned Jerk Chicken made the cut, though many other tempting options made us wish we had brought some friends so we could try a number of other items like the Oxtail and Pineapple Chicken. Those will have to be for another trip. Our choices of sides included steamed broccoli, steamed cabbage, meat pie in cocoa bread, and plantains. I also had to try the DG Jamaican ginger beer.
So we sipped sodas in our booth in anticipation of our first Styrofoam clad course. I love trying new ginger beers, birch beers and root beers from mass market to small batch microbrew and anything in between. I am happy to report this “brew” was fantastic. It was a 7 out of 10 on the ginger scale…one being day old tap water and 10 being a sinus clearing sneezing fit. [For point of reference Birmingham’s Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale is 10 for me.] So DG brand ginger beer has just enough kick from the ginger to have a nice bite. It has a well rounded ginger to sweetness flavor and I could have sworn it had cane sugar in it even though when I looked on the label it was actually corn syrup. I highly recommend it.
Next up is the meat pie wrapped in cocoa bread. The meat pie is from a bakery in Atlanta. The cocoa bread was very “white bready” in the best possible way. The meat pie had spiced beef inside of a pastry shell. We both found it to be quite tasty.
The jerk chicken was served on the bone which may have been part of why the chicken was so nice and juicy. It was sweet, smoky and spicy all at once. Truly delicious. I highly recommend it.
The fresh cooked brown stew had a great medium heat to it. The rice was buttery and along with the beans served as a delicious counterpoint to the spiced chicken and potatoes of the stew. The brown sauce was not as sweet as the jerk seasonings, but we both found it equally delicious.
The plantains were perfect. Nicely sweet and browned. A bit of grease. Super tasty. The cabbage was steamed. I am used to having cabbage either raw or with a heavy dose of vinegar or both. Steaming the cabbage gave it a lightness that played off of the spicy sweet jerk chicken quite well and made it a very complimentary side.
Tropical Grill is worth the drive to Fairfield. It’s right down the street from our other favorite Jamaican place, Southern Jamaican Caribbean Restaurant, which Ms. Foodie posted about here. Ms. Foodie is looking over my shoulder and asking me to suggest that you have a progressive meal – start at one, get a few things, go to the other, get a few more. Why not? Even better would be a cook-off between the two chefs… do I smell another blog post?