By Becky Billingsley
Wednesday, May 30, 2012, Myrtle Beach - Jerry Serrette likes to eat great Caribbean food, and when he moved to Myrtle Beach from New York he decided to open his first restaurant so he could enjoy the cuisine he loves.
Caribbean Island Grill has been open almost a month off U.S. 501 at 3rd Avenue South, and so far his customers are also digging the dishes Serrette enjoys. He hired cooks with roots in Jamaica, Trinidad and the U.S.A. to create a menu of island flavors with a nod to American cuisine.
"It's not just Jamaican," he said on May 29. "It's an entire Caribbean flavor. I thought this area could a restaurant like that."
For him, great Caribbean cuisine means Ox Tail so good you lick your fingers afterwards, and whole fish cooked fresh to order.
The decor hasn't changed dramatically from when the little eatery was the Chicken Spot, but now there's reggae playing at a medium-loud level. If you like the music, you can take home one of several CDs for $5 apiece.
Diners order at the counter and pay when the food is ready. There are two- and four-top booths and tables inside, or you can sit outside at an umbrella-topped picnic table. It was a little warm (but not intolerable) inside; perhaps there are air conditioning issues to be worked out with the landlord.
The menu isn't long. It starts with Patties ($2.70), which are flaky turnovers filled with beef, chicken or vegetables. Our party of four tried the beef, and it was a pleasing comfort food-type treat that was not spicy.
One of my dining companions ordered Jerk Chicken ($7.50), and although Serrette warned him it was spicy, my friend didn't think it was overly so and enjoyed it.
All meals come with a choice of white rice or rice with peas, caramelized plantains, cooked cabbage, cornbread and a small amount of lettuce/tomato salad. That's something I love about island cuisine - it's healthy and nutritionally balanced.
Another friend, a local chef, had Curry Goat and liked it, while his wife had Ox Tail and did indeed lick her fingers afterwards.
I tried Escoveitch Fish and loved the whole (head and all) fried spot crusted in slightly spicy seasoning and smothered in sauteed bell peppers and onions. We all enjoyed the plantains, cabbage and peas 'n' rice, but while the cornbread had a nice flavor, it was a tad on the dry side.
Other entree choices ($6.50-$10) include Curry Shrimp or Chicken, and Stew Chicken or Beef. I wanted to try the Roti, but they were out. Serrette explained it is sort of like a Caribbean-style wrap or soft taco.
I'd also like to try their Fried Chicken, which is the only American dish on the menu.
This restaurant is next to a gas station, and you can park anywhere on the gas station property except where you'd block a pump. I parked behind the restaurant against the tree line, but Serrette said it's also okay to park in front of the gas station.
Caribbean Island Grill is at 1346 U.S. 501 in Myrtle Beach, and the number is (843) 443-4213. It's open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays.