Cook's Tour

by Betsy Thaggard

Shaggy's Caribbean Grill: Exotic flavors, simple ingredients

Caribbean food may sound exotic, but the ingredients aren't. That's what Shaggy's king o' the menu Pete Udemi assured me when I called to arrange this Cook's Tour. With dishes called T'ing Deh and Ital Rundown, you expect exotic.

Probably the most unusual element is canned coconut milk. Pete recommends the Thai Kitchen brand, which was on the shelf at my neighborhood Fresh Plus. "Not sweetened coconut milk, like Coco Loco," he warns. "That's for Pina Coladas."

Both recipes Pete offered for this story, stir-fried coconut shrimp and rice and peas use coconut milk and other mainstream foods. You can get everything at Central Market, he says. And we did.

Coconut Shrimp with Rice and Peas

Stir-Fried Coconut Shrimp with Rice and Peas (click picture for recipe)

Although Caribbean cuisine tastes exotic, it's really quite simple

Back at Shaggy's, standing in the sweltering kitchen with Pete preparing the shrimp and a dreadlocked waiter picking up an order of jerk chicken, I caught myself slipping into a J. Peterman-style reverie:

We sat talking, reinventing our pasts on the perfect Caribbean day: crotchety fans pushing hot air and reggae music around the room. Sultry sun glaring through the open doors. Street sounds composed by everyday life on...South Congress?

The atmosphere in Shaggy's can do that to you. And that's a good thing. Co-owner Ric Fox talks about frequent family trips to Jamaica, both his own and his old buddy Pete's. They and three other guys--Pete's the only one who doesn't work for the software company Tivoli--set out to create a comfortable hangout where their friends could eat island food and enjoy a generous selection of microbrewery beers. Their regular customers, including those who hail from the Caribbean, agree that they succeeded.

Shaggy's offers a comfortable atomosphere and tasty food

Photography by Robyn Eden