I first noticed Island Spice while attending the Japanese Cultural Bazaar at the BTSD. We soon ate there and really enjoyed the food. But as fate would have it, after starting this Food Blog, I started trying so many different places that Island Spice kind of just faded into the background. But my memory was jarred when Jay on His Blog Casing the Joint mentioned Island Spice as part of His "rotation". So we decided to head back there for a late lunch.
Island Spice is located on Market Street, in a building that though perhaps a bit worse for wear, has a definite tropical feel; with the Tropical Plants fronting the restaurant, to the Bamboo and wood interior. There's even the requisite Bob Marley"banner" in the front window, and signed photos of various celebrities posted above the front counter.
The menu at Island Spice features less then twenty items; but each offering has it's own personality.
Our favorite items at Island Spice?
The Oxtail, is a velvety smooth and savory dish. Tender and "beefy", mildly and simply seasoned, I especially love the gelatin that surrounds the bones. Just to give you an example of the hospitality at Island Spice; we ordered an Ala Carte order of Oxtail ($5.00), and were served this perfectly decent, and quite substantial plate of food. But the "Chef" was not satisfied with the portion size, and did not charge us for it! We made sure that we covered it in our tip, but were really impressed with the hospitality.
Here's what a large "dinner" of Oxtail($10.00) looks like:
It includes wonderfully starchy and mildly sweet deep fried plantains:
And we usually forgo the Beans and Rice, and get a plate with "all vegetables". The vegetables include a wonderful braised green that reminds me a bit of collard greens, with an earthy, sweet, and slightly bitter flavor; a green bean that reminded me of soy bean, corn, and cabbage. So very wonderfully full of different flavors:
My personal favorite is the Curry Goat(Ala Carte - $5.00):
I was initially surprised at the lack of "heat", this Curry is much milder but full of spices; and totally different from other curries I've had. The mild curry proved to be a perfect palette for the mildly gamey goat. Dotted with potatoes, the curry was very tasty.
On another visit we ordered an "regular" Jerk Chicken entree($7.00):
First off, the rice is rather bland and flavorless. It was after eating this; that we decided to stay with the wonderful veggies. The Jerk Chicken was covered with the wonderful "brown" sauce. The chicken seemed to be flavored with a mild rub; and roasted. The dark pieces were pretty good, with the sweetness and taste of the spices coming through. However, the white meat was very, very dry, a hard to swallow dry. Another thing that surprised me was the lack of "heat". Every version of supposed Jerk Chicken I've had before, was quite hot and spicy. So I'm not quite sure of how Jerk Chicken is supposed to taste.
The Fried Fish (Ala Carte - $5.00):
Simply flavored with salt and pepper, with a slight hint of sour(vinegar??), and perfectly fried; the fried fish was a nice appetizer for us.
The Brown Stew Fish (Ala Carte - $5.00):
It seems to be the fried fish pictured above, with a tomato based sauce. This is quite tangy, and more then a bit salty, though really good with rice. We had no problem finishing this! The onions and spices made for a decent "rice dish".
Some Notes: Many acquaintances of mine are a bit afraid of the neighborhood, but we've never had any problems. Island Spice seems to have many "regulars", and seems to be a "neighborhood joint" of the highest order. It also appears that most Customers order take-out. I was a bit surprised at the lack of heat in the various dishes, but I'm not an expert on Jamaican Food, and the Oxtails and Curry Goat are delici-yoso!!! Other Jamaican fare like Callaloo, Ackee, and Jamaican BBQ are also offered.
Good "homestyle" food and great prices make Island Spice worth a try.
Island Spice Jamaican Restaurant
2820 Market St
San Diego, CA 92102