The Cuisine: Caribbean
The Place: Sweet Spice
Bright orange with white trim, Sweet Spice: Royal Caribbean Delight is highly visible from the street. With flowering bougainvilleas growing up against the concrete exterior, the restaurant has a tropical feel—not in the way of tropical theme restaurants, but in the way of the buildings actually found in the tropics.
Although there are a few tables to one side of the walk-up counter, the interior is clearly designed more for takeout than for eating in. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Our orders came promptly, in large quantities. Service was friendly, and seldom have I eaten tastier food out of a Styrofoam tray. "Sweet Spice" is an apt description for Caribbean food, where heat and sweetness often coexist. Dishes like candied yams (with a hint of cinnamon) and plantains fulfill the sweet part of the description, while jerk chicken delivers just enough of a spicy kick.
Rice and peas provide a solid base for this broad mix of flavors. In a city where greens are almost as hallowed a culinary art form as barbecue, Sweet Spice competes admirably. These collards are just slightly smoky, seasoned with what I suspect is not an entirely vegetarian base, cooked just long enough to be easily chewable without losing color and flavor. I had some trepidation about the curried goat, but here curiosity is rewarded. The meat blends beautifully with the curry, tender and not too strongly flavored. The only disappointment was the ground meat patty, too strongly seasoned with onion and garlic for my preference. Sweet Spice doesn't have a liquor license, but it does have an interesting selection of Jamaican soft drinks. Dessert choices vary (luscious-looking red velvet and carrot cakes on our visits).
If you live anywhere near Plaza Midwood or NoDa, this place should be on your list of easy takeout destinations. Whether sweet or spicy, most everything was nice.
2828 The Plaza
$, L, D. Closed Sun-Mon.