The savory smells inside Plano restaurant Taste of the Islands instantly conjure images of sandy white beaches, clear turquoise waters and coconut drinks in your hand. The Caribbean menu, inspired by the owners Rehan and Azaad Bacchus’ homeland of Guyana, ensures that your taste buds will go on a tropical vacation without ever leaving the comfort of Plano.
Guyana, a former British colony, is a small South American country located east/southeast of Venezuela and shares the same British Colonial feel, flair and culture of many Caribbean islands. After visiting family in Texas and loving the community, the Bacchuses decided to make the move to Plano.
The unlikely idea of opening a restaurant came to Rehan years later during Former President George W. Bush’s 2004 State of the Union address. The President stated, “My administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America’s entrepreneurs and manufacturers and farmers, to create jobs for American workers.” The Bacchuses felt the time and economy was right to open a Caribbean restaurant just a couple miles from their Plano home.
Rehan grew up learning to cook traditional Guyanese fare from her grandmother whom she called “Ma.” According to her, Ma would sit in a chair by the stovetop and direct Rehan to bring her ingredients for her dishes. She never actually measured out the ingredients and over time, Rehan simply learned what went into each flavorful dish.
Since opening the restaurant in 2004, Rehan has shared her Guyanese comfort foods with North Texas and managed to train a few sous chefs to help her. She admits it was hard to teach them when she herself cooks without measuring, but the gals who help her caught on quick. Rehan says while the Caribbean population in North Texas is small, they have all made the trek, no matter how far away they live, to sample some foods from home. She is continually amazed, meeting someone new pretty much every week from the Caribbean.
At Taste of the Islands, the menu is designed to feel like you’re visiting and eating with friends and family. Most of the plates are served as combos, so you are able to sample several of her concoctions with the side dishes to accompany. Rehan admits that while her food may not be the prettiest, you will never be disappointed with the taste.
Many of the dishes are slow cooked or baked so the meats are succulent and moist and fall off the bone. The Jerk Chicken is a spicy customer favorite. Rehan’s favorite is a combo plate with jerk and oxtail served with cabbage and rice. She also specializes in a Caribbean version of Roti bread that she uses for flatbread wraps full of meats and veggies – they’re a huge hit. And she does Caribbean variations of Curries, Chow Mein and Black Pudding.
According to Rehan, “Guyana is trying to modernize and Americanize their look.” More businesses there are beginning to look like a typical American street. Her shop (what restaurants in Guyana are called) is a throwback to her childhood and youth in typical Guyanese towns and villages. It’s not only a restaurant that serves some ridiculously good food, but it’s also a convenience store of sorts, as she stocks and sells imported Caribbean snacks, spices and goods found back home.
The shop has expanded over the years and now boasts a large adjacent lounge/bar/party room. No Caribbean spot is complete without Red Stripe Beer or Guyana’s famous El Dorado Rum. The space is available to rent for parties or weddings, and the restaurant also offers catering for large events.
The coolest thing you need to know about the Caribbean restaurant is that Rehan and Azaad kind of like to party. Like, a lot. They have a monthly free party for the public, every third Saturday of the month. And every Friday night is an adult-only comedy show in their lounge where guys and gals from the Improv in Dallas come to try new material. Taste of the Islands also hosts daytime family events where kids are welcome, like their kite-flying event at Easter and Toys for Tots fundraising around the holidays.
While there may not be any actual sand or waves inside the restaurant, with the Taste of the Islands on your tongue and a tropical drink in your hand, life’s a beach.Taste of the Islands Website >
My name is Avion Anderson. I am a Freelance writer from Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago. My blog at justwritepeach.wordpress.com is all about food, farm, agriculture and my chocoholicness with everything associated with cocoa production and the chocolate industry.