Standing in a Third Ward strip mall, everything about Reggae Hut screams authentic. Whether it’s the dance hall music, the dreadlocked woman at the counter or the dingy but charming plaster walls, patrons here never seem to question that they’re getting the “real” thing.
Since being revitalized by Breakfast Klub owner Marcus Davis in 2006, Reggae Hut has occupied an uncontended spot as Houston’s top Caribbean restaurant. The food is simple but unrivaled. No-frills favorites like the beef patties are well seasoned with cumin, cloves and nutmeg, and at only $3.15 make an excellent lunch or snack. The Hut’s house-made ginger beer, punch and sweet tea add to the menu’s charm. While some may find the punch too sweet, the strong cherry and pineapple flavors separate it from the usual Hi-C duplicates and make it at least worth a try. The ginger beer, on the other hand, is wholly outstanding. Sweet and spicy, the brew is exceptionally smooth while maintaining the fiery finish that ginger beer is
Classic entrees like oxtail stew, jerk chicken and curry goat are offered year round, while pan-fried creole snapper and shrimp are available seasonally. The jerk chicken steals the show on the year-round menu. A generous piece of chicken is rubbed with a thick layer of smoky jerk spices that lock in the chicken’s moisture, giving the dish a bold flavor and tenderness otherwise unheard of. The steamed vegetables and rice served with the chicken are simple yet satisfying, turning the already filling dish into a bargain of a meal for only $11.
The creole seafood options can be a bit more expensive; all are listed as “Market Price,” but tend to run between $12 and $17 dollars. At its best, the seasonal seafood is the crown jewel of Reggae Hut’s menu. The pan-fried snapper for two has a wonderfully crisp layer of fried skin and the perfect amount of heat. The shrimp, however, tend to lose their delicate flavor under a heaping serving of the house creole sauce, a tomato-based blend of stock and peppers not recommended for those
averse to heat.
As many traditional Jamaican preparations include heavy use of hot peppers, those who prefer milder fare should be especially discerning when ordering. The curried dishes do carry some heat, but they are much milder than their jerk seasoned or creole counterparts. The jerk chicken sandwich allows diners to sample the jerk chicken between slices of doughy cocoa bread that negate some of its heat and comes with a side of top-notch plantain chips. The chicken and oxtail stews are perhaps the mildest of the entrees. Both preparations are pleasantly tender and served in a hearty broth of carrots, bell peppers and
Reggae Hut may not be what some envision as “fine dining,” but it certainly satisfies. As an inexpensive stop with friendly service and the most authentic Caribbean food in town, it is well
worth a visit.