Cari Taylor-Carlson

Mobay Cafe Is Truly Jamaican

Owner Dixon, a native Jamaican, offers diverse menu of island specialties at Walker’s Point restaurant.

By - May 27th, 2021 03:02 pm
Mobay Cafe, 1022 S. 1st St. Photo taken May 5th, 2021 by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

Mobay Cafe, 1022 S. 1st St. Photo taken May 5th, 2021 by Cari Taylor-Carlson.

A taste of Jamaica came to Walker’s Point last summer when Nadine Dixon opened Mobay Cafe. The name Mobay, not to be confused with a well-known French cheese, refers to Montego Bay, a popular beach resort on Jamaica’s north coast.

Owner Dixon, a native Jamaican, does Jamaica proud with a diverse menu of island specialties that bring sweet, spicy, and savory together in a variety of dishes.

For something traditional, you can order Escovitch — red snapper, fried and covered with sauteed peppers and carrots in a spicy sauce. My companion ordered another seafood dish, Island Shrimp, sauteed in garlic. It had a distinct garlic flavor, but not too much, despite chunks of garlic mixed in with the sauteed red and green peppers. Like everything friends and I sampled at Mobay, the shrimp entrée came with rice and peas, plantains and steamed cabbage.

Seasoned rice added a carb to soak up the spicy sauces, while the steamed cabbage served to temper the heat in those sauces. My companion was so taken with the cabbage that she took a large extra portion home for dinner. As for the plantains, they were almost caramelized, a sweet note in those complex flavorful dishes. Another shrimp dish, Caribbean Shrimp Rundown, available on Saturdays, has shrimp sauteed in coconut milk, then served with peppers, onions and herbs.

For the traditional Cafe Jerk Chicken, the chef sliced the chicken crosswise. I tried and failed with my fork and resorted to fingers, a messy but successful way to extract every morsel of the juicy dark meat clinging to the bones. The jerk sauce was spicy and sweet with a vinegar kick in the background and a gentle heat that lingered after each bite. This was a four-napkin meal that called for a wet wipe.

If you want less mess with your jerk sauce, order the Jerk Grilled Chicken Wrap. The wrap is also available with either veggies or shrimp and comes with a container of extra jerk sauce. This is a Lunch Special along with Tacos, a Hamburger, and a Chicken Wing Basket.

A Vegetarian Lunch Special, Stuffed Grilled Plantains filled with red beans, had good flavor but was slightly bland compared to the other dishes friends and I enjoyed. For example, the Wednesday only special Brownstew Chicken had extraordinary flavor in each tender bite that fell off the bone. The meat was crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, a combination that’s pleasing and addictive. Like the Jerk Chicken and the Curry Chicken, the Brownstew is available in small or large portions. Small was a generous serving, but next time, my choice will be large, it was that delicious. Dixon said this chicken is special, often served on Sunday in Jamaica. She said it’s her favorite along with spicy Curry Chicken.

For more specialty dishes, there’s Curried Goat Stew, Braised Oxtail, and Pepper Steak, available on Thursdays.

In addition to the Stuffed Plantains, vegetarians will find more to like on the menu. There’s a Medley with a variety of sauteed vegetables, Jerk Stir-Fried Bok Choy, and Cou Cou, polenta and grilled zucchini.

As we waited for our entrees, our server brought a small dish of chips reminiscent of slivers of baked potato, which were starchy and slightly salty, a different flavor. Our server said they were made with dried breadfruit, popular in Jamaica. We devoured the chips and reused the dish for shrimp shells and chicken bones.

Mobay Cafe is in the building once occupied by Chez Jacques and more recently Cocina 1022. After Dixon painted the walls to resemble the deep blue tones of the sea and added a couple of murals, her Mobay Cafe acquired a patina that says Jamaica. And soon to open is the back patio, where I spent many happy hours at Chez Jacque eating and drinking.

A table on the patio would be a fine way to while away an afternoon with one of Mobay’s signature rum drinks, Rum Punch with white rum, grenadine, lime and orange juice, or the Bob Marley: malibu rum, blue curacao, mango and strawberry. That’s when life is good: a hot afternoon, a cold drink, a hidden patio and a big plate full of Brownstew Chicken. Lovely.

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