Sometimes good things happen when you least expect them.
That’s how things went for Jamaican Yard Vibes, a Jamaican restaurant that recently opened in the Audubon Plaza mall at 2845 W. Parrish Ave.
Dwayne Whyte was living in his native Jamaica when he met his future wife, Shenetha, an Owensboro resident who was vacationing there.
After a few visits, he moved to Owensboro in June 2019 and they got married.
It was love that brought him here, Whyte laughed, because Jamaicans don’t like the cold.
At their wedding, the couple served guests Jamaican dishes.
“People started asking us when we were going to start a business,” Whyte said.
They thought about it, he said, “and we started operating from our house. We wanted to have a restaurant, but COVID slowed us down. It was a difficult period. We finally made it, but it wasn’t easy.
On Saturdays, Whyte said, “People lined up in the street for our jerk chicken, jerk pork, cabbage, curry goat, curry chicken and oxtail soup.”
“Jerk” is a style of cooking where the main ingredient is coated in spices and cooked slowly over a fire or grill.
Since the restaurant opened last month, Whyte said: “It was overwhelming. People appreciate our food.
The restaurant is painted in the bright colors of the Jamaican flag.
The country’s website states, “Black represents the strength and creativity of the people; gold, natural wealth and the beauty of the sun; and green, hope and agricultural resources.
When he was a child, Whyte said, “My mum worked and I started cooking for my siblings when I was 8. I usually cooked for eight or 10 people at a time.”
So he cooked almost all his life.
“Oxtail soup, jerk chicken and goat curry are our biggest sellers,” Whyte said.
With few oxen these days, the tail often comes from a cow.
“They’re hard to find,” Whyte said of the tails. “Sometimes we have to go all the way to Tennessee to get them.”
His favorite dish, he says, is goat curry with rice and beans.
“But I love them all,” Whyte said.
The restaurant employs three people alongside him and his wife.
“There aren’t a lot of Jamaicans in Owensboro,” Whyte said. “But there are quite a few from the Caribbean islands and they support us.”
The menu of the day is posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
Thursday included jerk chicken, jerk pork, chicken curry, goat curry, jerk lasagna, beef patties, chicken patties, rice and beans, cabbage, rotti, coconut bread and rum cake.
Hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Food historians say that Jamaican cuisine is a mixture of Native American, African, Irish, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern styles.