I’ve been curious about Gaga’s Jamaican Jerk restaurant since it opened in April, so I stopped in for a to-go lunch one day, intent on trying a kind of cuisine that is new to me.
The menu was simple, but still I was a little hesitant as I surveyed offerings such as Fried Breadfruit, Fried Sweet and Fried Green Plantains and — the real question mark on the menu for me — oxtail. Yes, oxtail, and it is exactly what it says.
Several people came into the restaurant specifically for the oxtail during the 10 or 15 minutes I was there getting my to-go order. I’ll admit I wasn’t adventurous enough to give it a try, but I was quite happy with what I brought back to the office.
I’m not much of a meat-eater, but I grabbed an order of Jerk Wings — confident that I could get at least one of the guys back at the office to sample it for me. I didn’t have to work too hard to get someone to take them off my hands — and that person was quite happy he volunteered.
He described the Jerk Wings as “very good” and “a perfect fusion of flavors.” He also noted the wings were a good size compared to wings at other restaurants that often are small.
Owen Glave opened the restaurant at 1402 W. Marshall Ave., where Gilmer Road dead-ends, in a former Bodacious Bar-B-Q site. He previously said he started the business based on response to serving his native Jamaican dishes at home and church. His wife, Helen Daniel Glave, is a physician. GaGa’s serves chicken and pork dishes that are slow-cooked outside in a jerk, similar to a barbecue, Glave has said. His menu includes a variety of jerk dishes — leg or breast quarters, wings and ribs.
Glave was manning the register the day I went in, with diners able to view the dishes cafeteria style while they’re ordering. Glave was happy to explain the menu the day I stopped in. In addition to Jerk Wings, I ordered Fried Sweet Plantains, Fried Green Plantains, Fried Breadfruit, a vegetable patty and Coconut Rice and Beans (with Caribbean Red Beans).
The rice and beans were delicious, without being too sticky or too dry. The Fried Green Plaintains had a neutral taste, but the Fried Sweet Plantains were a gooey, sweet treat — I wish I’d had more.
Breadfruit is actually a fruit that grows on trees in the Caribbean. The pictures I found show it has bright green skin — they almost look like Christmas tree decorations. Just as its name implies, breadfruit has a bread-like texture, but another neutral taste that’s almost like potatoes. The vegetable patties, which are actually like little fried vegetable pies, were comfort food plain and simple. They also come in other varieties, including mild and spicy beef and chicken.
I indulged in what Glave told me is a popular drink in Jamaica — Ting Grapefruit soda. It’s not like the heavy, sweet sodas we Americans seem to like, but tangy and refreshing.
I’ve already heard people talking about Gaga’s for its coffee — it serves Blue Mountain Coffee, one of the things for which Jamaica is famous. I remembered too late that I had intended to purchase a cup.
That’s fine. It will be another reason to go back. I’ve already found some dishes I like, and there are still others I’d like to sample. I think this restaurant is something East Texans will appreciate. Its menu might have some ingredients we’re not accustomed to, but, in the end Gaga’s is serving up meat cooked outside on a barbecue, just like we like it, along with sides that are similar to some of our Southern favorites.