2820 Market Street, Grant Hill
(Has gone out of business since this article was published.)
Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble...
The two huge ollas, pots, roil and steam away over the flames. Donna takes a big stick and stirs them around, adds more water. "Oxtail," she says. "Getting it ready for the morning. Very popular."
I've come up here to this beating heart of Jamaican San Diego, Island Spice restaurant, to, well, get my goat.
Need a goat fix. Normally I'd go down to Mercado Hidalgo in TJ. You want goat? They got goat.
But a little light of pocket right now. And I know these guys are always good for goat. It's a Jamaica thing.
This is at night, around eight. But you know you're in Little Jamaica right off.
There's those steaming pots, there's the general flavor of jerk in the air, and there's the gentle way everybody talks. It's got a lilt. It's not so staccato as you'd get in, say, a burger joint. Plus customers and staff slip into a kind of local lingo that's hard to understand but nice to listen to.
"You've been in before," says this other gal, Suzie, to me. Wow. It's been months. Maybe she remembers me for being the skin-flintiest customer in the en-tire place. Think I was pretty skint then too.
Whatever, tonight I'm decisive. "Stewed goat, no sides, and one of those grapefruit sodas."
If you have sides like rice, plantains, you'll be paying ten bucks and up. This is $7 for the plate of goat, $2 for the Jamaican drink.
Oh yes. When Donna lays that plate before me, piled on with goat and gravy, I know I won't have to eat till dawn.
I would have liked the curry goat, but this is good too. Mainly because the gravy sauce has brown sugar in it. That rich, sweet thing going on is a beautiful counter to the gaminess of the goat.
"So what if I'm really broke, like I have $5 to spare, no more?" I ask Donna.
"Best thing? Order the kiddie's' meal," she says.
"You get a chicken leg and wing, jerk spices, rice and red beans, $5.39 after tax. That'll keep you going."
"And you won't laugh?"
"Not while you're looking."