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The Jamaica House
1704 Broadway
Sacramento, CA
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Out front.Sacramento really is a modest town, despite the presence of many politicians and lobbyists. And while modesty is a virtue I esteem, sometimes I long for the flash and style of New York, or the heart and soul of New Orleans, or, sheesh, even the tempest in a teapot politics of the Bay Area. Yes, we have a few claims to fame: Wayne Thiebaud, a visionary painter and my nominee for Füd Court artist-in-residence, lives here (you know him - he paints pictures of cakes, pies, and hotdogs). Some wacky serial killers have called the place home as well, but these things alone do not a world-class city make. So I was super excited when Time magazine officially deemed us the most diverse city in the USA. This is a pretty cool thing for many reasons, and, from the Füd Court perspective, it goes a long way towards explaining a phenomenon that I have previously marveled at on these very, albeit electronic, pages: there's really a lot of good places to eat here. Diversity in cuisines is a very tangible benefit of diversity in peoples.

MuralThe Jamaica House is located in my favorite section of Broadway, which also boasts two Thai places, a tortilla factory and a Brazilian cultural center. As you can see from the picture, they offer a $5.99 buffet, which basically means they have me in their tractor beam and I am powerless to escape, destined to succumb sooner or later to the relentless pull of a big huge cheap lunch. I asked Craig D and Non-profit Liz to succumb with me, and they agreed.

As budget buffets go, it was a good deal. Not a lot of items, but they were all pretty good. The lineup and the lowdown: green salad (skip, or use sparingly to provide texture contrast), rice and legumes (more on that later), fried plantains (the perfect food, totally and completely satisfying and delicious and done very well here at the Jamaican place), chicken curry (rich, mild and tasty), and jerk chicken (tender and very flavorful).

BuffetCraig D provided valuable insights into the cuisine of Jamaica - turns out he did some graduate research there, which included eating. First of all, it's not rice and beans, it's rice and peas, black-eyed peas probably, or maybe a close cousin. He seemed excited to see the "Jamaican beef patti" on the menu, and attempted to describe it, since it was not included in the buffet. Although I am still a little unclear on the construction and contents of this item, the principle of the thing sounds appealing - a widely available (in Jamaica, that is), highly portable, savory, cheap and satisfying little bundle of goodness, with possible curative properties, if you know what I mean. Like if you've been out late the night before. I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to try them in the future, and when I do, reader-eaters, I'll report back with the results. On a completely unrelated note, Craig D also pointed out that the price of Red Stripe beer was rather steep. I would tell you what the price was, but I mistakenly discarded the notes I took during our lunch while conducting a reckless "everything must go!" New Year's day cleaning of my desk. It might have been 5$, and if it was, he's right, that's too much. Three nights a week, the Jamaica House also hosts music and various open mic events, so perhaps they recoup financial losses from the buffet by unloading a lot of expensive beer during the more punishing sets of improv comedy.

Bean pie!There are quite a few intriguing items on the menu which don't appear in the buffet. I was drawn to the curry goat and the equsi soup with fufu, but we wanted to get our $5.99's worth and extra items might have interfered. Liz, however, suggested that we would be truly negligent in our duties if we left without sampling the bean pie (a dessert). It was served to us semi-frozen, although the woman who brought it said "I tried to warm it up a little." Well, at least she tried. It was kind of like sweet potato pie, and Liz and I liked it well enough. Craig was unenthusiastic. We speculated on what type of bean could be made into a pie, and how this process might occur. Clearly, my assumptions about beans can no longer be trusted. As we stood in line to pay, I got into a conversation with a guy who appeared to be a regular. He was eating the one remaining piece of carrot pie (another dessert) directly out of the pie tin. This guy was a huge fan of carrot pie, and he determined that I would be, too, once I tried it. "It'll knock your socks off!" He cut a piece and handed to me, and what can you do when someone hands you dessert? He was right, it was good, similar to the bean but sweeter and with a smoother texture, probably because it was completely thawed.

If you are craving some comfort food, island-style, the Jamaica House will satisfy. You will leave full and happy, with a nice warm feeling (with or without your socks).


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