The Previous Brooklyn Meals Scene Expands the Map of the World with the Opening of Irie Jamaican (Images)

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Old Brooklyn has been a transit country for years – an area guests would visit en route to another location. When you actually stopped to eat, it was literally to make the drive through to one of the Cleveland neighborhood’s fast food places.

Then things began to change point by point.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

In 2018, Old Brooklyn took on a secular flair with the opening of Guatemalan and Ethiopian restaurants. El Rinconcito Chapin and Lucy’s, respectively.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Last year also saw the opening of Opal on pearl, a wine bar that combines an eclectic list with a lounge vibe and laid-back style reminiscent of Tremont from the pre-saturation era. The openings joined other new entrants, Old Brooklyn Cheese Company and Vino Veritas Cellar & Venue.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The neighborhood has just taken another step to expand their world map with the opening of Irie Jamaican Kitchen, located sixths of a mile south of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. It is the second location for owner Omar McKay, who moved his family to Cleveland from Jamaica when he was 13.

Irie owner Omar McKay at the E. 185th Street Irie location. (Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer)

Located in a small aqua building on 4126 Pearl Road, Irie is a takeout place with a counter to stand and eat. It combines recipes McKay learned while cooking with his mother as a child in Jamaica with ideas he picked up during his stay in the United States.

“It’s a clean, casual twist on Jamaican food, a mix of traditional and modern,” says McKay, who graduated from Cuyahoga Community College with a degree in culinary arts. “Eighty percent of Americans don’t know Jamaican cuisine, but once they’ve tried it, they like it. It’s healthy and tasty, and we try to make it accessible to people. “

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Irie is accessible on many levels, starting with the song that was playing when I walked in – “Pressure Drop,” the 1970s classic from Kingston’s Maytals. The song helped introduce reggae to the world and is an early example of Jamaican cultural crossover. (It also influenced the clash that covered the song.)

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The music – a sunny mix of reggae and island sounds – creates a happy atmosphere. This also goes for the warm interior and responsive layout, which includes a quick mock-up that customers can use to build their own trays, boxes and packaging.

In other words, you can pick and choose varieties of chicken or shrimp, beef or oxtail and then choose and combine with toppings and side dishes like plantains, cornbread, mac & cheese, cabbage or rice & peas.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

“I want to create a culture that encourages people to try something new,” says McKay. “We don’t have a large Jamaican population here in Cleveland, so I want to work with people by allowing them to choose what they want.”

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

McKay learned of the misunderstanding many non-Jamaicans have with the kitchen when he opened his first restaurant, Irie Patties, in Richmond Town Square in 2013.

“A lot of people saw patties in the name and thought I was selling hamburgers,” he says, referring to Jamaican staples that have a sales-like bowl filled with spice, meat, or fish.

Irie serves three types of meat, chicken and vegetable patties.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

“We got the vegetable patties and side dishes like cucumber salad and cabbage to give people more options,” says McKay. “They’re a staple in Jamaica, but many places may not have them.”

The cabbage is delicious, very fragrant, and shows McKay’s use of spices – in this case ginger, turmeric, seasoned salt, pepper, and thyme. It is good on its own or served next to the jerk or curry chicken in a bowl or box.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The cucumber salad, one of many innovative and tasty side dishes in the Irie Jamaican Kitchen, a recently opened restaurant in Old Brooklyn.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

The stew chicken – which packs no heat and is the perfect introduction if you’re intimidated by Jamaican cuisine – goes perfectly with a bowl of rice and peas.

McKay serves boned chicken to attract newbies.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

“Even people who like traditional Jamaican cuisine prefer chicken this way,” says McKay. “It’s a food that a lot of people eat on the go, and it’s so much easier.”

McKay envisions a time when they sit down and eat his meal – and the Old Brooklyn opening is part of the plan.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Irie serves a wide variety of imported lemonades from Jamaica.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

“Old Brooklyn is busy and I’m looking forward to getting to the West Side,” says McKay. “Irie in Jamaican means ‘nice’ or ‘happy’ and feeling good, so I want people to feel about my food and my place.”

“One day I envision opening a gourmet restaurant in Cleveland,” he adds. “I think if you work hard you can make the American dream come true and what could be better than bringing this wonderful food and island vibe to the people of Cleveland.”

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Irie Jamaican Kitchen is located at 4162 Pearl Road, Cleveland. The opening times are Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. For a menu and more information, visit iriejakitchen.com or call 216-291-7488.

Lynn Ischay, The Plain Dealer

Once a food dead zone, Old Brooklyn has grown its presence in the food scene over the past three years. The Cleveland neighborhood is now home to a wide variety of worldly restaurants and shops, including Old Brooklyn Cheese Co. (4138 Pearl Rd, Cleveland) which opened in 2016.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Lucy’s restaurant – – 2218 Broadview Road, Cleveland; 216-417-2550; lucycleveland.com – brought Ethiopian food to Old Brooklyn in 2016. The hotel is located in the old Casablanca bar and restaurant and is divided between a dining area and a bar.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Old Brooklyn is also home to Taste of Miami4848 Broadview Road, 440-714-0202; facebook.com/SaborMiamiCafe, The charming, cozy café opened in 2015 and offers a multicultural menu with Cuban, Honduran, Peruvian and Mexican options. It also doubles as an art gallery and features sunny decor and lively works by owner Mariela Paz.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

Old Brooklyn Social Club – 2301 Broadview Rd, Cleveland, 216-351-9613 – opened in 2017. It helped get the Old Brooklyn drinking scene going with new but classic approaches to the neighborhood bar. Chill vibes with cheap drinks provide a fine tonic.

John Petkovic, The Plain Dealer

El Rinconcito Chapin brought a great taste of Guatemalan cuisine to Old Brooklyn in 2018 when it moved into the old Coney Company home at 3330 Broadview Road. The Guatemala City-born owner Engel Godinez includes family recipes in the menu, which is varied in taste and size – from starters and small plates to hearty starters for 11 to 15 US dollars. For more information, please visit facebook.com/elrinconcitochapinCLE or call 216-795-5776.

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