My son has been raving about One Love Café, a Jamaican restaurant in Worchester, MA. Now rave and Worchester are not usually found in the same sentence, so I decided to drive up there and check it out. Worchester, pronounced Woo-ster (apparently the rche part of it is all for show), is a sort of down on its heels city. But, Clark University and Robert Goddard, rocket pioneer, both call it home. I’m on my way.
It’s a pleasant ride on a dismal day, up the Mass Pike. People, if you don’t have Sirius Radio consider it. Tunes, galore! Anyway, I get there early and settle in. It is a very comfortable place. The aroma hits you immediately. Allspice, cinnamon, heat, clove, sweet, the list goes on. This is looking good! Soft yellow stucco walls, comfortable chairs, even a few old trunks to sit on.
The owner/chef is busy in the kitchen listening to books on tape. Smart woman. When she finishes the chapter, she switches on some light rap. The waiter brings out a pitcher of water with a slice of watermelon floating in it—very cool touch. Blue glass-wear too; another cool touch.
My son arrives and we order. They have stuff for everyone. Meat, fish, poultry and vegan dishes are all available. Hot, and not hot, so don’t be shy or put off. We ordered fried plantains, Bammy, a Jamaican flatbread made from cassava and coconut milk, and a beef patty.
The plantains are soft, with caramelized edges. Very tasty. The Bammy, cooked on the griddle, is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. Perfect. The sauce is sweet and tangy. The beef patty was pretty standard, but the heat was subtle, sneaking up on you instead of hitting you in the face. I like that. I think a lot of people are turned off by heat because most of the time it is prepared wrong. I don’t enjoy my meal if I need a bucket of water and a couple of Maalox tablets standing by. I think the heat should compliment the dish, not dominate it.
We wanted a hot and a sweet dish so we ordered the Jerked Pork and Coconut Chicken. My son and I are enjoying each other’s company, telling stories and catching up. Dinner is served. The Jerk Pork tasted as if it had been cooking for days. The meat was incredibly tender. Phenomenal sauce with tons of flavor! Very complex, not killer hot, but you know you are getting the real deal. These are recipes handed down for generations. Every families jerk recipe is a treasure. Rice and beans are cooked to perfection. She is not shy about the portion size. Very generous. The Coconut Chicken is sweet, but leaning more towards savory. The chicken is tender and the coconut sauce is excellent. The two dishes balanced out quite well. We are stuffed, but both of us like sweets so we ordered a bread pudding and coffee. The pudding was warm, dense, cinnamon-y, and topped with rum sauce. WOW! I’m done.
Great little gem of a place. Owner is very friendly, the food is phenomenal, and the price, spot on. All of that, with tip, was $48. A day with my son...priceless.