This week, we gathered for a Jamaican feast at Mrs. B’s Reggae Café at 3103 Broad St. When I say “feast,” I mean it. Monica and I were invited to dine with fellow adventurous eaters Kim and Justin Braddock, along with our mutual friend Rachael Ruiz. The five of us ate our weight (that rhymed!) in Jamaican cuisine.
My last visit to Mrs. B’s—I’m ashamed to say—was in 2014 with Charlie Milburn. To start the new year, I thought it might be fun to revisit some of my favorite Date Night Dining experiences of yore, especially if I haven’t been back in a while. A few weeks ago, we ate tacos and queso dip at Taconooga (one of our favorite places) and Mrs. B’s has also been on my list of “must return” restaurants.
Here’s the thing: Chattanooga has a thriving and growing culinary scene. We know this. Everybody rushes to try the newest restaurants (because “new” is fun). And there’s always something new. But it’s niche establishments—such as Mrs. B’s—that suffer from our golden retriever-meets-squirrel dining options. At the 4-year mark, the only way a place like Mrs. B’s survives is if the community visits on a regular basis. I hope this column encourages you to visit the new places, sure, but to also remember to keep going back to those places you enjoyed. New isn’t always better. Cool? Ok. Let’s eat.
*Also, I”m getting around to several email date invitations, so if you’ve invited me to dine with you I’ll be in contact soon.
At five people, this might be my largest Date Night Dining group yet. We each had a different dish, so I’m going to be quick with the interior to save wordcount (and also because the setting doesn’t really matter when the food is this good). It’s quaint inside. I like it. The tables are comfortable but not fancy. The smell of the spices in the room is intoxicating. Kim, Justin and Monica had never had the pleasure of enjoying Mrs. B’s fare. They were in for a treat.
Owner Marilyn Forsythe and Chef Neville are both Jamaicans and passionate about providing the authentic Jamaican experience. I spoke briefly with Marilyn after our meal and told her how much we enjoyed the experience. She said “big things” are coming in 2018. No specifics were mentioned, but I’m excited to see what she means.
Everything at Mrs. B’s is good, but several special dishes are only offered on certain nights throughout the week. Thursday is braised oxtails day. The legendary curried goat is offered on weekends. Chef Neville is known for his jerk lollipop wings and jerk chicken, which are available every day. The only caution I have with the menu—as Monica hilariously discovered—is that the Escoveitched fish is, literally, a whole fried fish (eyes and all). If that freaks you out, don’t order it.
Check out the menu here.
In fact, all of us shared our dishes with each other. I would never talk about how delicious a flavor was and prevent somebody else from experiencing it. That’s just rude. We were not a group of rude people.
Rachael, who is not intimidated at all by spicy foods, ordered the Voodoo Chicken. The presentation of each plate was gorgeous, but this Voodoo Chicken was almost too pretty to eat. The level of spicy was a strong two peppers on the menu, though I was able to handle it. A very good dish.
Kim enjoyed a combination of appetizers from the menu instead of a full meal. The appetizer combo is 2 reggae rolls (like egg rolls) and three lollipop wings. I asked both Kim and Justin if they wanted to give me any direct quotes to use in the article, but they just said it was “fantastic” and talked about how eager they both were to return. They really did enjoy the meal.
Speaking of Justin … I knew immediately that we would get along. Both of us are bald and enjoy food to a level of mild obsession. He was also on “Jeopardy” and we talked about his experience throughout the night. Watch his “hometown howdy” here. His selection of the ginger pork was easily the best decision of the night. Chef Neville might as well have been wearing a wizard’s hat when he made this brew. You get a bowl full of tender pork, seasoned and sauteed in fresh ginger, scallion, garlic and other fresh herbs. More than any other dish on the table, the bright flavors worked in harmony with just the right amount of ginger. This dish will be the first I order the next time I visit Mrs. B’s. It was outstanding.
As mentioned above, Monica ordered a whole fried fish. If you don’t want a whole fried fish, don’t order the Escoveitched fish. Having said that, the flavor was simple and tasty. I ate the eyeballs and some filet meat—even nibbled on a cheek part—but Monica ate the rest. I’m not sure she would intentionally order a whole fried fish again, but the experience was worth the mistake.
My dinner was the pillar of Mrs. B’s: a half jerk chicken with plantains and callaloo (spinach-heavy wilted greens, similar to collard greens). As I remembered, the jerk chicken was perfectly cooked. The spices were enough to show they were there, but they never once overpowered the dish. Chef Neville’s jerk sauce—spicy, sweet and savory all at once—is homemade and addictive. The plantains are a bit crunchy and very sweet. I think they might be my favorite in town. Although, Embargo 62 does have some good plantains.
Would we go back?
What a night. We got to hang out with some new friends and eat some delicious authentic food just minutes from our house. It’s odd, Mrs. B’s has only been around for three full years (this is their fourth year) but the place already feels like a Chattanooga institution. I urge you to treat it like one. Attend regularly and approach the Forsythe’s food with reverence and gratitude. You won’t find anything else like it in Chattanooga.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.