Comfort food from down-home Jamaica

The air was cold outside and the snow was deep and soft. The sun wasn’t shining and the Internet had been down all morning.

But none of that mattered when my Lovely Dinner Companion and I entered Pickapeppa, just across from the Yukon Government Building on 2nd Avenue.

It was as warm and as moist and as wonderfully scented as my mother’s kitchen.

“A lot of people call me ‘Mom’,” says Andrea Reti with a delightful laugh. She is the owner and operator of Pickapeppa, a restaurant that was started with the best intentions.

“I fell in love with this spot when it was the East Coast Café,” she says while working several steaming pots on the stove. “I came in for a tea and it was just the owners and me.

“I thought, If I ever have a restaurant of my own, it will be this.”

So, when it became available, she re-created that homey, warm feeling that first captivated her.

The colours are warm and the furniture is comfortable, and the music is exactly what you would want to listen to.

The decorations are decidedly Jamaican with wicker baskets, statuettes on the tables and pictures of Bob Marley.

“I love my country, Jamaica; I love everything about it.

“So I wanted to share it and share me, with the North, where it is cold and dark.

“It is the perfect place to put it.”

The decor, it should be pointed out, is typical of a real Jamaican restaurant – not of the splashy resorts that most visitors to that country may be familiar with.

“When people walk in, I want them to get that down-home feel,” says Reti. “These are the restaurants I remember. There is funkiness here; there is fun.”

With the Yukon Government Building across the street, the restaurant was set up to easily accommodate takeout. But, it hasn’t worked out that way: “YTG people have half an hour for lunch or an hour, so I try to have everything prepared.

“But they want to stay.”

Yeah, I can see that. The restaurant starts to fill at 11:30 in the morning and the conversation is not hushed, but it is easy-flowing. It seems they have all been calmed by the down-home experience.

And it doesn’t appear to be the “grab-a-bite crowd” who only want to fill their stomachs. There seems to be anticipation of a different taste sensation.

“Caribbean Soul Food”, she advertises.

“Scotch Bonet Peppers”, the menu promises. “An authentic ingredient in our cuisine.”

Pickapeppa, itself, is a pepper that is full of flavour.

“Some peppers are just hot,” says Reti. “But these have flavour.

“Peppers with no flavour are no good.”

So, my LDC and I took great care in ordering. I gave up and just asked for the most popular dish.

“Roti,” says Reti. “I make rotis like crazy. Roti, roti, roti!”

My LDC, however, went for the curried chicken. For her, it is a comfort food.

Just after we ordered, Dave Rayo brought us home-made Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) and Sorrel.

Rayo explains that the Sorrel is what is left over from a hibiscus flower after it dries. The drink is made like you would make tea.

The Sorrel was sweet and the Ginger Beer’s spiciness gently worked away at my LDC’s sinuses. Both drinks can be served cold or hot, which is fortunate since Reti has decided she won’t serve coffee like everyone else in town.

Our meals arrived, and my LDC’s experience was complete: “This is definitely comfort food … It is so comforting.”

Meanwhile, I was enjoying my own comfort food. My Chicken Curry Roti was a warm pillow of subtle flavours that were very satisfying.

Pickapeppa is open Mondays to Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. It opens again at 5 p.m. and closes at 8 p.m., except for Fridays and Saturdays when it is open until 9 p.m.

This review is not meant to judge the quality of the food or service. It only describes the experience offered by the reviewed restaurant. The owners were informed in advance of the review and the meals were provided at no cost.

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