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A Caribbean feast at Taste of the Islands

Taste of the Islands offers Caribbean-style food lovingly prepared by its Guyana-born owners. The restaurant is tucked away in the corner of a strip retail center in north central Plano.

Taste of the Islands offers Caribbean-style food lovingly prepared by its Guyana-born owners. The restaurant is tucked away in the corner of a strip retail center in north central Plano. You’ll not only find great food, but imported goods and an open mic comedy club.

Those of you who are geography-lovers may have done a double-take. What do Guyana-born owners know about Caribbean cuisine? After all, Guyana is South America. How does it relate to the Caribbean? Guyana shares an affinity with the Caribbean countries. Not only is it the only South American nation where English is the official language, the Caribbean Community is headquartered in Guyana.

We were surprised to learn that Taste of the Islands has been dishing up good food and good fun for more than a decade. Founded out of the owners’ desire to share favorite foods with the community, the restaurant quickly built a loyal following and developed into a thing.

When we mean a thing, we’re serious. It’s not unusual for Guyanese travelers to head to Taste of the Islands from the airport. And the day we were there, a poster advertised an upcoming birthday party for a long-time customer who is known for pitching in to help bus tables on busy days.

This is a restaurant where you easily become part of the family. Take it from me: You’ll want to file your adoption papers right away—the food and atmosphere is just that good.

We stopped in just after noon on a Friday and the daily special was the Island Buffet (available Thursdays and Fridays only from 12-2 p.m.). For just $10, we had plenty of options. We also could have ordered off the menu, but we were inclined to sample a bit of everything. If you’re buffeting, the staff will hand you a plate after loading it with your choice of white rice or seasoned rice and beans. The buffet options can feel a little overwhelming, and nothing is marked to identify the various dishes. No worries mon, the staff will tell you exactly what the choices are so you can eat with confidence. Of course, Steve and I tasted everything. It’s.What.We.Do.

To help you feel menu-confident, here are highlights from our meal:

Jamaican Jerk Chicken: There’s probably a law somewhere requiring visitors at a Caribbean restaurant to order jerk chicken. Jerk is a Jamaican-style barbeque rub (dry or wet, depending on the cook). It’s equal parts spicy, sweet and delicious. Hands-down, this was Steve’s favorite dish. Or, as he said mid-bite, “It’s irie.”

Curried Goat: Goat meat can be notoriously difficult to cook. In the hands of lesser chefs, goat is dry and stringy. At Taste of the Islands, it’s fall-off-the-bone tender and swimming in a lightly spiced curry sauce.

Curried Chicken: It’s unusual to find bone-in chicken cooked in sauces. Slow cooking the chicken while the bone is still in amplifies and deepens the flavor of the dish. Savor every bite of the curried chicken, but eat slowly to avoid the bones. (Eating slowly is a good practice for busy Americans anyway.)

Fried Tilapia: The tilapia is cut into bite-sized pieces and fried. It’s perfect with a dab of hot sauce. A word of caution about the hot sauce – it’s hot! Even though I’m a die-hard spice lover, I was caught off guard with the burst of sweet-hot flavor. Use the sauce judiciously!

Spinach: I realize that people have strong feelings about cooked spinach. Trust me. You want to try Caribbean-style cooked spinach. It’s slightly spicy and flavorful. I loved it.

Jamaican Patties: Full disclosure: These weren’t on the buffet. As we were standing at the counter to pay, we were intrigued by the empanada-like pastries sold by the front door. We were told “Once you have one, it won’t be your last.” With a review like that, we had to give a spiced beef patty a try. Let me just say, it wasn’t my last.

Our only regret? We didn’t save room for dessert (which are all homemade) and we didn’t give any of the cold imported Caribbean sodas a try.  We missed out on the beer too, including a canned Caribbean ginger beer. The curse of the buffet strikes again!

Good to know: If you’ve loved the food while on vacation in the Caribbean, you’ll definitely want to give Taste of the Islands a try. Specials are offered seven days a week. You can order online and pick up in store. You can find out about special events, including Friday night comedy shows, by following Taste of the Islands on Facebook. Just remember that events can run on island time.

Taste of the Islands

909 W. Spring Creek Pkwy., Plano, Texas 75023

Monday–Thursday: 10 a.m.–8 p.m.
Friday–Saturday: 10 a.m.–9 p.m. (events last longer)
Sunday: 11 a.m.–5 p.m.