CLEVELAND, Ohio - Walk into Omar McKay's new Irie Jamaican Kitchen, 621 East 185th St., and the menu board welcomes you to try "clean and bright fresh flavors." Designed for takeout with a small ledge of window seating, you move down the line while McKay stacks on your choice of bright pineapple slaw, cucumber salad, plantains and mango sauce to traditional Jamaican staples.Irie Jamaican Kitchen brings bright flavors to Cleveland's East 185th St.
For three years, McKay ran Irie Patties in the food court of the Richmond Town Square mall, where he served the cuisine he grew up on in Jamaica before moving to America when he was 13. He later went on to study at Cuyahoga Community College's culinary school.
But surrounded by fast food, Jamaican fare fell far outside the comfort zone of much of the mall's patrons. McKay needed a place of his own. He landed at the cozy corner building on East 185th St., which is not far from his own home.
At Irie's new location, he serves up full meals with rice, peas, steamed cabbage and plantains, plus wraps and bowls. Customers can customize each dish with their choice of meats, including oxtail, jerk chicken, curry, stew chicken and curry and jerk shrimp.
"Some people aren't used to this kind of food," McKay acknowledges. "I figure that this way, I can give them the choice to try different things. Sometimes people are a little scared -- they think 'I've never had Jamaican' -- but everyone loves wraps and bowls."
The shop also sells beef and jerk chicken patties, which are similar to empanadas with a flaky crust. For refreshments, McKay stocks the fridge with Jamaican sodas.
Bordering on Euclid, Irie is the latest addition to East 185th St., which also includes the new BlackWater Roasters and Gaming Cafe and the revitalization the La Salle theatre.
"I wanted to stand out, to do something a little different than everyone," says McKay. "So far, it's worked."
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