Island Frydays (Review)

Trying something new at an authentic Jamaican restaurant

When I think about Short Vine in Corryville, an area I don’t often frequent anymore, it reminds me of visiting the head shops and going to music clubs like Bogart’s or Sudsy Malone’s before I was old enough to legally do any of those things. Then, for a young punk kid from the suburbs, it was a place to see things you didn’t see every day, meet interesting (or just weird) people and do something new.

The scenery on Short Vine is about the same as then, and you’ll still find plenty of interesting characters, but the days when the area was considered a hip college neighborhood are long gone. Even then, Corryville was never much of a dining destination. But it was a good place to go to try something new. Along with Bogart’s, it’s one thing that hasn’t changed.

Take, for instance, the little place I stumbled upon recently — a Jamaican restaurant called Island Frydays. I’d never had Jamaican food before and the bright yellow building was beckoning me, so I made it a point to have a meal there.

On my first visit, my girlfriend and I met up with a couple friends. The space was bigger than I expected, with plenty of tables. You order at the counter, though, and a lot of the business is carryout. It’s bright and clean with a super-friendly staff and walls decorated with the likenesses of Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Marcus Garvey and none other than the Jamaican Bobsled Team.

The menu (with pictures) is posted above the counter. All meals come with a side of rice and peas, steamed vegetables and fried plantain. I ordered a small order of the Curry Goat ($8). With all the sides included, the portion made for a fairly small meal — if you’re really hungry, get the large. Most of the items available are hot-held in a steam table, so the plates are put together quickly.

The goat was tender and tasty, but the curry wasn’t spicy at all. I would have liked the option to make it spicier, but the dish was flavorful enough that I’d get it again. Milder and less gamey than other goat I've had, I'd compare it to a tender cut of beef. Be careful not to break a tooth or stab your gums — Frydays leaves the bones in. The steamed cabbage with peas and carrots tasted fresh and was a good complement to the sharper flavor of the curry.

We enjoyed the fried plantains. Sliced thick, they were sweet and firm but not crispy. I washed it all down with Jamaican Ginger Beer ($2), a spicier form of ginger ale that complemented the Jamaican flavors nicely. Other Jamaican drinks and the usual soda suspects are available, too.

We didn’t see any vegetarian meals on the menu, so the girlfriend ordered a side of plantains and steamed vegetables ($2 each). A carryout menu did mention the availability of Ackee and Callaloo as vegetarian options. I wonder what those are.

One of our dining pals wanted to order the Hellshire Style Garlic Shrimp ($10), but we were told it would take 20 minutes, so they ended up ordering the same things as us, plus a Beef Pattie ($2). The pattie is a yellowish bread pouch (think Hot Pocket) filled with ground beef. My friend said it tasted like a Cheez-It filled with beef. I thought he was just joking about the yellow color. As it turned out, it really did taste like a Cheez-It, but not in a bad way. The bread was flaky and complemented the beef well. It makes a nice supplement to a small meal if you want to fill up a bit more.

Since we didn’t get a good sampling of the menu, I went back again a couple days later for a carryout order of Jerk Chicken ($8). This time the nice girl working asked if I wanted sauce on the rice and gave me the option of white or dark meat. I got the sauce on the rice and asked for a little of both types of meat. I watched as she took a big hunk of the chicken and placed it on a cutting board. With a few firm chops, she cut it into smaller pieces, through bone and all. A couple drizzles of hot sauce and into the container it went, along with the rice and other sides.

The chicken was great. It was a little on the dry side but still tender and had nice crispy charred spots that complemented the sweeter taste of the seasoning. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re unsure about eating goat or Oxtail (one of the other options). The Jerk Chicken is also available on a sandwich or in a wrap for $3 or in salad for $6. Your other options on the relatively small menu include Steamed Fish, Escovich Fish, Brown Stew Fish and Curry Shrimp, which are available in only one size for $10.

Though I had a couple bones to pick, Island Frydays is full of that cool Jamaican spirit. With good service, good food and good people, it’s a great place to go and try something different. Where else in Cincinnati can you find a full menu of Caribbean classics?

Go: 2826 Vine St., Corryville
Call: 513-498-0680
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; noon-6 p.m. Sunday
Entrée Prices: $8-$10
Red Meat Alternatives: Seafood, vegetarian options
Accessibility: Fully accessible

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