I have never been to the Caribbean, sadly, but have always dreamt about, probably more than I should, spending a tumultuous week on the golden beaches there, possibly with a spindrift lover who leaves me for her former boyfriend as soon as we get back to the States and I’m all out of drugs and money.
While that’ll probably never happen, even with my good luck, at the very least I can visit Carican Flavors, 2701 N. Martin Luther King Ave., Oklahoma City’s premier dining spot for home-style Caribbean food. Located down a mostly desolate stretch of M.L.K., the lone building on the block proudly says Carican Restaurant, so there is no doubt whatsoever where you are.
Set up sort of like a cafeteria, you pick your dinner special, hoping that by the end of the day there is enough of it left for hopefully one plate. For this particular outing, luckily they had some left in the back—I chose Sweet Potatoes and Plantains as my sides, with a very strong serving of Oxtails ($13.50) as the main dish.
Additionally, with a large stock of Caribbean sodas in their fridge, I also ordered a Solo Banana ($2.35) drink, which I immediately opened, my dry throat happy to have the sweet drink coating my fleshy tubes like a cupful of Now and Laters left to melt under the forgiving sun.
Making it just under their closing wire, we found a place to sit just as they were locking the doors; while we told the older man sitting by the door that we could take our orders to go, he told us to sit back and enjoy—besides, Wheel of Fortune was playing on the television overhead. No arguments here.
My favorite taste as of late, the Sweet Potatoes were tenderly cooked in a sweet juice, with none of that wasteful Thanksgiving mess like marshmallows and syrup taking away from the tuber’s natural flavor, every forkful a triumph of taste. The Plantains, however, were very different and very addictive, a spectacular side but definitely divergent from the Latin variety that I’m typically used to; these plantains seem to give off more of a distinctly grilled taste, almost like barbequed fruit.
The Stewed Oxtails, the main course I had been waiting for all day, were a tremendous fix of heretofore unknown tastes— with a rich chunk of spiced meat hiding the fatty flavor underneath, who knew that the tail of this powerful beast of burden had so much wanton meat on every exquisitely chopped section, just waiting to be gnawed off, stripping every bit of bone clean.
Boxing up what I could for later, the older gentleman by the door wished us well as he turned the lock behind us. For a bonus excursion, however, we walked across the street to a nameless convenience store which, I’m thrilled to report, has just about every bag of Rap Snacks that anyone could ever possibly want, including me. Cómpralo ya!