1504 Central Avenue
Owner: Vinroy Reid and Hazelyn Mills
Mama’s features traditional Jamaican dishes, but with a unique spin. In Jamaica, you take a meal and improve on it.
Born and raised in Jamaica, Vinroy Reid now splits his time between Brooklyn, NY, and Charlotte. “I came down for a visit and fell in love with the country life,” he says. “I used to listen to a lot of country western music back home. Charlotte took me back to that frame of mind.”
Growing up in a vacation destination allowed him to meet people from all over the world. Many of them, he says, told him he would do well in America, so in 1992 he decided to give the country a try. Plus, he says, he grew up reading Mark Twain, who he credits with his “adventurous mentality.”
Once he got here, he says, “I noticed people don’t eat healthy because there aren’t many restaurants that serve the proper nutrients. I was a victim of that, too; I ate a lot of junk.”
That’s why he decided to open Mama’s Caribbean Grill, which has locations in both Charlotte and Brooklyn. Most of the dishes are traditional, says Vinroy, but he puts his own spin on them — that’s why he won’t share his recipes. “In my country,” he says, “you take a meal and improve on it.”
One meal he’s particularly proud of on Mama’s menu is known as Jamaica’s national dish, according to Vinroy. The ackee and saltfish is cod fish and boiled ackee fruit served over yams with wild (green) bananas, dumplings and jonnycakes — a cornmeal flat bread.
He’s glad to share the dish with Charlotteans who, he says, are always willing to try something different. “That shows that you have room to expand,” he says. While he says he loves the people of Charlotte, he also admits the climate is a big draw. The only difference between here and Jamaica, according to him, is winter.
– Profile written by Rhiannon Bowman