"Though this Caribbean spot is located in the heart of downtown San Jose, dining here feels like a vacation thanks to cheerful murals, a lively soundtrack and hospitable servers," MICHELIN inspectors state of Back A Yard. As for its name, "The terminology represents the lifestyle, culture, spirit, cuisine and the festive mood of welcoming visitors to your home," per the restaurant's website, and is meant to evoke "the way things are done back home."
The chef responsible for this "back home" cooking is Robert Simpson, who began his career in Jamaica. As such, the majority of the offerings are rooted in Jamaican cuisine, in dishes such as smoky, spicy and tender jerk-style meats and seafood; slow-cook brown stew chicken; and "Jamaica's national dish, ackee and codfish," per its menu. Other dishes inspectors highlight include: "flavorful curry goat and vinegar-marinated escovitch fish fillets, all accompanied by coconut rice and red beans, a side salad and caramelized fried plantains."
Though Simpson's career started in the Caribbean, it has taken him all over, including a stint in Belgium. He received his formal culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York and has spent some time in Chicago, including at David Burke’s Park Avenue Cafe, before making his way to the West Coast to settle in California.
Perhaps it is this time in the United States that led to some of the classic Southern food dishes found on the menu at Back A Yard, such as macaroni and cheese, collard greens and cornbread. In addition, "Cool off your palate with a glass of coconut water, then order a slice of dense, flan-like sweet potato pudding," state inspectors.
But the thing that makes this restaurant truly a hidden gem has got to be the price: the most expensive item on the menu is $16.45. That's practically a steal to have your palate transported to the Caribbean without having to hop on a plane. And for those looking to cook up a little Caribbean flavor in their own kitchens, Back A Yard sells bottles of their hot sauces and marinades for customers to take home, which comes in flavors such as Original Jerk Sauce, Mango Habanero and Hell-Fire!
Photo courtesy of Back A Yard.
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