When’s the last time you went to Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records? It’s a sports bar in Marketplace that offers what they call a “fusion” menu of Jamaican and International food items. That means you might get our traditional Ackee and Saltfish wrapped up in an Asian spring roll or something like that. Awesome spot for catching a game, seeing your favourite artist up close and personal or hanging out with friends over a cocktail or two. I’ve even seen tourist buses pulling up to the spot to introduce visitors to Usain’s restaurant where they can purchase memorabilia of our great living legend while sampling some of Jamaica’s food offerings. Which brings me to a sore point. If you’ve been to Tracks before, say anytime before the last 6 months or so, you know….you KNOW…. the food ain’t all that. So when they reached out to me to try their new menu items? I said a little prayer for me.
Traditional Jamaican dishes like oxtail and beans, brown stewed chicken and stew peas on a sports bar menu. My photographer asked the magic question, why would you go to a sports bar to pay sports bar prices for food that you can get at any cook shop? Well, I offered the atmosphere for one answer. Sometimes, you want to sit in a nice spot and enjoy your meal. Maybe you have a business meeting but you’re not in the mood for the usual burger and pasta mainstays on sports bar menus. Maybe you’re a freelancer like myself who works mainly from cafe’s and restaurants that offer wifi and you’re feeling for some good stew peas. But then, the food was brought out and we both learned why.
The first course was the chicken soup.
It was rich and hearty, it had good chunks of chicken and veggies, it had flavour and body, it was good! I was like alright now! Something is different up in this joint. If the soup is this good, I can’t wait to see what the food tastes like. It wasn’t thin like broth, it wasn’t lifeless, it set a great “yaad style” tone. Then, they brought out the brown stewed chicken.
Listen. Listen. Linda listen! I couldn’t believe I was raving this much over some damn brown stewed chicken. It was then and there that I knew whoever was once the chef at Usain Bolt Tracks and Records is now out of a job (finally! took them long enough to get that memo) and someone with heavenly hands had blessed this kitchen. I wanted to finish the white rice!!! It’s plain old white rice, it’s not good for me, I knew better, but it tasted so good. It was so coconutty, y’all know I love me some coconut, the veggies were crisp and the chicken. Gees the chicken. I knew more food was coming and I should save space….but….I couldn’t. It. Was. That. Good. Best brown stewed chicken ever. It really had me wondering if I was gonna go to a sports bar and order some damn brown stewed chicken. Really?
Let’s talk about this Ackee and Saltfish with corn pork on the side served with fried, roast bread fruit and sweet, fried plantains. It can’t get any more Jamaican than this. National dish status. I’m happy that they didn’t cut any corners and are using fresh ackee, not tinned. It was firm and kept its texture and was flavourful and delicious. I can’t speak to the corned pork, but my mother waxed it off and asked for more so I guess it was good. Fried breadfruit is also the perfect ackee accompaniment, soaking up the salty goodness perfectly with the overripe plantains balancing out the dish with that lovely sweet flavour. Those of you reading this from foreign who don’t know what fried breadfruit is, I weep a little for you.
The stewed peas was served in this cute little dutchie. It had beef and pigs tail and was again ultra flavourful. Gourmet stewed peas if you will. It was fancy without taking away from the Jamaican-ness of it. By this time we had finally started to just taste and box. We couldn’t manage much more but I brought this one home for my mom who loves a good stewed peas and she said it was delicious!
Oxtail and beans. Fun fact, this gourmet dish, its like the salmon, the lobster of Jamaican dishes, I’m not a fan of. I’ll ask for oxtail gravy on my fried chicken at the local cook shop but yeah….no. But my photographer brought it home with him. He said it was rich and delicious. Lima beans are used instead of the traditional butter beans to give the dish a little twist.
I was looking forward to this. I love a good steamed fish in coconut sauce. I know, yes, there’s fish under there and it was heavenly. Snapper fillet with bammy and crackers. Let me share with you what it looked like the next day when I had it for lunch.
And it was still yummy coming out of the microwave, though arguably not as pretty. Spent my time eating this dish wondering how I could learn to cook like the chef. When it was all finished we were treated to Guinness cheesecake to sweeten the deal. Where I got space from to wax off this entire wok of cake I dunno, but there’s always room for cake!
Yummy yummy! So happy to have been invited on this gastronomical journey to rediscover Usain Bolt’s Tracks and Records! They have successfully etched themselves back into mainstay rotation of lunch and dinner spots in my mind so much so that I wrote this whole post raving about the food to encourage you to go try it out too! We met Chef Rochelle and congratulated her on bringing good food to life at Tracks and though I wanted to kidnap her for my own kitchen, her food is too good not to share so I left her there. 🙂 The Yaad Style Menu pops up every year around this time as we celebrate our Jamaican independence and this year it’s really good! Have you been to Tracks recently? How’s the food?
Big thanks to Stuart Smellie of Equillibrium Photography for the photos.