116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Caribbean Kitchen has returned to NewBo City Market, the location where it all started nearly 10 years ago.
When he first opened the business in 2012, Patrick Rashed was one of the only people serving jerk chicken in Cedar Rapids. A native of Kingston, Jamaica, the man known as Jamaican Pat took special pride in the authenticity of his jerk chicken, smoked over pimento wood.
“When I first started, nobody knew about jerk chicken,” he said. “Now, everyone knows about jerk chicken and is making jerk chicken. It’s a Catch-22.”
But despite other Caribbean restaurants springing up in the area, Jamaican Pat claims the title to the “original” jerk chicken in Cedar Rapids, with a familiarity more intimate to him.
“Just me understanding my culture a lot more, I’m able to be more creative with my food,” he said. “I try to cater to Iowa’s palate, as well as (Jamaican) authenticity.”
And Iowa’s palate has grown to tolerate the jerk spice much more than it did 10 years ago, he said. In that 10 years, Caribbean Kitchen opened another location, left NewBo, and lived out of a food truck for several years.
Where: 1100 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids (Inside NewBo City Market)
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday
Phone: (319) 450-9222
Details: Open for carryout or dine-in at NewBo City Market, plus delivery through Grubhub.
Starting at farmers markets before his 2012 NewBo debut, Rashed later remodeled a building 529 Fifth Avenue SE, where Caribbean Kitchen held a second location from about 2014 to 2016. With limited help to run two restaurants, Rashed later closed the locations and made a name for himself through his food truck at every major festival in Iowa, including Hinterland Music Festival, the Des Moines Arts Festival and the World Food & Music Festival.
Rashed’s pivot to a food truck — an early adopter in Cedar Rapids before the trend took off leading up to and through the pandemic — has been a large part of his survival to this point. After moving back to NewBo in August 2021 for a home base, the restaurateur looks forward to growing his business more.
Caribbean Kitchen has beaten the odds in an industry where about 80 percent close before their fifth anniversary. In Iowa, it survived the pandemic that claimed about 750 restaurants statewide, according to the Iowa Restaurant Association.
But in that time, the restaurant has done more than survived. In 10 years, it has evolved its flavor profiles and added a new variety of items. Rice bowls, tacos and other dishes now offer a fusion between Jamaican and other cultures.
“It’s almost like a Greek salad that I put on there with jerk sauce, jerk chicken, rice and beans,” Rashed said of the rice bowls.
A newer Cuban sandwich brings a Jamaican twist with softer pulled pork instead of roasted pork, and diners can now get honey jerk chicken and honey jerk salmon, which Rashed also lays claim to in the local jerk world.
Featuring Jamaica’s influence from Indian immigrants, the menu also has expanded to include a variety of tacos made with rotti, a sweet Indian flatbread, instead of tortillas. Curry dishes like lamb at Caribbean Kitchen are made with coconut milk instead of the traditional yogurt.
“If you hear of any honey jerk in Iowa, they got it from me,” he said. “Nobody else does it here.”
Pimento wood, a rare commodity in Iowa, is used conservatively to give jerk chicken the flavor profile that makes it authentically Jamaican — more than the spices — with a technique that marries sweet and smoky.
As Rashed’s offerings have evolved, his generosity has ensured a steady customer base that has stayed loyal, no matter the location. Since before the derecho, when other restaurant owners widely started giving away food to the community, Jamaican Pat has been quietly feeding the hungry without praise, one plate at a time.
If you’re running a little short for your family’s meal, chances are he’ll make up the difference for you. If your debit card is declined, he won’t make a fuss over it. If you approach his food truck without a wallet in your pocket, he’ll simply ask what you’d like on your plate.
Contrary to common business sense, selfless generosity has brought returns to his business — with little need for advertising or even an official website outside of Facebook.
“I think that’s one of the reasons I’ve been around 10 years,” Rashed said. “Every year my food truck business is growing, and NewBo is growing. It does come back to you.”
With experience in the restaurant industry since age 12, Rashed, now 54, has found joy in the industry he didn’t go to school for. With a master’s degree in clinical social work, perhaps it’s no surprise that Jamaican Pat derives his joy in the business from the people he sees every day — a focus he chose in an industry with a different kind of stress than social work.
“I didn’t like working 9 to 5, so I started my own business and started working 5 (a.m.) to 9 (p.m.),” he said as he laughed. “It’s an honor, for me, for someone to come purchase your food and to trust you with something they’re going to put inside their body. I don’t take that lightly.”
Now, customers always know where to find him.
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