Thursday, May 30, 2024

From curry goat to Haitian carnitas, Cheri’s hopes to make Caribbean food in Long Beach a staple


While the fate of their permanent home remains up in the air, for the first three weeks of April on Monday and Tuesday, Cheri’s Caribbean Kitchen will take over the space at 900 Long Beach Blvd. in the hopes that Caribbean food in Long Beach will become a staple.

While it will remain In The Kitchen during the rest of the week—an already-popular soul food joint that has been open for a year but has exchanged ownership—Cheri’s is hoping that this test run will provide some much needed R&D and potential.

“Right now, this is just really a mixture of testing how patrons respond to the food and scouting for potential spaces,” said General Manager Delane Nash. 

The lack of Black food is real—especially Caribbean food in Long Beach

And “potential spaces” doesn’t necessarily mean a brick-and-mortar; Nash hinted at doing more popups and even possibly a food truck.

Former In The Kitchen owner Nora Tatum had opened the space quietly amid the pandemic in early 2021 and its success proved fruitful quickly: A year in, she put the business up for sale.

The owners of Cheri’s Caribbean Kitchen—Sahadia Auguste and Andrew Boven—were initially on board to take over the space after a test run. They were, however, held back as a buyer came forth to take over not only the space but keep Tatum’s menu and brand alive.

That will not stop Executive Chef Tret Toussaint directs Head Chef Lakeshia Combs from churning out masterful plates of braised oxtails, curry goat, and jerk chicken.

And then, of course, there are some happy mistakes that have become permanent fixtures on the menu, like the Haitian carnitas.

“Lakeshia was in the kitchen, following Tret’s recipe for griot, and it came out looking nothing like griot,” Boven said, laughing. “But the plate was absolute fire and we told her, ‘We have to have this on the menu. And we’re gonna call it Haitian carnitas.”

That joins a jerk chicken burrito—which clearly needs to become a common staple in SoCal amid the fusion burrito madness that includes ramen burritos and sushi burritos.

But perhaps most importantly, Cheri’s does find a permanent home because there is a frank and harsh reality: The representation of Black food in Long Beach has dwindled along with the Black population itself—but for Blacks and non-Blacks alike throughout the city, the cuisines of the Caribbean, Africa, Afro-Latin America, and elsewhere are not only wanted locally but directly sought after in other cities.

Callaloo, the Trini-West India restaurant that anchored Zaferia’s bourgeoning food scene on Anaheim, has long been shuttered and while there remains hope that Ackee Bamboo could move into Cafe Piccolo, there is still a hefty possibility that it might fall through.

So Cheri’s? We’re cheering for you—and I will happily take another plate of that wondrous curry goat.

Cheri’s Caribbean Kitchen will be open from noon to 8PM on Monday and Tuesday the first three weeks April inside the space that is In The Kitchen, located at 900 Long Beach Blvd.

Brian Addison
Brian Addison
Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 25 nominations and three additional wins. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.


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