I had the pleasure and privilege of visiting Trinidad when I was in my early 20s, and this Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela is where I was first introduced to roti and doubles, staple street foods in the islands.
After learning to “wine,” a popular dance move at clubs in the islands, and drinking enough Stag’s to get the munchies, we left the club and found what would become one of my favorite foods.
Vendors with carts parked outside the bars had customers lined up to get the doubles, which are made with baras (flat fried bread) filled with different types of curry. My favorite was the goat curry, a spicy, flavorful and messy crowd-pleaser whose taste I never forgot.
Almost eight years later, I was alerted that a restaurant in Deltona was serving my island craving.
Caribbean Grill & Roti Shop, at 121 Howland Blvd. in Deltona, opened in August 2017, serving a melting pot of food to the community, and specializing in authentic Caribbean food.
The restaurant is family-owned by Savita Nandan and her sons, Omar Alli and Karim Alli. Savita and Omar were born and raised in Guyana, a country in South America bordering Venezuela, while Karim was born and raised in Queens, New York, in a place known as “Little Guyana,” an Indo-Guyanese enclave.
Savita learned recipes that were passed down through the generations in her family.
“I’ve always been the woman elected to cook and entertain, and decided I needed to open a restaurant, as Deltona and Volusia County didn’t have the foods I could offer,” she said.
The family left New York and has been in Deltona for four years.
Their restaurant has 25 seats and is decorated with landscapes of island beach scenes, dark wooden tables and a painted red-brick counter. Some menu items are kept on display at the counter, where customers order.
They offer a variety of beverages, including bubble teas with boba (tapioca pearls), fruit smoothies, authentic Caribbean soda and Caribbean favorites such as peanut punch.
I tried the Caribbean Grill signature chai tea with boba. The recipe is secret, but this drink is sweet and smooth, and offers the pleasure of chewing on the boba while you drink.
“In Queens and Brooklyn, there were boba teas everywhere, and we decided to bring them to Deltona,” Karim said.
Flavors include lychee, mango, coconut and watermelon, to name a few.
I started my meal with lamb curry with dhal puri roti, a split-pea-stuffed thin flatbread that’s made in-house. The curry is served with the roti on the side, and you fill it as you like. This dish is full of island spices, and I felt like I was back in Trinidad.
Caribbean Grill & Roti Shop offers four styles of roti and various curry options, such as chicken, beef, goat and shrimp.
Another specialty is gyro platters, which family members learned to prepare from street carts in Queens. They added their own twist, and loaded me up with a to-go platter with rice, which amazed me.
Caribbean Grill & Roti Shop makes everything fresh to order. Also, the family makes all their sauces in-house and sells them by the bottle. These include gyro sauce, tamarind sauce, mango sauce, lollipop sauce, and a hot-and-mild version of the Caribbean Grill pepper sauce.
The food selection is not limited by one country’s borders. They also prepare Caribbean style lo mein and fried rice, and offer special orders that must be requested in advance.
“Guyana is a melting pot of all types of people and cuisine, where the best of all cultural ingredients and styles come together to create our food,” Omar said.
Special orders include stew snapper, curry duck, pepper pot, garlic beef, and lollipop chicken.
I tried shrimp curry over rice, chicken wings in jerk and honey-glazed flavors, and a coconut bread called salara.
The shrimp curry was tumeric-accentuated. I drizzled the housemade Caribbean hot sauce over the top, which caused a mild sweat underneath my eyes. I smiled in pleasure.
“Do you need a bottle of water, my friend?” Omar asked.
I decided to play it tough and declined, continuing with the jerk wings, where I caved and the employees laughed.
“We have the ability to make anything ordered to satisfy those sensitive to heat, but if you want it spicy, you got it,” Omar said.
I’d never tried salara, a Guyanese specialty bread roll filled with red-dyed sweet coconut.
Caribbean food being one of my favorites, I was delighted to discover that Deltona has a family and team who deliver the real flavors.