A Taste of Jamaica in New York City
Miss Lily’s is one of my favorite Jamaican restaurants in New York City, a taste of Barbican in “Babylon.” If you’re heading to Manhattan or live there (lucky you!), here are five reasons why it should be on your list.
1. The food
Jerk chicken … oxtail … curried goat … Hellshire-style fried fish … need I say more? Miss Lily’s serves all the yardie faves plus a luscious lineup of cocktails including the Ting A Ling, a combo of Red Stripe and the Jamaican grapefruit soda, Ting. Around the corner at the luncheonette annex, Miss Lily’s Bake Shop & Melvin’s Juice Box, you can munch a beef or veggie patty accompanied by a freshly-blended juice (I favor the sweet simplicity of watermelon) or a protein shake (try the Catch a Fire, made with beets, apple, lemon, ginger and cayenne pepper).
2. The crowd
I love that the clientele here is as diverse as you’d find at a bar in Kingston: black folk, white folk and all shades in between; fashionistas and the not-so-fashionable; young and old. That said, Miss L’s is definitely a “beautiful people” kinda place (even the wait staff look liked they just stepped from the runway into the restaurant), but I’ve never found the staff or patrons to be pretentious or cold.
3. The music
True confession: I’m not a huge reggae fan. But I really dig the sounds here. From classic Third World, Gregory Isaacs and Jimmy Cliff to Mr. Vegas, Elephant Man and Gyptian, the reggae/dancehall vibes run right through the restaurant. Radiolily.com, the eatery’s internet radio station, broadcasts reggae and funk from the storefront next door (I'm listening to it right now!)
4. The store
For shoppers like me, Miss Lily’s Variety, the adjoining store, is a trove of Jamaica-centric covetables. Check out the selection of vintage vinyl; jewelry; accessories; and logo merchandise. I’m all about the T-shirts and hoodies featuring Jamaican brands.
5. The vibe
Come here for dinner and you’ll feel as if you’re in Mo’Bay, not Manhattan. The entire place pulses with a reggae bass line; dreadlocked staff and cooler-than-cool diners jam to the beat; and the smell of fried plantain and the tang of jerk spices fills the air. As the night progresses, a full-fledged “bashment” (Jamaican for party) may pop up in the back room as tables are pushed away to make an impromptu dance floor. Miss Lily’s is everything I love about Jamaica, no airline ticket required.
Visit Miss Lily's at 132 W Houston St, NY, NY, 10012; Tel: 646-588-5375
JSS Tip: Need more Jamaica in your life? One of the restaurant's owners also owns Rockhouse, a boutique resort in Negril that has the same super-cool, laidback vibe.