I haven’t come across a whole lot of Jamaican restaurants in the St. Louis area, but leave it to University City to be home to one. Located in the same strip mall as and , doesn’t look like much.
Step inside, however, and enter another world. The restaurant is small and dark. Tables crowd the place but it manages to feel cozy, not cramped. The scent of jerk spices easily passes through the large Bob Marley flag that is serving as a divider between the dining area and the kitchen.
After almost heading there on a Monday afternoon and discovering it was the one day they were closed, my husband and I stopped in for an early dinner on a Tuesday evening. The place was nearly empty and we were enthusiastically greeted—the warm welcome paving the way for the friendly service we received the rest of our meal.
Each of the employees—three in the back and one up front—appeared to be Jamaican, lending credibility to the argument of De Palm Tree’s authenticity. A look at the menu further proved this—it wasn’t an Americanized version of Jamaican food (whatever that would be). Instead, the menu included Escovitch (Jamaican style pickled fish), Ackees and Salt fish (the Jamaican National Dish), and Curry Goat. Though the menu is primarily meat and seafood heavy, there are a few vegetarian entrees that intrigued me such as the Okra Creole Style and Black Bean Stew.
Within a few minutes we’d decided on the Curry Goat for my husband and the Jamaican Jerk Chicken for me. Unfortunately, they had run out of goat for the day. Instead, Ryan opted to try the Oxtail Stew. When in Jamaica, right?
There was a 15 to 20 minute wait for our food, but it was fresh and hot when it arrived. Both dishes came with a side of sweetened cabbage and rice and peas. I immediately noticed that the so-called peas were actually some sort of red beans, not at all a problem, just an interesting naming convention!
My portion of chicken was substantial, taking up half of the large dinner plate it arrived on. At $12-13 a plate, I was happy to see we received our money’s worth. It’s been awhile since I had such flavorful chicken—with the charred skin and spicy jerk sauce that arrived alongside of it, this was anything but a boring entrée.
The oxtail stew was given similar reviews. Though a bit of a challenge to pick some of the meat off of the large vertebrae, the meat was tender enough to melt in your mouth. Another restaurant patron had spoken highly of the stew as my husband had contemplated ordering it and there’s no question this is one of their more popular dishes.
As De Palm Tree proved, it’s sometimes the quiet, unassuming restaurants that throw you for a culinary curve ball. How many times have you unknowingly whizzed by on Olive, never even noticing De Palm Tree? Next time stop in and enjoy a taste of Jamaica, right here in University City! If you give that Curry Goat a try let me know, I’m intrigued!