Good food, good vibes
Sacramento, CA 95821
Dubplate Kitchen has been open in the El Camino/Watt area for more than six months, but is still using its opening menu of authentic Jamaican dishes—a small, curated offering that this family-owned restaurant hopes to expand into a full breakfast, lunch and dinner selection soon.
Meanwhile, the staff and chefs lure passersby with surprise daily specials, entrees you just aren’t going to get yet, unless you check in every day, which is what I suspect they’re aiming for. I’ve personally missed fried dumpling day, and ackee and saltfish day, even though I swear I’ve tried. No worries, though. Dubplate is making good food and good vibes, whichever day you visit.
The menu seems less limited once plied with complimentary tasties, such as a warm bowl of pumpkin bean soup during my first visit, or the chewy fried dumplings—with only a hint of sweetness—called “festivals” on another. These friendly touches, plus the great Jamaican oldies playing on the speaker, add a kind of familial coziness, like when you visit your elders and they bring out all the comfort foods from the recipe box to nourish you and ready you for the big, bad world.
Jamaica has comfort foods, oh yeah, and Dubplate puts them front and center. I enjoyed the Oxtail ($14), slow cooked until falling off the bone, marinated in a rich sauce reminiscent of pot roast. No heat there, just savory contentment. Heat was found in full force with the Curry Goat ($14), often considered a party dish in Jamaica, probably because the scotch bonnet peppers get everyone hopping. The Jerk Chicken ($13) was also tongue-numbingly hot, with a crispy-charred skin slathered in a wet marinade of allspice and peppers. The juicy chunks of chicken pulled off the bone sputtered with flavor, intense but playful, and I ate all of it even though my mouth almost fell off. Good thing I had a large glass of Jamaican Punch (pineapple, strawberry, passion fruit and ginger) to win it back over.
All of the plates come with pigeon peas and rice stewed in coconut milk and a giant heap of callaloo, consisting of leafy greens steamed with tomato, onion and peppers. My rice and peas were the spiciest things on my plate every time I visited—I mean, put-down-your-fork-and-cry-into-your-napkin hot—whereas my partner had a much more benign version, tame enough to taste the fleshy beans and subtle coconut.
I never leave without bringing home some Jamaican Patties ($3.50), large pockets of thin, flaky pastry often brushed with egg yolk and/or turmeric, packed with meats and veggies. They’re like Hot Pockets, but better. The minced beef pattie is delicious, but the veggie pattie really stands out: aromatic and peppery like a chicken pot pie without the chicken.
The last time I visited Dubplate Kitchen, the cheerful owner confided she has long-term goals for the place, and it’s evident in the way she’s brushed off any hiccups, such as a limited menu, or (ahem) inconsistently fire alarm hot rice and peas. Their authentic dishes are made with love, and I’m positive that love will spread outward.