Since lifelong friends Shawn Letchford and Marilyn Reid opened The Islands, a cabana-size Caribbean restaurant on the border of two Heights (Crown and Prospect) in 2001, they've seen the restaurant's narrow storefront mobbed with customers. This is mostly a take-out affair, but come early or stick around long enough, and you might just snag a seat in the snug lofted dining area, where you'll share space with West Indian expats, neighbors, and savvy jerk-heads. Diners spoon Reid and Letchford's rich, murky jerk sauce, thick with allspice and chile heat, over chicken, tender leg of lamb, shrimp, and soft, pliant roti. The meats carry a whisper of smoky char; the flatbread perfumes all four tables with brine thanks to a grind of reconstituted salt cod in the dough. Another popular order finds prawns smothered in a heavy coconut “calypso” cream sauce. No matter what you ask for, supplement your meal with green bananas and dumplings and thick bricks of macaroni and cheese. Quench your thirst with homemade sorrel, a magenta elixir made from hibiscus, or bring something a little stronger — this little oasis is graciously BYOB.
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