Veggie Boy: The Breadfruit

The Breadfruit's "Vegan Special" will be Jamaican your mouth water.

The Valley isn't exactly known for its Jamaican culture.

Truth be told, there's a grand total of two restaurants around these parts that serve up cuisine straight from the tiny Caribbean isle that birthed Bob Marley and the Rastafari religion.

It's quite a shame, frankly, because after taking just one bite of the irie edibles available at The Breadfruit, you'll wish we had Jamaican restaurants on every single street corner. Flavorful doesn't even begin to describe the quality of the eats available at the downtown Phoenix ethnic eatery, which was opened last year by Jamaican-raised restaurateur Dwayne Allen.

The place is also a boon to Valley vegetarians and vegan, since Allen and his hipster-looking kitchen staff offers almost a dozen different entrees and appetizers that made sans animal products. Be sure to thank Jah for this, as its due to the fact that a portion Rastafarians adhere to stringent dietary rules forbidding them from feasting on any living creatures.

The avocado plantain spring rolls with mango chutney.

And who need meat or eggs when there are lovely plantains. These cousins to the Chiquita bananas currently going brown on your kitchen shelf are the ingredient in many a Jamaican dish. For instance, the Allen and his culinary cohorts take plantain slices and diced avocados and wrapped up it all up into a nice-looking spring roll. These bite-sized hors d'oeuvres (which cost $2.50 for two) are a little bland by themselves, so be sure to dip 'em in the mango chutney that comes on the side.

Another staple of Jamaican cuisine are "rice and peas," the Caribbean phrase for what is essentially red kidney beans and rice. Many a vegetarian has supped on said dish, and The Breadfruit's version is quite splendid. Nearly every selection on the menu features it, including the restaurant's curried tofu. Made from soy chunks cooked in a piquant sauce, it's by far one of the most popular vegetarian selections.

It's ordered so often that it never seems to be available the past few times we've dropped by the restaurant. (Allen can't seem to keep enough tofu in stock). On our last visit, however, the wait staff offered us the "vegan special," a concoction of bok choi, collared greens, carrots, and onions that was imbued with a sauce of rum, rosemary, and other island spices. A pair of fried plantains serve as a garnish.

While it's sure to electrify your palate, it's nowhere as delish as the tofu curry. So before stopping by The Breadfruit, try praying to Jah that Dwayne made sure to order extra tofu that week.

The Breadfruit Authentic Jamaican Grill
108 East Pierce Street
Hours: Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch), and 5 to 9 p.m. (dinner);
Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch), and 5 to 10 p.m. (dinner); Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.