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Easton and Tammey Romer's addition to Olive Boulevard's ethnic restaurant row is jammin', from the Jamaican specialties to the endless loop of Bob Marley concert videos on the dining-room TV. A native of Jamaica who came to St. Louis in the late 1980s, Easton makes his jerk rub fresh, and it shows: pungent, citrusy and spicy. Jamaica's South Asian influence is present in the mildly spiced golden sauces that blanket shrimp, chicken or goat curries. There's fish, of course -- from simple grilled salmon to vinegary escovetch whole red snapper (and a spicier version that's steamed in a tomato-based sauce, then baked). You won't be able to get enough of the banana rum fritters -- but the Red Stripe is abundant.
Though located directly across Grand Boulevard from the Fox Theatre, Kota Wood Fire Grill doesn't rely on Broadway kitsch and generic, crowd-pleasing chow. Instead the restaurant, from the same folks behind nearby Triumph Grill, is airy and attractive, with dishes that draw from Caribbean and Gulf Coast flavors. Seafood has a prominent place: mahi-mahi crusted with plantain and drizzled with a key-lime vinaigrette; shrimp and grits in a rich, garlicky barbecue sauce. Among meat entrées, the smoked pork chop, stuffed with an apple-fig chutney, is a standout.
Located on Delmar Boulevard a few blocks east of the Loop, Nubia Café features a fusion of West African and Caribbean dishes and entertainment. The head cook, a Nigerian native, offers a menu featuring authentic and inspired meals, such as jerk chicken spiced to order, red beans and rice, a specially spiced bison burger and a vegetarian-friendly yam portage. Diners can also savor Mamma's Stew, a rich concoction of a tomato base, greens, rice and chicken, beef or goat meat. Nubia's colorful interior features large tables, outdoor dining and a full bar that specializes in South African wines. Nubia also hosts private events and offers customized menu items for special parties.
Eccentric haven Venice Café provides a bright, colorful spot to take in live music and enjoy Caribbean fare - Rasta kabobs (available with jerk chicken, beef or veggie), Red Stripe Porker (pork tenderloin) and fried plantains are among the options. Venice Café's drinks include standard beer and liquor choices, and happy hour specials run Monday through Saturday.
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