As winter turns to spring… and spring turns back to winter, we Minnesotans could use some comfort food to buoy our spirits. Rather than turn to classic Midwestern comforters like hot dish, wild rice soup, or Swedish meatballs, we suggest a trip to Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine for Jerk Chicken Roti ($11) and Sweet Potato Pie ($3). This Trinidadian comfort food not only consoles, it knocks the funk right out of you.
Although Marla is known for several dishes (on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy Fieri raved about the oxtails with red beans and rice and the channa and potato curry), we can’t get enough of the staples. Jerk Chicken Roti is a destination dish, both because it’s worth crossing town to get and it will make you want to jump on the next plane to the Caribbean. The chunks of grilled dark meat are impressively moist and pleasantly smoky. The chicken is marinated and served in a complex, sexy jerk sauce that’s relatively sweet and seriously spicy.
The sauce is perfect for mopping up with Marla’s excellent dhalpuri roti, a thin, flaky bread (thinner than naan but thicker than a tortilla) that’s filled with yellow split peas and flavored with toasted cumin seed. For those who like bread with a little more substance, Marla also offers paratha roti. Although too doughy for our tastes, it too is a great conduit for the jerk sauce. At $11, the large portion is a solid value. One order is enough for two people, though there is a $3 plate-sharing fee.
To lift your spirits even higher, it’s imperative to end the meal with a slice of Marla’s sweet potato pie. With a light crust and luscious, pillowy filling, this rich dessert is more flavorful and sweeter than a typical pumpkin pie. Like everything we’ve tried at Marla’s, the pie has great character.
So, if you’ve got the late winter / early spring doldrums and hopping on a plane for the West Indies isn’t an option, Marla’s is a wonderful alternative. The calypso music, mellow vibe, and fiery food will transport you to Caribbean shores, where it definitely doesn’t snow in April.
Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine, 3761 Bloomington Ave S, Minneapolis; 612.724.3088