May 12, 2023 | OPINION | By Sam Treat
The wafting aroma was the first thing I noticed after I walked past the beckoning sign of Freaky’s Smokeshop and into Dainty’s Jamaican Kitchen. Dainty’s, easy to overlook, is tucked next to a parking lot and Freaky’s on the corner of Weber St. and Platte Ave. The outside is relatively unremarkable, save for the large Jamaican flag that has been painted on the Weber side.
No other advertisement is needed, however, as the smell emanating from the kitchen is more enticing than any sign could ever be. The interior of Dainty’s is welcoming, but not overly friendly; the walls are mostly bare, with several signs teaching Jamaican dialects and others with maps or photos of the country. Limited seating options and a no-nonsense counter ordering system made it clear that the focus was clearly the food – not interior decorating.
I joined a throng of blue-collar workers and high school students on their lunch break, all of us anxiously waiting for our takeout dishes. As a semi-novice to Jamaican cuisine, I decided to select the most popular dishes (conveniently noted on their online menu). Jerk chicken fries ($9), oxtail entree ($14), and a side of fried plantains ($5) constituted my meal.
For all food reviewers, the biggest enemies are budget and appetite, for if I could try everything on Dainty’s menu, I would have. Yet, when the lady behind the counter called me “honey bun” and told me my order was ready, all desire for more food was quenched – I had a mountain in front of me.
The jerk chicken fries were exquisite. Drenched in a combination of sauces, the fries were crisp and the chicken was perfectly cooked, slightly charred on the outside but white and fleshy underneath. Despite needing a fork to wade through the sauce and find morsels of chicken, the deliciousness of the dish cannot be overstated. The sauce was truly the champion of the meal, which comes with more than enough to share.
The oxtail entree, which came with two generous sides (mac n’ cheese plus rice and beans) was slightly less generously portioned than the fries. While it was not quite ‘fall of the bone’ tender, the meat was still juicy and clearly had been slow cooked for a substantive amount of time. For those unfamiliar, oxtail is a dish typically made from the tail of a cow. The meat is slow cooked or braised, leaving an end product of juicy tender beef hanging off a circular tailbone.
The bone does present a hazard to eating quickly and necessitates deft precision when biting the meat (as to not crunch down on the bone). That hazard, though, is welcome as it provides more time to savor the flavor of the oxtail. Slow cooking is the perfect way to impart flavor to meat, and this was no exception. Finally, for those who want the full eating experience, make sure you suck the bone marrow out of the tailbone pieces – bone marrow is both extremely nutritious and absolutely delectable.
Baked with a crunchy exterior, the mac n’ cheese was exactly the style I was hoping for. However, it was fairly bland, making it the only such dish to fall flat flavor-wise. The rice and beans, on the other hand, were the best rice and beans I’ve ever had. It was flavorful in a way that was entirely unexpected and complemented the oxtail nicely.
As an avid enjoyer of fried plantains, I must admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by the ones at Dainty’s. I prefer a fully fried plantain, crisped and dark. Instead, these were lightly fried, more yellow and mushy than I prefer.
Still, to say that my Dainty’s experience was anything less than a pleasure would be a lie. My fellow customers, many of whom had ordered the goat (my next order, for sure), were equally satisfied. One man left visually rubbing his belly and murmuring about a nap. With all the makings of a great food-coma inducer, Dainty’s provides high-quality, authentic Jamaican cuisine just minutes from the Colorado College campus. Next time you hit Freaky’s, take a whiff of the goodness coming from next door – I dare you to resist ordering after that.