The Caribbean American Bakery teeters on the north edge of Chicago, but it's half a continent away in taste. It offers authentic, freshly made Jamaican baked goods, meals and snacks. And while it doesn't have a place to sit down (all the food's to-go), that's just as well: Its only touch of ambiance comes from the smells that waft out of the baking room.
Customers line up to grab pies filled with spiced ground beef followed with a slice of coconut bread. Popular desserts include coconut drops, which mix chopped coconut with ginger and “lots of brown sugar,” as the woman behind the counter puts it. They look like mud clumps on a SUV, but taste way better—the ginger offsets what would otherwise be a too-sugary mess. In fact, you'll find more ginger here than you would watching a Gilligan's Island marathon. You can try ginger loaves, which have a pleasant aftertaste and soft texture, or ginger juice, with a shockingly sharp tang that must require an acquired taste.
For something more substantial than baked goods, patrons can call ahead to request traditional meals such as jerk pork, jerk chicken and curried goat. Prices for the entrees range from $7.50-$10.50, and the baked goods cost a reasonable $2-$4 for most loaves and $1-$2 for smaller snacks.
Average cost: <$10
Centerstage Reviewer: Kent Green