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Best Caribbean Cuisine: Fire in the belly 

Ma's Caribbean Cuisine & Roti Shop

You can never be sure of the reception you'll get at Ma's Caribbean Cuisine, also known as Happy Day, a Nigerian restaurant. Sometimes you merit a sullen greeting, sometimes you inexplicably earn a smile for just being you. This tiny, not particularly clean storefront -- with just enough room for two very small people to sit -- has been around for a half-decade, but Ma moved on a long time ago. The African side of the menu isn't worth tasting. But Ma's original-recipe roti are phenomenal. A product of the Trinidadian fusion of Indian and Caribbean cuisines, roti are burrito-sized crepes wrapped around stewed meats and vegetables. The jerk chicken filling, dark brown with ground spices, pulses with the fire of Scotch bonnets, and the meat melts off the bone (yup, the chicken isn't deboned). The curried vegetables and curried chicken don't just taste like curry powder, either; they have an almost smoky intensity and enough heat to make a glass of sweet-tart sorrel (hibiscus drink) or peppery ginger beer a necessity.

Readers' Pick:
Tropix Caribbean Restaurant
3814 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-653-2444

(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)


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