The Reggae Food Truck
Simmer Down Caribbean Cafe
Story & Photos by Bob Doran
Simmer Down Caribbean Cafe is not your usual food truck. For starters, it’s mostly vegetarian, and the menu is Jamaican — what’s known as ital style. They have burgers and fries, but not the all-American kind, this is JA-stylie.
It was two, maybe three years ago when I had a conversation with Simmer Down chef/proprietor Patrick “Red Rasta” Gaskins about food trucks. While we waited for our late night food at La Barca Taco Truck in an Arcata alley, the reggae DJ told me his dream: to get his own truck and serve Jamaican food to the masses in Humboldt. Now he’s tucked his dreadlocks under a cap and he’s operating his new red, green and gold truck in McKinleyville, looking at festivals, perhaps some place for late night patties in the future.
The menu is simple, intentionally. Full on meals include Jerk Tofu, Cilantro Lemongrass Curry Soy Chunks and Escovitch Rock Cod (with pickled peppers), all served with coconut rice and beans, side veggies du jour, green salad and fried plantains for dessert. Replacing the classic beef burger is a homemade Chickpea Cashew patty with lettuce, tomato, onion and cilantro aioli. (For the uninitiated, aioli is a variation on mayonnaise, this is an eggless version.) The same aioli is used as a dipping sauce for sides: tasty Corn Fritters or Yam Fries. They also offer coconut rice and red beans alone, then there’s the classic Fried Plantains (related to bananas), a tasty finish for your meal, or maybe just a snack on their own.
It’s all “ital,” a loosely defined cooking style associated with the Rastafari movement. The Nyabinghi have one definition, Twelve Tribes of Israel and Bobo Ashanti have their own. “For us, ital just means natural, good, non-processed food,” says Red, “organic and local, whenever possible.” Of course it’s not just for Rastas, it’s just plain good.
Simmer Down is currently operating at 1980 Central Ave. in McKinleyville behind the 76 Gas Station where Hiller Dr. hits Central. Hours: 11:30 am through 6 pm, Wednesday though Saturday. Phone them at (707) 702-1050. Yes, they take credit/debit cards, if you’ve got plastic.
You might be thinking something like this would be a better fit for Arcata. Red Rasta tried hard to make that work, but hit a bureaucratic wall city-wise. I’ve heard similar stories from others about Arcata not being welcoming when it comes to food trucks. There’s another story there, but it will have to wait for another day. For now, I’m off to McKinleyville to take my mom out for a Jamaican lunch.