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GETTIN' YER GOAT

Foodwise, our corner of the state is a lot more diverse than meets the eye. You could dine at Applebee's every night for a fortnight and never eat at the same restaurant twice, true, but if you venture off the beaten track even a little in Central Florida you are bound to come across some surprises.

Caribbean Queen Cuisine, a no-frills, family-run restaurant on the west side, is such a place. If you are hungry for a taste of the islands, but one of those all-inclusive package pig-outs to Jamaica isn't in the budget right now, stop by. It will be the cheapest culinary tour you've ever taken.

Tucked way in the corner of the Park Promenade mall, the place is easy to miss. (The location gets bonus points with this writer for being next door to a Goodwill store, where I nabbed two bitchin' dress shirts for $7. Score!) In fact, my wife predicts the location will doom the place. Which would be too bad, really, because for the price ($5) I can't remember a better plate of curried goat. I'm a big fan of goat. For the uninitiated, goat meat tastes just like a goat smells. You'll love it or you'll hate it, but if you're going to eat Jamaican (or Indian) food, you'd better at least be prepared to try it.

Goat can be tough, but this serving was tender, and smothered in a rich sauce that could have used more curry. Goat can also be bony, and this serving was indeed bony. You've got to be patient to eat a goat.

We also tried the oxtail ($5), which is exactly what you think it is: the tail of an ox. No, they don't just plop the whole thing, sausage-like, on your plate. They cut it into sections at the joints, so what you're left with are bone discs containing small cavities of dark, succulent meat. (You also have to be patient to eat an ox's tail.) It came in a rich, red sauce that only hinted of the fiery peppers found in jerk dishes.

Both dinners came with sides of rice and peas, a cabbage salad and a fried knot of sweet dough they called a dumpling. It was a huge amount of food for the price.

We also tried the Jamaican beef and jerk chicken patties, which are kept in a warming oven on the counter. If you like meat pies, you'll like these soft pillows of dough stuffed with beef, jerk chicken or vegetables. They're incredibly filling, and incredibly cheap at only $1 each.

As for décor, well, there just isn't much to write about. There's green carpet on the floors, wood paneling on the walls and lots of tables, most of which were empty the night we visited. The place is clean and unassuming. And did I mention cheap?

So here's the drill: Stop in, grab a Ting (Jamaican grapefruit soda) from the cooler and a beef patty from the counter, then order a plate of something you've never tried before. Dinner will be ready about the time you've polished off that patty. You'll get a lot of food, change for a ten and a trip to the islands, for your stomach anyway.

dining@orlandoweekly.com
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