Laylah’s Patties & Jerk
By Megan McGlamery (guest host for the East County Eater)
August 23, 2011 (San Diego) -- Located in the southern region of the Caribbean lies the striking island of Jamaica. Known for everything from its sunny beaches to singer Bob Marley and a relaxed “no-problem” way of life, it’s no wonder so many people have come to love this island lifestyle.
For many of us, Jamaica may be a bit too far to visit on a regular basis. Luckily, we have an alternative. Situated on El Cajon Boulevard in the heart of Rolando near San Diego State University is a little slice of Jamaica. Laylah’s Patties & Jerk offers a wide range of authentic Jamaican cuisine, which certainly left me feeling satisfied and eager to return.
Opened in 2008 and named after the owner’s daughter, Laylah’s Patties & Jerk is sure to offer something for everyone. Entrees range from popular Jamaican dishes (i.e., jerk pork, small $10, large $12) to out-of-the-ordinary (i.e., curry goat, small $10, large $12).
According to Collin Jones, an employee and chef at Laylah’s, “The key to a good meal is to find the taste people want.” After tinkering with their recipes a few times based upon customer feedback, Laylah’s has created several superb selections, all worth sampling.
Along with Miriam Raftery, editor of East County Magazine, I visited the small but cheery restaurant, eager to sample something different from my usual lunchtime sandwich. Upon arriving at the vibrantly decorated restaurant, we were greeted by friendly staff at the restaurant’s front counter who took our order quickly. We then sat at one of the venue’s tables as our meal was dished out onto two plates and served.
As the portions are very generous at Laylah’s (all dinner meals include a mix of red rice and beans, shredded cabbage and carrots as well as fried plantains), we decided to share a small serving of the jerk chicken ($10) with two extra orders of fried plantains ($2.50 each). The flavorful chicken was spicy, succulent and so tender it fell off the bones almost effortlessly. The fried plantains were soft, sweet and tangy- everything you could possibly desire from the banana-like fruit. The gigantic serving of red rice and beans served as a complimentary side dish to the jerk chicken as did the smaller portion of shredded vegetables. The portions were generous and we had extras to take home.
Collin informed us that the restaurant’s most popular item is the breakfast dish Ackee, Jamaica’s national salt-water fish. Served with sides of green banana and yam dumplings, I can’t wait to try this tantalizing treat on my next visit.
Another appealing aspect of dining at Laylah’s is the restaurant’s free frequent customer’s card. After each meal, patrons are encouraged to ask for a stamp on their card. After collecting ten stamps, they are rewarded with a free Jamaican dinner worth up to $10.
The décor and atmosphere of Laylah’s is very reminiscent of its cuisine. Bright Rasta shades of green, yellow, orange, red and black cover every wall but one, where a likeness of singer Bob Marley is painted looking pensive, as if contemplating his order. Near our table, Jamaica’s national flag adorned the wall and authentic Reggae music played semi-loudly throughout the restaurant. All these elements combined to create a fun and upbeat ambiance for us as well as other guests.
While we thoroughly enjoyed our meal, the seating is limited. Another large group took up three of the tables, so you may wish to visit Laylah’s at off-peak hours for maximum seating availability. Another oddity is that no knives are offered, though fortunately most foods are tender enough so that the cutlery was not needed.
Laylah’s Patties & Jerk is the perfect place for people looking for a relaxed, yet fun atmosphere. Prices are very reasonable (especially considering their sizeable portions) and the employees go out of their way to make sure your meal is perfect.
So if you can’t go to Jamaica, take a trip to Laylah’s. You’ll save a ton on airfare and still have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a little piece of the island—even if it is only for lunch or dinner.