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Get your goat — or shrimp — at Lawrence Caribbean

By Tom Hanchett

Gavin Lawrence hails from the Caribbean island of Jamaica — and from Queens, New York, a destination for many Jamaican immigrants.

You’ll probably miss Lawrence Caribbean the first time you go. The plain white concrete block building is barely visible from West Boulevard, tucked down an embankment near a railroad bridge. But it’s worth the effort to find.

Gavin Lawrence, always in cheerful motion behind the counter, has been cooking for over forty years. Born on the island of Jamaica, he came of age in New York City’s Queens. He worked for Pathmark supermarkets there and ran his own Jamaican eatery on the side until Harris-Teeter recruited him south to manage stores. With two youngsters at UNC Greensboro, he opened Lawrence Caribbean in 2015.

Never tried Caribbean food? The shrimp is a good place to start. For $10 you get over a dozen plump shrimp in a rich yellow sauce, a side of rice-and-peas (as Caribbean islanders call rice-and-beans), stewed cabbage, a smattering of green beans, plus sweet fried plantains. It’s more food than most folks can eat in one sitting.

Don’t worry about spiciness. “Shrimp and snapper I cook to order, any spice level you want,” Lawrence assures.

As to the rest of the menu, you’ll find dishes in three categories: “Stew’s not spicy. Curry’s got some spice. Jerk’s really spicy,” he explains. Pick your protein: chicken, beef or for the more adventurous, oxtail or goat.

My favorite is the curry goat roti. The goat here tastes milder than lamb, in a long-simmered sauce. Bones are part of the mix so don’t be shy — reach in and knaw. The meat comes nestled in roti, the flavorful flatbread brought to the Caribbean by immigrants from India.

Got a sweet-tooth? Order house-made sorrell, a syrupy purple beverage made from hibiscus flowers. And take home a slice of Jamaica’s favorite fruit-flecked black cake.

Lawrence Caribbean can be hard to find if you are heading outbound on West Boulevard, but it’s worth seeking out.

Lawrence Caribbean
Monday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday – Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday closed

3011 West Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28208
(980) 299 – 0609

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