As a self-proclaimed foodie, I’m always excited to indulge in a cuisine that I’ve never tried before. Up until last week, Jamaican was one of those. Since there’s just too many fantastic eateries to choose from in New York, I did a simple Google search for “best restaurants to go to for your birthday in Manhattan” and came up with this gem.
Centrally located in SoHo, Miss Lily’s serves up Caribbean fare in casual digs. I can’t talk about the food without first talking about the dining experience, which was one of the most fun I’ve ever had.
We walk into the dimly lit dining room where “Birthday Sex” by Jeremih is blaring. Couple that with a lively bar scene and cafeteria-style booths lining the wall opposite the bar. I had no idea what to make of this place. After being seated, we were greeted by a waitress wearing boyfriend jeans, a crop top, and a bandana in her hair who was way too cool for us.
Besides the memorable food and attentive service, my favorite part about this dinner was the DJ. He played banger after banger after banger of hip-hop and reggae hits the entire time we were there. I literally couldn’t have dreamed up a better playlist.
The icing on the cake was the unnamed patron who took it upon himself to create a dance floor in the middle of the restaurant (see video here). I also found out after the fact that Beyoncé and Jay-Z have reportedly been spotted eating here, making me feel that much more hip.
I’m certainly no expert in Jamaican dining, meaning that I couldn’t tell you whether something I was eating is authentic or not. But whatever I ate at Miss Lily’s was pretty damn good. My best description of Jamaican cuisine is as a cross between Indian and Latin-American. It’s heavily spiced using seasonings like curry and tamarind, but also incorporates central-American staples like plantains.
I opted for the curry goat stew – a hearty serving of goat meat, potatoes, and vegetables alongside white rice and roti (a sort of pita bread). This goat was rockin’. Having eaten roasted goat meat once before in Italy, I was eager to try it prepared in a completely different way. The stewed version was delightful. The curry spices were potent but not overpowering. The goat (which is similar in flavor and texture to lamb) was fork-tender and tasted extremely fresh. I’d never encountered roti before, but loved how it was airy and chewy at the same time; it was a great accompaniment for the stew.
Something else worth mentioning was the wine I had with this dish – a montepulciano from the region of Abruzzo in Italy. Goat is a delicacy in this region, so I have a theory that the chef chose included this wine on the meny specifically to be eaten with this stew. Even if he didn’t, it was still a great pairing.
The heavy seasonings in this dish definitely aren’t for the faint of heart, but if you can stomach them I’d highly recommend giving it a try. Although I was super full upon leaving the restaurant, I digested the meal relatively quickly, proving that the quality of the ingredients was high and the flavorings tolerable even before a night out drinking.
My girlfriends shared an arugula salad, fried fish tacos, sweet plantains, and mac & cheese, all of which they said were delicious. I tried the mac & cheese myself and think it’s truly the best I ever had. I’ve never tried a variety that was so light and fluffy while still being wonderfully cheesy.
I was surprised by my friends with a slice of coconut cake (and table side twerking) in honor of my birthday. The DJ also played 2 Chainz’ “Birthday Song” when the cake was brought out to me – I was entertained.
The cake was just as good as the main course. It was super moist and not overly dense. The frosting tasted the way coconut should taste and wasn’t at all sickeningly sweet. A fabulous ending to a funky evening.
- In a word: F U N
- In my experience, great atmosphere is usually followed by lackluster food. Not the case with this place.
- Reasonable prices for Manhattan
- Most suitable for people aged 22-45