A week before Christmas, you may well have bought all your presents, with not much left in the kitty for takeout. If inexpensive comfort food is on your menu, head to Andrene's, a hole-in-the-wall carryout in Petworth.
Opened in 2006, Andrene's possesses an atmosphere, if you can call it that, that doesn't inspire confidence. The counter is protected by thick bulletproof glass with a small opening through which to push your money and receive your food. The main signage, besides the menu, is a photocopy of a $100 bill scribbled with "no fake $100s." (Apparently fake $20s aren't a big problem.)
But Andrene Finn's spacious kitchen behind the glass works hard to turn out satisfying Caribbean and soul food. Almost everything is homemade. (The exceptions are the traditional Jamaican patties and soft, cafeteria-like coco bread, and you're better off skipping them.)
Start with the jerk chicken wings (six for $4.25, 12 for $7.25), a meal in themselves. The jerk, traditionally based on allspice and Scotch bonnet chili peppers, has a sharp, peppery flavor, and the wings are meaty and tender. In the classic-Caribbean category, we also liked the curried goat (small, $8.25; large, $10) and jerk chicken (small, $8; large, $9.25), which is pretty much like the wings except it's white meat. If you're afraid of goat, don't be. As with a short rib, the meat falls off the bones -- which, be warned, are included in the curry -- and the sauce is mild with a touch of sweetness.
Both entrees come with generous portions of plantains, braised cabbage, and rice and beans, which are particularly good when some of the jerk sauce seeps in. All sides are also available in individual portions. You also can choose from collard greens ($2.80), cornbread ($1) and macaroni and cheese ($2.80), though sadly the mac and cheese wasn't available when we stopped in.
Big appetites will also like the beef ribs (quarter-rack of ribs, $9; half-slab, $15.99), which look like something Fred Flintstone would eat. The huge ribs are lacquered in barbecue sauce that had one overarching flavor: sweet. The meat was tender, however, and the quarter-rack was big enough for two normal appetites.
Andrene's can get busy at prime lunch and dinner hours. For large orders, call in advance.
-- Jane Black (Dec. 17, 2008)