Say what you like about Jamaican patties. They can be dry. They can be heavy. But for a long night of drinking and perhaps the morning after, the spicy stuffed pies are just what you need to keep on moving.
So it made sense that the brains behind Marvin and the Gibson on U Street would open a carryout specializing in the savory pastries on the ground floor of their new reggae club, Patty Boom Boom. The cafe recently extended its hours from lunchtime till late at night.
The space is functional. There are a few reggae posters on the walls, slim counters that run along the windows and some wooden stools. Even at midday, the music is loud enough to give the joint a clubby vibe.
The menu is as spare as the decor. Since opening last winter, Patty Boom Boom has experimented with varieties of patties ($3.75 each) and now offers spicy or mild ground beef, jerk chicken, pimento chicken, guava goat and vegetarian. Besides patties, the only items sold are Jamaican drinks such as Red Stripe beer, coconut water and a traditional Jamaican sorrel, a kind of hibiscus tea that can be mixed with ginger or mint syrup ($1.50, plus 25 cents to add a flavored sweetener).
The oversize pastries are made after hours in the kitchen of nearby Marvin and served warm in paper sleeves. The dough, made with vegetable shortening and a pinch of curry powder, is thick but flaky. The ground beef fillings are seasoned authentically with allspice, cayenne, curry and molasses, among other things. But we preferred the moist, shredded chicken fillings: The jerk has a cool heat from allspice, and the pimento has a bright kick from cherry peppers and habaneros. We loved the veggie patty with its surprisingly sweet mix of carrots, potatoes and peas. (We ordered the guava goat, one of the most popular fillings according to General Manager Ambiya Pinnix, but we were given a second pimento chicken instead.)
Patty Boom Boom offers free pickled pimento and mango sauces that are great for dunking.
U Street does not attract a steady stream of daytime traffic, so it is a risky move to open for lunch. But with the World Cup in full swing, soccer fans have been learning that Jamaican patties are not just for late-night snacking. The owners of Patty Boom Boom hope they pass the message on.
-- Jane Black
Patty Boom Boom 1359 U St. NW; 202-629-1712. Hours: Tuesdays through Thursdays, noon to 2 a.m.; Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 3 a.m.; Sundays, noon to 2 a.m. (with extended hours during World Cup play; call for information).