If You Plan on Eating at Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant, You Had Better Know the Rules

Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant has some great food - but you'd better know the rule before you go.

Get a behind the scenes look at Caribbean Hot Pot by checking out our Cafe slideshow.

At Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant, you must follow the rules. You want fish for dinner? Sorry, you should have called ahead and ordered it. You can't just place a fish order, because it takes 30 or 40 minutes to cook. Don't you know that? You want curry cooked right before your eyes? Not gonna happen. The jerk chicken, curried goat, oxtails and other offerings aren't made to order. They're cooked earlier in the day and spooned out of stew pots when they're requested. If that's a problem, you don't have to eat it. You want to try a breakfast dish for lunch or dinner? If there's some left over, it can be arranged, but it might be a negotiation, and both parties might end up displeased with the deal. Oh, and don't wander into the joint less than an hour before it closes, because by 7 p.m., the staff seems distracted and ready to go home.

The restaurant opened in 2011 to mixed reviews from the public, which is sometimes put off by the regulations owner Cliff Dalling imposes on unwitting diners. Dalling seems less concerned with pleasantries or creating a charming dining atmosphere than with making good food and running a tight ship. He brought his family recipes straight from the island of Jamaica to Houston, where he cooks up traditional Caribbean food out of the tiny green and yellow restaurant in a strip center near Spring. The location is unassuming, and unless you knew it was there, you'd never think to look for a killer Caribbean restaurant among the doctors' offices, car lots and sketchy nightclubs, but there it is.

You must call at least 30 minutes ahead of time for the escovitch fish or the owner will look at you with the same expression as the fellow on this plate.
Troy Fields
You must call at least 30 minutes ahead of time for the escovitch fish or the owner will look at you with the same expression as the fellow on this plate.

Location Info


Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant

954 Farm to Market 1960
Houston, TX 77090

Category: Restaurant > Jamaican

Region: Outer Loop - NW


Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Callaloo and saltfish: $6.50 (small); $9.50 (large)
Escovitch fish: $14.50 and up depending on size
Oxtails: $9.99 (medium); $12.50 (large)
Curry goat: $9.50 (medium); $11.50 (large)
Jerk chicken: $9.50 (medium); $11.50 (large)
Beef patty: $2.25 each
Side of rice and peas: $3
Side of plantains: $4.50
Ginger beer: $2.50
Irish Moss: $4.50

View More:

Slideshow: Caribbean Hot Pot Restaurant: A Closer Look
Blog: Jamaican Him Crazy

The restaurant itself isn't anything fancy. It's decked out in the vibrant colors of the Jamaican flag, and seating is limited to a few plastic tables and booths that are clean but not spotless. There's a table in front with ads and business cards from God knows where next to a fake plant meant to give diners an island feel. Or maybe just to fill space.

Every time I ate at Caribbean Hot Pot, the music playing over the speakers was a Jamaican twist on soft rock classics such as Dolly Parton's hit "I Will Always Love You" accompanied by a marimba and bongo drums. Later, when I heard "Knocking on Heaven's Door" being sung in a Jamaican accent, I snorted into my grapefruit Ting soda.

Ting is just one of the traditional Jamaican drinks available at Caribbean Hot Pot, and the variety of odd-flavored sodas and juices is exciting for someone like me who's never seen the likes of Irish Moss, a peanut puree juice drink, or Baba Roots, the most popular herbal energy drink in Jamaica. The best is the DG Genuine Jamaican Ginger Beer, which is spicier and less sweet than most ginger beers and a refreshing complement to the heat of the jerk chicken or curry.

When I arrived at Caribbean Hot Pot for the first time, I didn't really know what to order other than my beloved ginger beer, so I told Dalling to hook me up with some traditional Jamaican food. He seemed confused and tired, but he obliged, bringing me jerk chicken, curried goat and oxtails with a side order of extra plantains.

The jerk chicken is by far the best dish at Caribbean Hot Pot. The mixture of spices blends together almost seamlessly, so even the most sophisticated palate can't entirely distinguish one spice from another. The combination is vaguely reminiscent of pumpkin pie, but then the heat and the salt come through, and the connotations change entirely. The crispy charred chicken skin drips with burned spices and juice that's bursting through to the surface of the meat after it's cooked slowly for hours on a pimento wood grill. When the tender chicken cuts the heat of the spices, all the flavors ­muddle anew until there's no single distinctive ­flavor except chicken. Perfectly cooked chicken perfectly complemented by a recipe that ­traveled across the ocean from Africa to the shores of Jamaica, where the natives made it their own.

The curried goat was an unexpected offering, because I was unaware of the influence Indian cuisine had on Jamaican food. The Jamaican version is similar to Indian curry but with more allspice, a favorite spice of the island, and Scotch bonnet peppers, found mostly in the Caribbean and the main source of heat in island cooking. Goat curry takes a long time to cook, as do many other Jamaican stews, which is why very few items on the menu are made to order. All the meat dishes use bone-in meat that's stewed long enough that it will eventually fall off the bone with minimal prodding.

Oxtails are more bone than meat, so they need even more time to cook, but the tender muscle marbled with fat and the marrow-filled bones give the stew a rich, gamey flavor accented, of course, by allspice, thyme and no small pinch of Scotch bonnet peppers. Jamaican stews use ample amounts of carrots and onions as well, so all of them are reminiscent of a good American beef stew, only with an extra kick from the peppers and allspice.

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Im a big fan of Jamaican food, however in Houston, Ive only been to two Jamaican restaurants. Jamaica House and Reggae hut. How does it compare to those two? I find that the flavors of the same dishes vary widely from restaurant to restaurant (far greater than what you would expect from mexican / italian or Mediterranean). For example, Oxtails at Jamaica House tastes wildly different from the offering at Reggae Hut. While the flavor of the stew is closer to Jamaican Restaurants I have dined at before in other cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, the meat portion is paltry. While Reggae Hut has huge chunks of beef it tastes some what lacking, almost tame and pedestrian - still pretty good but not nearly as rich as yelp reviewers suggest (though to be fair I only had it once and maybe it was an off day). A bit of of frame of reference would help me greatly in deciding to make a drive to get some good food/poor service.


Thanks for the review.  I wonder why you needed to use so many stereotypes about Jamaicans in your article. It was an interesting review, but honestly if the service is not so good, it might not be because everyone is "day-dreaming about paradise." Maybe it is just a small restaurant oriented to the community and doesn't have a lot of interest in customer attention. And this idea that all the employees are drinking Red Stripe and dreaming of waves just seems based in harmful stereotypes of Caribbean people. I recommend Jamaica Kinkaid's book A Small Place. It's a good way of seeing the Caribbean from the non-tourist perspective. Also, they have a lot of healthy and vegetarian options on their menu. Did you try any of those? I wish you'd mentioned or talked about them a bit more. Thanks for the review.

gossamersixteen topcommenter

Great review Miss K. I'll have to check them out post haste.

KaitlinS topcommenter

@gossamersixteen Thanks! You should definitely go there! It's a weird place, but I love restaurants that are a little idiosyncratic. CALL AHEAD FOR THE FISH!