Chef Chat, Part 1: Anthony Davis of Reggae Hut

Reggae Hut, the colorful joint on Almeda Road in the Third Ward, serves up delicious Caribbean fare. Customers gobble up oxtails to the sounds of Bob Marley, his lyrics painted elegantly across the walls. Anthony "Tony" Davis is the man behind the meat, and he sat down with us to talk about his island oasis.

Eating Our Words: So what's the story of Reggae Hut?

Anthony Davis: This place has been open since '95. We bought it five-and-a-half years ago. I knew the original owners. It had changed hands a couple of times, and we didn't want to see it leave the community. So seeing as we had another restaurant, the breakfast klub, we thought, 'let's look into this and see if we can put our spin on it.' We brought the original guys back to teach us some of the stuff they do--I'm a great student, I love to learn--so we took some of their basic ideas and enhanced them with other herbs and vegetables and things like that, to make it more appealing to a broader base of customers.

EOW: How did you change it?

AD: I was listening to a radio show on Spanish food, and the Mexican restaurant was saying that what was supposed to be authentic wasn't making any customers. So they were saying, you can't cook in America like you would in Mexico. You take the same dishes, but you've got to make them appetizing to other cultures. That's what we do. It's still the basic dish, but you have to add a little onions, a little bell peppers, things like that to make it more appealing to other cultures.

EOW: How, then, would you classify this food?

AD: We say Caribbean, because we don't like to stay in one channel. Originally it was a Jamaican restaurant, but that kind of limits you as far as your items and your customers, because not everyone wants to come eat Jamaican. But when you think Caribbean: I have a couple dishes from Cuba, a couple from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic. I'm a great student, so I have ladies from other countries come in here and teach me dishes.

EOW: Are you originally from Houston? AD: Originally from Houston. Joined the Marine Corps at 19, and I came back here in '95 -- mama's boy. I worked regular jobs but my brother had the idea he wanted to open a restaurant, so that's how we got the breakfast klub started. I loved to cook, and I studied at HCC to learn other things about cooking.

Check back tomorrow to learn why the military is so crazy for Tony's cooking, and pay homage to the least-appreciated and most-delectable animal in his kitchen.

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