Andrae Dixon and Pagiel Rose met in Bar Harbor, where the two Jamaican American chefs cooked in restaurants for nearly a decade. When they weren’t making lobster dishes for hungry tourists, they were cooking the food of their island home — jerk chicken, curry goat, brown stew chicken, festival dumplings, many others — and dreaming about the Jamaican restaurant they’d someday open.
Now, with their business partners Anna Limeburner and Angelina Sharp, that restaurant dream has finally come true. Jamaican Vybz, a new take out restaurant, is open for lunch and dinner Mondays through Saturdays at the corner of Center and Cumberland streets in Bangor.
“We always wanted to open a restaurant, and Bangor was the only place we could really do it,” said Dixon. “We could afford it and we could be open year-round.”
The four business partners spent most of the spring cleaning and renovating the storefront at 97 Center St., now painted in lively green, yellow, red and black. In the three weeks that Jamaican Vybz has been open, Limeburner said they have already seen many repeat customers.
“The thing that’s been really surprising to me is how many people have come back each week and tried lots of different things,” said Limeburner, a Boston native. “People are really excited to try something different.”
While jerk chicken is arguably the most iconic and well-known Jamaican dish — and Dixon and Rose’s jerk chicken is prepared with their authentic, wildly flavorful house-made jerk spice rub — the restaurant offers a wide array of classic Jamaican dishes. Curry goat, cooked in a spicy curry sauce, and oxtail, a tender beef cut braised and served with rice, are both on the menu.
“We had to look around a lot to find a supplier for goat and for the oxtail,” said Dixon. “We get it from W.A. Bean. Sean Smith [W.A. Bean’s director of sales] worked hard to get that for us. So we get that locally, which is good for everybody.”
There’s also brown stew chicken, a Caribbean treat in which chicken is stewed in brown sugar, garlic and spices, and Ital stew, a vegetable and bean stew, as well as Jamaican-style fried chicken and barbecued ribs. For sides, Jamaican Vybz offers fried plantains, rice and beans made with coconut milk, festival (a cornmeal dumpling) and Jamaican-style coleslaw and potato salad. There’s a wide array of Caribbean soft drinks in the cooler, from Irish Moss, a sweet, rich peanut-based drink, to pineapple soda and ginger beer. They also offer house-made juices, including spiced carrot, cucumber-ginger-lime, and beet, carrot and peanut.
Dixon, Rose, Limeburner and Sharp hope eventually to expand their restaurant to offer sit-down dining and a bar, as well as new dishes like Jamaican patties, a pastry stuffed with spiced meat. Rose, who most recently was sous chef at the Looking Glass at the Bluenose Inn in Bar Harbor, said he thinks people are ready for different cuisines and dining options in Bangor.
“I’m really happy that people are gravitating towards the things they’ve never tried before,” said Rose. “They want something they haven’t had. And they like it, too. That’s been really great to see.”
Jamaican Vybz, located at 97 Center St. in Bangor, across the street from Bangor Floral, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and is closed on Sundays. It is available for takeout only, either walk-in or call ahead at 973-1999. It also will do delivery in Bangor.