Enter Calypso Raw Bar & Restaurant and be transported to a joint in the Caribbean where you can almost imagine sand under your feet with a Red Stripe in hand.
Island music wafts on the sound system from the tiki bar, and the dining room has parrot-pattern curtains, potted plants and a large map of the Caribbean surrounded by straw hats. It is a fitting setting for enjoying peppery jerk wings, cracked conch, peel-and-eat shrimp, cutters (island lingo for sandwiches), burgers, roti and lunch platters such as half a jerk chicken with one side.
Owners Chuck and Lora Ternosky are celebrating 25 years in business. They named their place after the Calypso music that originated in Trinidad and Tobago, with its syncopated rhythms and improvised lyrics based on West African Kaiso.
Both are from northwest New Jersey and met at a company where he was a communications programer and she was an operations manager. They moved to South Florida for the weather and access to the Caribbean.
Chuck Ternosky decided he wanted a career change and took a job in a Key West-themed restaurant in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and liked it. He is a self-taught chef but says he could not run the place without his hardworking kitchen staff.
Lora Ternosky makes the desserts, and it is wise to preorder a slice of double coconut cream pie with a toasted coconut and semisweet chocolate crust (it runs out fast).
The scallops, oysters and clams come from New England, while the fish are warm-water tropical species, both local and flown overnight from Mexico. The shrimp are ocean-harvested, and the conch is from the Bahamas. Often there are interesting fish, such as sheepshead (it lives on shellfish) or wahoo (in the kingfish family), grilled and served with black beans, rice ’n’ peas and fried plantains.
All the fish is hand-cut, and the scraps along with fillets are house-smoked to make dip served with crackers.
Launch a meal with conch salad in lime juice and habanero pepper sauce with thyme; conch fritters; or stamp and go — Jamaica-style salt cod fritters that are named stamp and go because folks jump off a bus, grab one, scarf it and hop back on.
When scallops were not selling, Chuck Ternosky chopped them up with shrimp to make a burger with no filler. Scoops are lightly dusted in flour and pan fried served on a bun with mustard mayo sauce.
Roti are West Indian burritos with a soft flour “skin” folded around lamb, chicken, fish or shrimp curry served with potato salad, coleslaw or fries. The best-selling cutter is the Calypso with sautéed shrimp and mushrooms in garlic parsley butter with cheddar, stuffed in a hollowed kaiser roll.
Check the chalkboard for specials like grilled squid tentacles served ceviche-style with bell pepper and onion or bread pudding with cinnamon rum sauce. You’ll soon be on island time here.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.