Christine Strickland cooks banana fritters Wednesday at Taste of Paradise. The restaurant specializes in Jamaican food.
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Telegram photo / Emma Tannenbaum

Christine Strickland cooks banana fritters Wednesday at Taste of Paradise. The restaurant specializes in Jamaican food.

City restaurant boasts exotic fare

By John Henderson
Staff Writer

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Yolanda Evans had some trepidation about opening a Jamaican restaurant in Rocky Mount.

But she and her husband, Joeroyal, took a leap of faith in December 2005 when they opened Taste of Paradise, she said. They have not looked back, and they have no regrets, as the business has grown to include a loyal following.

“I was hoping the restaurant would go over well, but I did not know,” said Evans, who moved in 1986 from Jamaica to Maryland and then in 2003 to North Carolina.

She said she feels blessed for the success of the restaurant.

“I know people love chicken and barbecue,” she said. “I thank God where we are today with the business because the economy in Rocky Mount is not doing well. Rocky Mount turned out to be one of the better locations. But we stepped out on faith coming to Rocky Mount.”

Recently, the Evanses started offering a line of all-natural fruit and vegetable juices that also is gaining a following. She decided to offer the juices after recovering from an illness after having tried them.

“I felt better. I no pain,” she said. “That’s the reason why I created (juice) J21, not only to lose weight, but build your body up and change your whole way of living.”

Her husband was among people who lost weight drinking the juices, she said. Between exercise and regularly drinking the juices, he has lost 100 pounds.

“People (drinking the juice) are feeling better and telling other people about it or have been losing weight,” she said. “The first male to start using the juice did so from Dec. 28 until Jan. 25 and lost 22 pounds. The doctor took him off high blood pressure medicine. He drank the juice for breakfast and lunch and had a nice meal. When people see him now, they can’t believe it. My husband and him are a walking testimony to the health benefits of the juices.”

Evans, who originally is from Jamaica, said the restaurant serves food that she grew up eating.

“I’m from the island,” she said. “I was raised in little town called Paradise.”

Lunch plates with chicken entrees cost $6. Ox tail plates cost $8. The restaurant also offers students at nearby Edgecombe Community College a $2.99 miniplate for lunch.

“That’s a steal,” she said.

The restaurant opened in 2005 across from the Rocky Mount Train Station and moved to its current location in 2008.

“(The previous) location was very small,” she said. “It was a much smaller location. This is a much bigger location for us.”

The restaurant has a loyal following, she said.

“There is no other Jamaican restaurant here in Rocky Mount. I think the next closest one is in Wilson. People all over have been coming here. We have customers who come here from Roanoke Rapids and Raleigh.”

Q: What products or services do you provide?

A: We are currently a restaurant serving Jamaican food. We serve jerk chicken, curry chicken, brown stew chicken, ox tails, rice and beans and cabbage – all Jamaican food, with the right seasoning done our way.

We offer different Caribbean dishes. Quite a few people have been to Jamaica but some haven’t experienced unique, authentic food from Jamaica.

We just started serving all-natural juices. We have pineapple ginger, carrot and beets. We have cucumber juice, and we have a formula J21, which is a weight-loss formula juice. It’s a combination of about 13 different fruits and vegetables. We have folks who have been using it who had great success in losing weight.

Q: Who are your key leaders?

A: Owners Yolanda and Joeroyal Evans and Joeroyal Evans Jr.

Q: How many people do you employ?

A: Three.

Q: What is your business philosophy?

A: On our (business) card we say, “We bring the Caribbean to you.”

Q: What makes your business unique?

A: It’s different. The seasoning on our food is different. We have different flavors of dishes that are not locally here in the area, so again, like I said, “I’m from the island and these dishes are dishes I was raised upon.”

Q: How has your business grown last few years?

A: It has grown. I know sometimes people are a little hesitant in trying something new. But the word is getting out. There are people who are more apt to try or taste (Jamaican food) versus eating burgers.

I’d say our food is healthier to a certain extent, because most of our food is either steamed or baked. Very little is fried. Our food is either steamed on the stove or baked in the oven.

Q: What kind of growth do you expect in the coming years?

A: My plan is to have a restaurant and juice department where we do both, and we get it to grow maybe even to other cities, to other locations.


A hidden gem for Rocky Mount

This is a must-try treat, right downtown.

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