Jamaican on Main: Jaiden’s Place brings Caribbean flavors to Washington

Michael Bradwell
Observer Reporter

The city’s dining scene, which earlier this month added a microbrewery with a full-service restaurant, now also offers the flavors of the Caribbean on Main Street.

Originally opened as a convenience store in May with her Caribbean dishes offered as takeout, Jaiden’s Place owner Marsha Collins has reworked the site as a restaurant following the urging of a staffer who admires her food.

She said Allen Johnson, who works with her in preparing and serving the food said, “Marsha, nobody wants to buy the potato chips,” and suggested that she should focus solely on her cooking.

Those dishes include curry chicken, jerk chicken, brown stew chicken, red snapper, curry goat, oxtail and Jamaican style barbeque ribs.

They’re all served with Jamaican or white rice, Caribbean cabbage, candied yams or greens and fried dumplings.

There’s also finger food, including fried plantains and Jamaican wing dings.

All of the food is served in the dining area to the sounds of Jamaican music provided by Collins’ events manager Sterling Jones.

Collins, 44, of Pittsburgh, named the restaurant after her son, Jaiden, 13.

For now, she has been making the food daily in the kitchen at her other business, the Taboo night club in Homewood, and bringing it to Washington.

She explained that for the time being, she’s licensed to serve food in the Washington site, but can’t cook anything there yet.

That’s expected to change by early December, when a full commercial kitchen will open at the 181 S. Main St. location.

Work is also being done in the dining area to make it more intimate, and Collins said the makeover will include china and flatware in place of the more casual plastic ware that’s now in use.

“We’re looking for this to be a full-scale restaurant by the first of December,” she said.

One thing that will remain constant as Collins’ establishment scales up will be the focus on fresh ingredients.

“All of the dishes are prepared with fresh ingredients — scallions, green peppers, fresh ginger,” she said.

As for authenticity, Collins has her parents to thank for that, particularly her mother, who taught her how to make the traditional dishes from the island. The couple emigrated from Jamaica to New York and later moved to Pittsburgh.

“I learned from my mom. My mom is my greatest inspiration,” Collins said.

Her arrival as a restaurant operator here was suggested by her son, Brandon Collins. When he learned she was considering opening a restaurant, Collins recalled, “He said, “Mom, come out to Washington.”

One of the first places she looked at was the vacant storefront at 181 S. Main St., that previously was home to a plumbing company and for many years was a state liquor store.

Collins admitted when she made the decision, she wasn’t aware of the transformation taking place on the Main Street area, which now boasts a microbrewery, winery, two distilleries and a popular coffee shop.

“I looked at this building, I called, and signed a lease,” she said, adding that she’s happy she did.

Jaiden’s Place, 181 S. Main St., is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.