Golden Krust sure doesn’t sound like the name of a Caribbean eatery. Maybe a bread shop or a fictitious business on The Simpsons.
Actually, its origin was as a bakery, in St. Andrew, Jamaica, where the crusts, or Krusts, if you will, that were meant to be golden were the patties and other baked goods that are staples of a Jamaican menu.
Golden Krust also didn’t scream franchise to me as I approached the restaurant in Waterford Lakes, but I figured it out once I was inside. The menu board over the counter, where a steam table holds the day’s offerings, has a space next to each item’s name where the dish’s calories can be listed. Restaurants in Florida are not required to list nutritional information — yet — so the spaces were blank. But I realized that only a menu board provided by a franchisor would have the unnecessary calorie spaces. And I also correctly deduced that this was a franchise out of New York, where chains and fast food joints are required to list nutritional information. (Here in the Sunshine State such information is available on request from most chains, but otherwise kept in the dark.)
But without the clue of the menu board, I would have thought Golden Krust was a startup restaurant owned and operated by locals. That’s because I was greeted in a very uncorporate way: warmly, as though I was visiting a business owned by people whose livelihood depended on offering good food and hospitality. (And indeed, that is often the case with franchisees.)
I was asked by two of the staffers if they could take my order as I stood looking at the menu board and at the various stews and curries bubbling behind the glass at the counter. When I said that I needed a little more time, a woman said, “I’ll be right here when you’re ready.” And after a few more moments I capitulated. “What should I have?” I asked her with a little desperation. “We’re known for our oxtail,” she said as she reached for a stack of small plastic cups, “but I’m going to let you taste everything.”
And she did, ladling bits of jerked chicken, curried goat, spicy shrimp and their attendant gravies into the sample cups for me to taste. After the fifth sample, the oxtail, I started to feel guilty about sampling so many of the dishes. And I didn’t have the heart to tell her I wasn’t hungry anymore. So I went with what they’re known for, the oxtail stew.
The young woman started by scooping loads of rice into a foam takeout container (apparently you get the takeout container even if you’re planning to dine at one of the small tables in the shop). I chose the rice and beans combo instead of plain white rice. Then she ladled a hefty amount of oxtail meat and its moody black stew atop the rice. She added a sort of Jamaican cabbage slaw with bits of corn into one of the corners of the container, and then wedged in some plantains. It was a hefty container.
For those who have never experienced oxtail, it’s quite boney. Remember that if you ever find yourself on the back end of an ox whose tail is still attached. Actually, remember when it’s served to you in a stew, too, or else you may be looking for a dentist.
I’ve always felt the best way to eat oxtail is to pick it up with the fingers and gnaw the meat off the bone. The ox meat pulled away easily, and some of it fell off on its own, allowing me to enjoy it with the moist and flavorful rice and gravy. The slaw was OK, and the plantains added a nice sweet counterpoint to the spiciness in the stew.
Best part of the experience was finding a new eatery specializing in Caribbean cuisine that I am choosing to believe is a locally owned and operated restaurant.
Golden Krust is at 318 N. Alafaya Trail, Orlando (in front of a Home Depot). There are also Krusts Golden at 5510 W. Colonial Drive and2753 N. Hiawassee Road in Orlando. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.