If you are interested in being whisked away to a Caribbean Island without leaving Humboldt, get to A Taste of Bim in Old Town Eureka. There you'll find a comfortable, tropical atmosphere with calypso music playing in the background and cuisine from the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados.
The restaurant will be celebrating its three-year anniversary in September 2018. Owner Gaby Long, 35, says the time has gone by fast and her motivation for opening the restaurant still holds true.
"Authentic, good Caribbean food is hard to come by unless you are in a major city," Long says. "I wanted to bring the flavors and taste of home, and give people here that experience."
Long was raised in Barbados and is the chef de cuisine. She opened A Taste of Bim seeking a career change from the corporate world and to follow her love of cooking food from her homeland.
She learned to cook by observing her mother, Verna, at work in the kitchen. Verna sold pastries out of her dining room when they lived in Barbados and had quite the following. Now 76, she is 4,000 miles from her island home, living in Humboldt and supporting her daughter's dream.
The menu at the A Taste of Bim was updated in early summer and continues to have the familiar and popular Caribbean offerings like jerk chicken (wings $8.99, plate $16.99) — nicely charred with layers of flavor and just a bit of heat from marinating in "thyme, rosemary, allspice and the kitchen sink," Long says. The peas and rice (pigeon peas and brown rice, $3.99) and plantain chips ($3.99) are solid. Locals are fans of the Caribbean fish tacos ($11.99) and baked patties with beef, spinach or veggies ($4.50 - $5).
The menu also has some traditional Bajan dishes that are less familiar, such as the frizzled cod fish ($16.99). Typically it's made from flying fish but since that's hard to come by in these parts, Long uses cod instead. It's served shredded in a slightly sweet tomato-based sauce with chunks of carrots and other vegetables. It's a hearty dish when paired with rice and peas. Others prefer it with mashed potatoes.
If you like goat or oxtails, head to A Taste of Bim on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, when they offer curry goat ($18.99) and brown stewed oxtail ($22.99). They sell out every weekend so you're taking your chances if you get there late.
Upon Long's recommendation, I had the goat and it did not disappoint. The goat meat here is shredded to help diners avoid troublesome bones and served in a fragrant, dark curry sauce with carrots. Unlike goat dishes elsewhere that can be too gamey and tough for some, this version is tender and mild-flavored. Long sources the goat and oxtail locally and it's a noticeable difference.
At A Taste of Bim, nearly everything is made in-house, even an assortment of Caribbean beverages. If you are a fan of hibiscus, try the sorrel — a cold, sweet drink akin to the Mexican agua de Jamaica but with amplified spices.
Make sure to save room for dessert. The bread pudding with rum sauce ($5.50) is popular, as is the Jamaican ice cream ($4 for two small scoops). The latter is refreshing, with so many tropical fruit flavors to choose from: guava, mango, banana, grape nut, soursop, coconut and rum raisin.
But a must-try is Verna's pone ($4.75) — the quintessential Bajan dessert made from yucca. It's reminiscent of a moist spice cake and topped with a light coconut sauce. While eating it, knowing this duo's story, you can't help but feel part of a culinary tradition passed from one generation to the next, from the island to the U.S.