Caribbean food at Trinbago

Trinbago oxtail

Oxtail at Trinbago

By Deanna Fox

That old adage that it's better to have one good friend than many mediocre ones is so true. And thankfully I have not only one good friend, but one that's also willing to eat basically whatever I put him up to.

The truth is, I am lucky to be rich in friendship, I just can't say that all of my friends are willing to tag along on all of my food adventures. My pal Craig, though, is one of them. So when we meet up for our regular lunch dates to talk about beer, history, kids, and whatever else is on our minds, I also know I can drag him along to eat whatever I'm feeling at the moment, as long as it's in downtown Albany (to accommodate work schedules).

Feeling tired of our usual haunts, a cursory search for "lunch, downtown Albany," on Google netted me a little jewel I've never heard of: Trinbago. Next door to Lombardo's On Madison Ave, the internet told me, but admittedly I walked past it twice and then went in the wrong door before realizing where the restaurant was.

What a lucky find it was. Bright, spicy flavors of the Caribbean perked up a dreary mid-March afternoon. The kindness of the staff and owner were enough to put a smile on my face. Paired with a great conversation with an even better friend, Trinbago might end-up being my new go-to lunch spot.

Trinbago Albany exterior 2016-March

Nyota, the owner, was quick to start up a conversation as I perused the menu board. With a genuine passion that wasn't the least bit forced or intrusive, she happily explained what each dish was and how she prepared them. Keeping flavors true to her homeland of Trinidad, she explained how Trinidadian cooking differs from other Caribbean cuisine and how she came to own a restaurant in Albany. (Her sister lives in Canada, and Nyota came to Albany to care for her grandmother after the passing of her mother. Frequent trips back to her native island means she stays attuned to the taste of Trinidadian cooking.)

Trinbago doubles

On her recommendation, I tried the doubles ($2), a classic Trini streetfood -- spiced fried dough filled with curried chickpeas, mango chutney, and the traditional hot pepper sauce of the island that relies on yellow habanero.

She also suggested I try her homemade sorrel drink ($3.50), which I happily accepted. (The last -- and only other -- time I've had it was at Heather Ridge Farm's supper club a year ago.) The drink is deep magenta, with floral tones of a hibiscus tea that quickly give way to a bitter, almost chicory flavor. A refreshing quencher to the spicy meal.

Trinbago pholourie

Craig and I opted to try to pholourie ($2.50), an airy, nugget of fried batter, lightly spiced with hints of saffron, akin to a hush puppy in the American South. They were served with a tamarind chutney and are completely addicting.

Trinbago jerk chicken
Jerk chicken

Oxtail ($12.50) and a small order of jerk chicken ($7.50) completed the meal. Either can be ordered extra spicy, with the addition of that habanero pepper sauce. We had the oxtail straight-up and the jerk chicken extra spicy, but probably could have relied on Nyota's traditional recipe. (While still good, the extra heat masked some of the other flavors in the tender, juicy chicken.) Both come with stewed cabbage and rice, which is cooked with pigeon peas, a hallmark of Trini cooking. (Other Caribbean cultures, Nyota told me, rely on red beans.)

The delivery person made many trips in and out of the jewelbox restaurant, toting many to-go bags each time, which has me believing that downtowners must already know the secret of Trinbago during the lunch hour.

As a food writer, I have to try out so many new restaurants that it is hard to justify making repeat visits to an establishment. Perhaps the highest praise I can give a restaurant -- especially one that has only been open a few months -- is the promise to be a frequent customer. And that's exactly what I plan to be at Trinbago.

Deanna Fox writes about many things, mostly about food. More can be found on her website, Twitter, or Instagram.

More Eat This:
+ Mexican street corn at Ama Cocina
+ Egg in the Bread at The Breakfast Spot
+ Pancake breakfast at The Sap House at Stone House Farm
+ Lunch buffet at First Choice Caribbean (2014)
+ Mofongo de Chicharron at Casa Dominicana (2013)
+ Oxtail at the Dutch Pot (2013)

Find It

Trinbago Caribbean Restaurant
123 Madison Ave
Albany, NY 12202

Comments

I noticed the new colorful banner driving down Madison, glad to hear it's tasty! Can't wait to try it out.

It's true. I'll eat anything.

I met the owner a couple of weeks ago. We had a nice conversation and she told me about her restaurant. I stopped in last Friday for fish and vegetable rice. I enjoyed my meal with everything tasting very fresh.

Nice, I will have to check out next time I'm in that area. I usually head down to Brooklyn to get my doubles fix. I'll have to see if they have roti!

Addy -- Yes, I think Trinbago is going to do roti on the weekends. Call ahead! Happy eating.

Thanks for the tip! This is going on my list of Caribbean places to check out.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

39th Annual Photography Regional Select Show

We got a chance this week to stop in at the 39th Annual Photography Regional Select Show at the Albany Center Gallery. It displays works... (more)

The Capital Region is growing very slowly -- which is better than many other parts of the state

The population of the Albany metro area was up slightly in 2016 compared to the year before, according to new Census Bureau estimates out this... (more)

Updates: 3Fish Coffee, 288 Lark Street

Quick updates on a couple of Lark Street-area storefronts... 3Fish Coffee The new cafe next to the Downtube on Madison Ave across from Washington Park... (more)

Stuff to do this weekend

OK, March is still doing its lion thing, but it's spring and it's the weekend -- two things to be happy about. After the jump,... (more)

Morning Blend

American Health Care Act + A spokesman for Elise Stefanik said Thursday evening she's still undecided about how to vote on the American Health Care... (more)

Recent Comments

I was very negative about the road diet when it was announced but I really love it and am excited to see it continue all the way to Lark. I eat my words!

Drawing: Tickets for John Mayer at TU Center + a gift card for Ama Cocina

...has 101 comments, most recently from Ryan R

Public meeting for second phase of Madison Ave Road Diet in Albany

...has 10 comments, most recently from Andrew

Today in America

...has 3 comments, most recently from Paul G

Morning Blend for Mar 23

...has 2 comments, most recently from Dave

Highway cap

...has 1 comment, most recently from Elisabeth