With local restaurants serving tacos, seafood & fried chicken baskets, “Verdure Vegan Jamaican Restaurant,” is a rare find in the Canarsie neighborhood.
Verdure is the area’s first and only vegan restaurant serving fresh, vegan-only cafeteria-style Jamaican cuisine, and juices.
Jamaican-born owner, Shauna Hinds, had the idea to start the business in 2018 to encourage her young daughter and fellow Brooklynites to eat healthily. In December of that year, Verdure had its grand opening serving up a health-conscious brunch menu.
Jamaican Chef, O’Neil, prepares popular Jamaican dishes from Saltfish & Ackee, a combination of tofu flavored to resemble fish, and a well-known Jamaican vegetable, to Jamaican ‘beef’ patties, a veggie mixture wrapped in a flaky, buttery pastry.
With 4.5 out of 5 stars on Yelp and an additional 39 customer reviews, I decided to visit during the late lunch, hoping the crowd would have died down. I didn’t expect much from the somewhat plain storefront, but the signage hangs over boldly and colorful as leafy greens replace the “V” in Verdure.
As I walked inside, I noticed the door almost completely covered in available payment stickers, sponsors/advertisements, COVID guidelines, and their hours of operation. The workers were courteous as they all verbally welcomed me.
The black & white interior decorated with huge script quotes, shelves of fresh fruit, plants, colorful chalkboard menus, and flat-screen televisions was a great surprise. The sounds of tropical music blasted from the ceiling speakers as the smell of curry and other unknown spices made their way through my mask – initiating the salivating readiness of my appetite.
To my right, black matte chairs were put up on the tables where customers once enjoyed the cuisine. However, a sign posted on the nearing wall warned “No Dine-In.” To my left, the juice bar, decorated with a beautiful ocean wave-like black/white counter adorned with bowls of fruit and dessert displayed.
Behind the counter, a chalkboard wall, fruit, and spices hanging up.
Colorful menus of interestingly named juices, smoothies, teas, and other drinks displayed behind the register. The juices begin at $8 for a 16.oz cup. ‘Beet it up,’ one of the more popular choices, contains beets, carrots, and limes while the ‘Stella mix’ allows you to choose 3 ingredients.
At the back of the restaurant, the smells grew stronger as the hot food, displayed behind a glass barrier and wall of translucent chairs to maintain social distance, steamed deliciously.
As I informed the server, Shelly, it was my first time visiting and I was unsure of what to try, she explained the options and even suggested some things to try. Per my earlier research, I read about the ackee patty and wanted to try it. Unfortunately, they were all sold out, as according to Shelly, “the ackee patties are our most popular dish.”
The options available included 2 styles of rice, quinoa, 12 bean stew, curried chickpeas w/ potatoes, Mushroom escovitch, boiled plantain, fried breadfruit, and cabbage.
With combo meals starting at $8 for your choice of 2, $11 for your choice of 3, and $13 for your choice of 4. Each combo meal has a salad and plantains included.
I decided on the curried chickpeas, rice & peas (which are actually kidney beans), and the mushroom escovitch (fried mushroom paired with onions and carrots). I was able to choose my salad greens and toppings as well, and I decided on mixed greens with tomatoes and red onions.
Watching as Shelly prepared my $11 meal, I could tell it would be well worth the price as she filled the to-go box densely. As I paid and grabbed my meal to leave, the workers thanked me for coming.
Since dining-in is not allowed, I sat in my car parked right in front of the entrance to try my first vegan-Jamaican meal.
The smells of the curry continued to intoxicate me, and I couldn’t wait to get the to-go box open.
The curried chickpeas were not heavily spiced but very fragrant. However, the flavor was sadly bland. I couldn’t taste any of the curry, which was disappointing. The addition of the potatoes didn’t help the flavor, but they were cooked perfectly.
The rice & peas were some of the most important parts of the dish. It is one of the sides I usually judge when deciding if a Jamaican restaurant is authentically good. The slight hint of coconut milk was evident and the cook on the beans was perfect, almost at a mushy texture which I loved.
The mushroom escovitch had a surprising kick to it that became a nice mild spice, which may have been too much for someone who doesn’t eat a lot of spicy foods. The breading on the mushrooms was light and crispy, and the onions and carrots were slightly pickled, which worked well with the crispiness.
The lettuce in the salad was fresh and crisp, beautifully. Dark and bright green in color, the tomatoes were also fresh with a slight firmness and sweetness to them. The onion didn’t have that strong pungent smell, which let me know they weren’t sitting around for hours.
The plantains, another important part of my Jamaican cuisine judgment, were just the way I like them. A nice golden color determined they were fried correctly and timely, and the slight sweetness told me they were at the perfect ripeness.
Overall, I would give Verdure a 4 out of 5. I recommend trying it out, especially if you’re familiar with Jamaican cuisine.
The atmosphere is inviting even though dine-in isn’t an option. I plan on returning to try the juices and desserts -maybe even the breakfast but definitely the Mushroom Escovitch.
Verdure Restaurant is located at 7804 Flatlands Ave, Brooklyn, NY. Their Instagram account @VerdureInc features various food and drink items from the menu.