You ever have one of those days? Of course you do. You know what I’m speaking of. Elvis sang about them in “G.I. Blues.”
“You ever get one of those days where nothing goes right from morning to night,” rings the refrain. I recently had one of those days with my good friend Douglas, as we both were singing the blues just like the King.
This pity party was exacerbated by the fact that we had both been behaving far better than we normally do. Coincidentally the two of us were monitoring our diets and losing a couple of pounds. We’d both been laying off the booze. We’d also been exercising, using our inside voices, helping old ladies across the street, helping younger, age-appropriate ladies cross the street and being all-around genuinely nice, healthy guys. But karma was not on our side.
Our comparative list of ailments included back spasms, brain spasms, heartburn, heartache, tennis elbow, football elbow, guitar woes and, in the case of Douglas, he almost lost his middle finger to man’s best friend while receiving the mail through the slot. That ain’t no metaphor. I know his dog hadn’t intended to maim its master, but it was just having one of those days.
Suffice it to say we were both in need of at least one drink and something a little more dangerous than SlimFast and salads. We headed downtown on an almost cool evening and found ourselves at a window table facing Joachim Street at Montego’s Caribbean Cafe.
You may remember this spot as a brewery for many years. I will say a good deal has changed inside and the place has a really good vibe. I chose this location because I knew their menu had changed and several items caught my attention, the most talked-about dish being the Ahi Nachos ($16.99). I hear girls talk about these all the time, so it must be worth the investigation.
Our friendly waiter comes up to take our drink order and we go with a Corona ($4 per bottle) and a glass of house sauvignon blanc ($9) and call for a round of nachos.
The drinks come quickly but our nachos take a good bit longer. Finally arriving with a heaping plate, the waiter apologizes for the tardiness but explains he’d just been sucker punched by a drunken customer. We became excited and told him we’d be glad to jump right in after our day and help him out, should the classy diner return. It seemed our waiter was just having one of those days.
The nachos sounded spectacular, with seared tuna drizzled with wasabi cucumber sauce and remoulade sprinkled with jalapeños and pineapple. It sounds like there is a lot going on but I ultimately found it a bit unnecessary.
The shredded cheese wasn’t really melted. The pineapple and jalapeños were a good combo, but the tuna really just rests atop a pile of chips. It would have been much better to just have the tuna on a plate with some sauce. We added the demi cups of salsa and sour cream that suggestively come on the side but it didn’t make me dance with my dress up. I think of this as something sorority sisters may rave about but would be panned by a Gordon Ramsey-type personality.
Not to be deterred from his job, our waiter was going to take a couple of aspirins for his sore jaw and put in our entree orders. Douglas was interested in the all-you-can-eat chicken wings ($12.95) and began his journey with a half-dozen coated in coconut curry sauce. I sneaked a bite for testing purposes and found them enjoyable.
I was going for one of the more expensive menu items, the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp ($17.95). There was some confusion as to whether or not it came with two sides (turns out it does) and I chose Grenada greens (pronounced like Grenada, Mississippi) and cheese grits. There was a pretty good wait before I was served an attractive bowl of shrimp and grits.
I should have kept my mouth shut, but I really wanted to try the BBQ shrimp. I will go on record as saying my father makes some of the best BBQ shrimp and, yes, I may be a bit biased. When these finally made it to my table, the waiter said, “I apologize for this. I asked the kitchen to give you an extra shrimp or two to make up for it.” I understood his confusion since I’d ordered grits as a side but by now I was starving.
Douglas was finishing his second helping of wings (Caribbean glaze, yum!) and I had resorted to dipping my chips in his sauce before my entree reached the table. When it did, I can say the small cup of grits were sprinkled with unmelted shredded cheese like the nachos. The Grenada greens were like collards but someone had spilled the sugar bowl in the pot. And although the shrimp were a rush order, they managed to overcook them.
It was impossible to get the shells off the first shrimp. I took the rest home. I believe someone in the kitchen was having one of those days, too.
I can say our waiter felt really bad for the whole ordeal and did comp my entree. When I got home I ate the rest of the shrimp out of sheer hunger, and I must say the flavor was outstanding. But when you can’t get the shell off without ripping the shrimp in half, we have a problem.
I applaud Montego’s for going with a bold menu. I think there are a lot of things that may be really good there, but you have to be careful when you say the words “New Orleans style.”
I loved the fact that the shrimp were head-on, but a little care must be taken for a pricier entree. I also would recommend gouda as a cheese choice for grits and would make certain it is melted. There are people who love the nachos far more than Douglas and I, so don’t just take my word for it.
I’d be willing to give them another chance with different items. Montego’s menu includes some crazy burger options, sandwiches and taco choices. Don’t shy away from this location. I think someone was just having one of those days.
Montego’s Caribbean Cafe and Bar II
225 Dauphin St.
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