The last stop on this three-part tour of Hempstead Turnpike Hidden Gems takes us out west to the Nassau-Queens border for some Caribbean cuisine at Yard Flavors in Elmont.
It’s a tiny storefront—but what it lacks in size it more than makes up for in charm and mouthwatering meals. Before you are greeted with a smile at the counter, the enticing aroma of jerk seasoning is apparent as soon as the door swings open. And once the fragrant allspice and scotch bonnet peppers hit your olfactory sense, there is little you can do to resist.
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner all with a Caribbean flair, Yard Flavors’ offerings run the gamut of island specialties. For breakfast there’s Jamaican traditions like ackee and saltfish, callaloo and an array of porridges including banana and cornmeal and hominy corn. Saltfish fritters glisten in deep-fried glory, while baked in-house beef patties are lined up in hot and mild varieties.
All of the dishes on the lunch/dinner menu come in three sizes—small, medium, large—so there is an option for all hunger levels. There’s oxtail, curried goat, jerk chicken, stewed pork, spare ribs, as well as more adventurous dishes like cow foot & beans, cow skin & beans, pig’s tail and tripe & beans. But the dish everyone comes back for is the jerk chicken.
Aromatic at all times, Yard Flavors’ jerk chicken is traditionally prepared and roughly chopped with a meat cleaver when it’s ordered. The sound of the metal cleaver splitting chicken bones is all part of the show—and somehow adds to the grandeur of the meal. With its generous jerk seasoning, the chicken boasts a deeply marinated flavor, with hints of thyme and ginger, along with that ever-present scotch bonnet pepper in the background. The heat serves to excite but does not overpower the array of ingredients.
Order your jerk chicken on a bed of rice & peas with the vegetable of the day. As the chicken sits atop the rice, the juice seeps downward, adding a spicy and savory element to the rice. Yard Flavors also serves its chicken fried and also offers pork with its potent jerk preparation.
Yard Flavors even makes soup an event, with different offerings each day of the week: chicken on Mondays, beef on Tuesdays, red peas/chicken on Wednesdays, cow foot on Thursdays, seafood on Fridays and the formidable goat head soup on Saturdays.
Besides freshly baked beef patties, Yard Flavors makes its own carrot cake, rum cake, banana bread and other desserts. And to drink, Yard Flavors adds to the meal with homemade Jamaican juices including lemonade, carrot & beet, Irish moss and strong back, a root and herb drink, that is believed to boost virility. While a shot of energy can’t hurt, the seasonings at Yard Flavors is all the potency one needs.
Yard Flavors, 466 Hempstead Tpke.; 516-233-1699; www.yardflavors.com