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Foley Eats: Big Flavor. Big Guy.
Posted August 17, 2018 by Stephanie Donald
Jeff Ryan is a big man. Big in stature and big in personality. But the funny thing about Jeff is, as large as he is, he just can’t find any room to mince words. So when Jeff says something’s good, you know it’s good. And what’s good is Desmond’s Taste of Jamaica.
On the main drag of downtown Foley, Highway 98, Desmond’s sits on the north end just past BB&T bank. It’s not a large place, but you can feel the personality when you walk in the door, but maybe that’s because when you walk in with Jeff he’s immediately joking with the staff. He assured them he brought the quiet crew for lunch, but next to Jeff, pretty much everybody is quiet.
While they have what Jeff assured us all is an incredible Long Island Iced Tea, he recommended all stick to the non-alcoholic drinks this time around, something we were all going to do anyway, I promise!
Jeff’s got a party personality that he’s taken as far north as New Hampshire. Born and raised in South Baldwin County, he knows just about everyone, and he doesn’t take crap from anyone, because chances are he knows their mama too. He’s worked in parks and recreation for longer than anyone I’ve talked to can recall.
He’s got a story about anything and everything. Ask him about his time as a softball coach or some of the fireworks he’s seen during a breakup. They’re stories you won’t forget. Just like the way you don’t forget good Jamaican food.
For those who haven’t had Jamaican food, the best way I know how to describe it is the comfort of southern food with a twist. Instead of vinegar or ketchup based BBQ, Jamaican BBQ has a sweet heat. They have their own version of red beans and rice, that’s creamy and fortifying. I can already picture myself ordering it up when the weather turns cooler.
Now when you ask Jeff what’s good here, his simple response is, “Everything.” Then he picks certain items off the menu specifically. I knew when I walked in I was having jerk chicken in some form. I fell in love with Jamaican food living on another island- Guam. There was a chain of restaurants called Jamaican Grill and it’s one that I loved to frequent.
The thing about Desmond’s is even though I knew I was getting jerk chicken, I still had to do some narrowing down. There was the jerk chicken platter, which Jeff ordered, the jerk chicken sandwich, which I ordered, and jerk chicken tacos, which I ordered to go for my husband. (He’d been dying to try Desmond’s and if I went without him I was afraid I would be sleeping on the couch, so a to-go order was my peace offering.)
I bit into that sandwich and I was gone on a journey. Sweet but strong flavor, with a hint of heat. The chicken was perfectly tender, you know it just fell off the bone. I saw myself back on Guam, memories just flooded my mind. I let myself travel for a while. Jeff brought me back, apparently, his lunch was transporting him too, back to two nights before when he had last been to Desmond’s.
I’m sure he could tell you all about it if you ask him, or if you ask Desmond, who came out after we finished and chatted for a while about fishing at Boggy Point the day before and catching a number of mango trout, all of which ended up back in the water, unfortunately. It would have been amazing to see what he did with them in the restaurant.
It was a unique music his thick Jamaican accent made against Jeff heavy southern one. You could tell Desmond was an inherently kind. Maybe it’s the care you could taste in the food. But you could also tell he’d opened the doors to his restaurant so that people could have a good time. Maybe that’s why he and Jeff were quickly on the road to becoming friends. Because there’s a lot Jeff knows, but there’s nothing Jeff knows better than a good time.
It seems like an odd pairing, Jamaican food in small-town Alabama. But it’s one of the best bets for dining in Foley. Sometimes odd pairings, like the big southern man and the talented Jamaican chef, make for the best stories. Head over to Desmond’s Taste of Jamaica, tell them Jeff sent you and they just might start pouring the drinks.For more on Desmond’s Taste of Jamaica visit our dining page.