|Shots turns up the heat|
|January 15, 2016 Jerry Purvis|
Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen Antigua native Vernon Simon brings Caribbean cooking to the valley, serving lunch at Shots Bar and Grill in downtown Scottsbluff. Antigua is one of the Caribbean Leeward Islands in the West Indies.
All the spices of the Caribbean cuisine style are being featured at Caribbean Fusion, an inside restaurant serving lunch in Shots Bar and Grill in downtown Scottsbluff.
The creative force behind Caribbean Fusion is chef Vernon Simon, a native of Antigua, one of the Caribbean Leeward Islands in the West Indies.
“I’ve been cooking for a big part of my life,” he said “Caribbean kids are taught to cook at an early age by their mothers and grandmothers. I just love to cook and try different flavors and styles.”
When Simon moved to the area in 2011, he was working in the information technology industry. After about a year, he hosted a Caribbean food day for some customers and others who had welcomed him to the area.
The feedback was positive. So, he hosted another food day in 2013. “People started telling me I needed to be selling this food,” Simon said. “That’s when I started taking orders during the week and cooking on Saturdays.”
In 2015, Simon partnered with Chad Leeling, owner of Shots Bar and Grill. “I had a look at the kitchen and knew we could do something together,” he said. “I left my other job last December and got to cooking full time.”
Simon said Caribbean cuisine features lots of fresh vegetables in addition to meats, including seafood, chicken and ribs. He has about 25 different seasonings in his spice rack, from chives and garlic to cumin and parsley, plus a variety of peppers.
“We season all our meat in the Caribbean and marinade it for eight to 12 hours,” he said. “That’s what makes a big difference in the taste. I do everything from scratch, even the sauces.”
Simon said this is the food he eats at home. So far, he’s had numerous positive comments, although a few have said the meals contain a lot of food for just $10. Others have said it’s good to have restaurants offer a variety of cuisines, beyond Mexican and Asian food.
“I had a customer base of about 150 when I started here,” Simon said. “I’m still seeing my regulars coming in from time to time, and I’m seeing lots of new people. With the holidays being over and warmer weather on the way, business should pick up quite a bit.”
Depending on the day, Simon features menu items such as coconut curried shrimp, stuffed chicken breast with mango chutney, fried tilapia with Caribbean Creole sauce, jerk chicken, Caribbean stewed beef, pork ribs and more.
All meals are $10 plus tax, and are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For more information, call Caribbean Fusion at 220-8275, or stop by the restaurant at 1722 Broadway in Scottsbluff.