MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – If Bob Marley opened a Chipotle, it would look like Pimento Jamaican Kitchen on Eat Street in Minneapolis.
“The hallmarks of Jamaican flavors all starts with pimento,” Tomme Beevas, the co-owner of Pimento, said.
Beevas grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and came to Minnesota to work as an executive at Cargill. But he kept dreaming of the jerk and curries of his childhood.
“It started in my grandmother’s kitchen,” he said. “The allspice berry is the key ingredient in all Jamaican foods. So, whether it’s in soups, whether it’s stews or rice and beans, you have some element of pimento.”
While in college, he wrote a business plan for a Jamaican counter-service restaurant called Pimento. But as the years went on he kept focused on his corporate career, just cooking for fun in his yard.
Then he met his neighbor, former rapper and music producer Yoni Reinharz, who would become the partner in Pimento.
“Actually they call me the ‘Jew-maican,'” Reinharz laughed.
Together they opened a food truck, went on Food Network’s “Food Court Wars,” and won a year-long lease in Burnsville Mall.
“We were able to turn that experience into this,” Reinharz said.
In the spring of 2016, they opened a second spot on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.
Now, people are lining up for the incredibly addictive combination of Jamaican spices and flavors, all served in a bowl.
“You start with your rice and beans, then you add your meats and then of course you add the slaw to it afterward. Then the sweet plantain,” Beevas said. “By the time you get down to the rice and the gravy of the oxtail is sitting down there just dancing and waiting to be sopped up – hello! Good morning, man. It’s amazing!”
The menu is small and focused by design: jerk chicken, jerk pork, curry chicken, curry goat and braised oxtail. It’s designed to work in a food court, or in a small space, and to be easily duplicated.
“Jamaicans are pretty big on curries simply because of our East Indian influence,” Beevas said.
There are five sauces ranging from sweet onion and smoked paprika, which acts as a neutralizer that somehow lowers the impact of the jerk spice, to Kill Dem Wid It!, a habanero, lime and soy-hot sauce.
The huge portions are just $8 – $10.
“Something like this is a place you could become a regular, and not only feel like a regular but be able to afford to be a regular,” Reinharz said.
Ask Beevas and Reinharz “wah gwaan” (what’s up) for the future? They want to grow from two to five locations. However, their plan for growth is very Minnesotan-Jamaican.
“We still have our laid back, don’t worry, eat attitude here,” Beevas said.
Pimento Kitchen is located at 2524 Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis and the Burnsville Center Mall Food Court in Burnsville.