>> Tota's Bakery & Restaurant | Eat the World NYC

04 August 2017

Tota's Bakery & Restaurant


From the moment Tota's opens it doors, Caribbean reggae music is blasting from inside. On a first visit, Jamaica's Bob Andy seemed to be the artist of the day, his most popular hits audible for at least two blocks. Like the music, the food here seems to be traveling through the Caribbean, most likely satisfying to all the neighborhood's residents. Everything has Guyanese roots like the owners, but it does not limit itself.

The music can be inconvenient during orders, especially if you have questions. The soft spoken woman who runs the place smiles and answers but does not really try to compete with the volume levels.

Although this is a bakery and a restaurant, the baked goods seem to be a select few loaves of bread. They are not an afterthought though, looking fresh and constantly being ordered by takeout customers.

The real show though is all the prepared foods set up in old, dripping coolers with condensation that sometimes obscures the contents. It is apparent that these have held decades of curries. The well worn walls and furniture hold in them decades of happy customers. A framed portrait of "The President of the United States of America" is a photo of Barack Obama, for a moment it allows for time travel and relief.

What goes for a small portion here is actually quite large, an order of the goat curry ($7, below) was plenty for a very filling lunch.

Guyana, like its Caribbean neighbors Suriname and Trinidad & Tobago, is full of intersections of people, culture, and traditions. This of course always leads to outstanding foods like this intensely spiced curry. Each bite kept getting better, and gravy does a wonderful job saturating the rice below.

There is only one table here as most people don't stay to eat and takeout orders are the rule. I have sat down there twice now though, and had good company each time. It seems there is always someone just hanging out, listening to the music or reading a copy of the Trinidad & Tobago newspaper that is available.

Tota's also offers a bit of the popular Guyanese-style Chinese food, but our meals here stuck with Guyanese proper with not enough bellies to enjoy it all. Do not miss a chance to end your meal with a cup of their housemade custard flavor soft serve ice cream.

A second meal consisted of the baked chicken ($7, below), one of three styles of chicken offered including jerk and bbq. The baked has similar tastes to jerk chicken and is again full of flavor. While the baking may have dried out the bird a little, this is nothing that a few scoops of the gravy can't fix.

The spinach rice is unseen in both photos above but recommended over the white rice for the base. It just adds more herbs and spices to each bite, hard to resist even when you start getting stuffed.

On each visit I ordered the cassava egg ball ($1.50, below), the no meat Caribbean version of a Scotch egg. The cassava mash is full of spices and has a soft, spongy texture that is very pleasant.

On the second visit, Marcia Griffiths blasted from the speakers, another famous Jamaican singer. Further research into her career found that for five years she performed in a duo named "Bob and Marcia" with none other than Bob Andy, the star of the first visit.

If you have the time to enjoy the atmosphere here at the restaurant and can tolerate the volume, grab a bottle of their homemade peanut punch (below). This version is sweet of course, but not too sweet and very good.

The steady stream of takeout customers is proof that things here are going fairly well and my initial impressions of the food must be shared by their loyal following. A good history seems to ooze from every surface.

When the sun goes down, a big black jerk drum is wheeled in front and the smells of jerk chicken waft through the night air over Utica Avenue. The party moves outside, and revelers come from their own parties to fuel up before going home.

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Tota's Bakery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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