>> Palm Court of Guyana | Eat the World NYC

24 October 2018

Palm Court of Guyana


A night out in Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana, often starts or ends at the Original Palm Court, a vast operation that takes on different appearances and character at different times of day. Some spaces are inside and/or covered for watching sports around a bar or enjoying dinner before a big night out, while outdoor spaces start to get used more as the sun goes down and the air cools. As the name suggests, the courtyard is lined with leafy palm trees and shrubs and gives a tropical vibe. Later in the night, things get loud with live music or a DJ. It is the type of establishment that everyone in town knows since it has been open for three quarters of a century, but also a place every tourist ends up in at least once.

This is the mood and inspiration for the Palm Court of Guyana, a restaurant and bar that lives on a gritty stretch of Hillside Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. Bus routes with destinations further east of the subway terminus make sure the air is filled with exhaust and noise at all times. While those tropical feelings from the north coast of South America are hard to import, a wonderfully palmy welcome mural does its best in transplanting you as you walk into the space.

This first room is a bar with booths and TVs surrounding the space. A projector on one side is used when big cricket matches are happening, one of the main draws here. Two "Live Cricket" signs adorn the front window, making sure fans of the sport know the best spot in the neighborhood for taking in a match. This front space also doubles as a party hall and nightclub with live DJ on weekend nights, doing its best to duplicate the spirit of the original.

You can of course eat in the front space, but a more formal dining room in the back also exists. This gets you closer to the kitchen, subcontinent smells filling the room.

People of Indian descent make up the largest group in Guyana, dating back to about the time the British West Indies abolished slave labor from Africa and started a system of indentured labor that was not that different. The main freedom these laborers from Northern India were afforded over their African counterparts was the ability to keep their cultural traditions, which live on today. Chinese migrants also entered the country looking for opportunity, and today Guyana is a very multicultural society as these communities all live on and mix.

Chinese-style Guyanese food is wildly popular in the country and available here as in most Guyanese restaurants in New York City, but I opted for the weekend special cook-up rice ($10, above), served with chicken. Cook-up rice is similar to what other Caribbean countries might call rice and peas, a combination of rice and black-eyed peas served as a side dish to other meats. With its roots firmly in West African tradition, Guyanese kitchens prepare the dish a bit differently, all in one pot with meats cooked together with the rice. Coconut milk thickens the dish and provides a sweetness that works to bring all the other tastes together.

On multiple visits here I saw the same familiar faces working and eating. One man that sat next to me at the bar the first time came in during a later visit to pick up a takeout order. Seeing me in the same seat he even said hello and remembered our conversations, asking me if I had the chance to check out his other local recommendations.

Somehow, it might be easy to become a regular here no matter where you come from.

Palm Court of Guyana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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