Owner and chef Emerth Davis opened the Hillside Caribbean Cuisine about two months ago, near the corner of Pegram Street and Belmont Avenue, in Charlotte’s Belmont neighborhood. Davis said he’s grateful for local support.
On a recent weekend afternoon, the restaurant had a steady stream of customers.
For Davis, business has been strictly word of mouth. I learned about the restaurant from another Jamaican business owner. She told me the food comes close to her grandmother’s when she wants a taste of home.
If you’ve never visited the Belmont neighborhood, you’ll see lots of growth and development but few Black-owned dining places. Davis said his plans for the location took years, and he now hopes more businesses will follow, bringing economic opportunities to the people who live there.
Davis has been a Charlotte resident for eight years, working as a chef before breaking out on his own.
Demetria Williams, who works in the Belmont neighborhood, has been eating at Hillside for lunch since the restaurant opened. Williams said the lunchtime rush can mean a short wait, but she loves the Caribbean jerk chicken and seafood dishes.
Two friends, Deandra Alex and Robin Bryant, had just come in from biking in the neighborhood and were visiting Hillside for the first time. Alex, a NaDa resident, raved about the side dishes, from the meat patties to the coco bread. “The cabbage is fresh. I love the patties,” Alex said.
Bryant, an Atlanta realtor, told me to try the fruit punch that kicks with the splashes of ginger root. I also ordered a few plates to taste — jerk chicken and ox tails. Both were tender and full of flavor. The jerk gravy meshed well with tender rice and peas.
In addition to the jerk and curried dishes, Hillside also serves seafood. I’d recommend the buttered shrimp; it has flavor without the traditional heat. Other seafood dishes include salt fish, steamed, stewed, or fried fish.
If you need vegetarian, Chef Emerth can cook vegetables to your liking based on your diet. The braised cabbage and mixed vegetables were great combinations.
Hillside Café is open for lunch and dinner.
If you are a Black chef or owner of a Black-owned restaurant, we are looking for you. Please reach me at my TikTok handle @colenawrit