Wooden panels at the entrance of a driveway are painted red, green, yellow and black; the stereotypical colours of Jamaica. The flag, screaming with pride, is plastered onto the walls lining the perimeter of a narrow space. Sweet and spicy smoke spills onto the street and reggae rhythms fill empty airwaves on Maraval Road. There’s no mistaking that there’s a new food truck in town where the healthy G-Spot was once parked up just shy of one month ago. The new Rahtid Bites is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in this space—it’s something reminiscent of Kingston.
Yesterday, on its first day of business in Port of Spain, professionals from the area lined the driveway in pouring rain; some with umbrellas, others without. Many restaurants in Trinidad have tested their hands at jerk but authentic Jamaican food is hard to come by. Word of mouth is that Rahtid Bites is the real deal—we stood in the rain, too, because we wanted proof.
About a decade ago, Jamaican-born Jacquie Watson-Diaz, the owner of Rahtid Bites, started hosting an annual Independence Day barbecue at her home, strictly serving Jamaican eats. With each passing year, more and more friends begged her to open a restaurant of her own. She finally caved.
In November 2016, Jacquie opened her first food truck based in San Fernando at 25A Circular Road. On special occasions, the team at Rahtid Bites drives the truck all over the country, attending family days, fetes and office meetings, offering full meals and cutters-style bites. Even though the main dishes are made from Jacquie’s tried-and-true recipes, she’s not the head chef. She does, however, make the jerk seasoning in batches to last a few weeks at a time.
Although the kitchen inside their second food truck is tiny, the restaurant’s menu is expansive. You’ll wonder how they do it. Escovitch fish, steam roast fish, festival, “yaad style” jerk pork, jerk chicken, patties, oxtail stew, pepper shrimp and burgers. This doesn’t include the long list of sides, all the beverages and specials.
With the help of Usain Bolt and Barak Obama’s ‘Lightning Pose’, your eyes automatically move from the order window to the right side of the truck where images of all their lunch options live. So many options make for tough choices. We ordered almost everything on the menu and picked our favourites, so you wouldn’t have to.
Rahtid Bites serves up the tastiest jerk chicken that you can find anywhere in the country. There’s no if’s, but’s or maybe’s. The meat is smoked in a pit to the back of the driveway. It’s so strong that the chicken, all the way down to the bone, is full of flavour and smokey goodness. It’s slightly charred on the outside, but tender on the inside, filling your mouth with bacon-like smokiness as you dive in to the meat. Rahtid’s homemade jerk sauce is a definite must. No, really—you’re seriously missing out on half your life if you don’t drench everything in their special sauce. It’s peppery in all the right ways, as well as slightly sweet, which prevents it from being intolerably hot. We endorse squirting this jerk sauce all over their perfectly salted fries.
The jerk is amazing, but we expected that—and you probably do, too. Something else took us by surprise, making our taste buds dance.
The escovitch fish, a whole, deep-fried Racando topped with pickled onions and carrots, stole the show. It certainly looked intimidating at first. You will see lots of teeth and fins will still be in tact, but all that lies in your takeaway box is a flaky, slightly spicy, delicious whole fish. It’s seasoned and fried so well that every piece of skin is so crispy and flavourful. (Pssst, your favourite fast food establishment better watch out!) The pickled vegetables cut through any fishiness that could have existed and make every bite better than the last. Don’t be surprised if five minutes pass and all that’s left is the skeleton of your fish. Yes, it is that good.
And as for the festival, a sweet fried dumpling served alongside every meat—we can’t believe it’s possible to like a ball of dough so much. It’s embarrassing to say this, but it’s even better than our own Trini bake. (Please send your hate mail to someone who actually cares to hear it.) Go taste the dense dough and you’ll say the same.
Rahtid, as explained on the truck, translates to “WOW” in English. It’s “a word used to express excitement, surprise, an exclamation” or “a word that can be used as a soft swear”. For example: Jamaicans might say, “Rahtid, tomorrow a Friday arready, de week fly faas mon!”, which in English would be “Wow, tomorrow is Friday, the week is finishing fast.” When the word “rahtid” and “bites” come together, it means “A wow in every bite”. And that it is.
Lunch Tuesday – Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.
One Love Fridays: 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Soups and Seafood Saturdays: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
80 Maraval Road, Port of Spain, Trinidad