The Reef has two locations, one on Commercial Drive and one on Main Street. I was meeting up with the Butter ladies (we all play on a co-ed soccer team called "Butter F.C.") There was a bit of confusion and I actually ended up visiting both locations in one night. I biked from work (Burrard and 7th) to their Commercial Drive location, grabbed a table, waited about 15 min, then finally texted the ladies and figured out they were all at the Main Street location (Main and 25th). Needless to say, I arrived sweaty and hungry and happy to see my friends. The Reef is probably the most popular for Caribbean food in Metro Vancouver, just because the most people know about it and it’s been around for a long time. This wasn't my first visit to The Reef. I've been a handful of times and I like their laid back atmosphere, friendly service, and my food experiences have always been pretty darn tasty.
Typical for a Carribean restaurant, the walls are painted with bright colours and adorned with pictures of palm trees and colourful printed artwork. The vibe is casual, reggae music plays on the speakers, and they've got a decent size patio with two large tables and two small tables- and that's where we sat.
After we ordered, our server brought out complimentary Johnny Cakes to start. Essentially these are warm, slightly sweet, fluffy, fried little bread balls. They are crispy on the outside and warm and soft instead. It's similar to a donut texture- but they are savoury. They come with soft mango butter and regular butter. I love these indulgent little balls of goodness either solo, with the rich butter, or with their Mantouks hot sauce. This is hot sauce with some real spice. I LOVE hot sauce and this one is fantastic. It was made with pickled scotch bonnet peppers.Warning: Don't go overboard on Johnny Cakes if you are having a meal- these are filling!
We also shared an order of Plaintain Chips- crisp fried with jerk mayo ($6). Plaintains are starchier bananas that are more like potatoes and they aren't sweet. They were well salted but we didn't get the best, most consistent batch. Some were perfectly crisp and some were a bit soggy and chewy.
I was boring and stuck with water but a few ladies got Reef Cocktails and loved them- Gabby got a Pina Colada- Malibu rum, fresh pineapple, coconut milk $6.25 (delish- big chunks of fresh pineapple)
Tash and Wendy got Mo-jitas- rum, fresh mint, raspberries, lime, soda $7 (refreshing and not too sweet).
I ordered the Ital (vegan) West Indian Curry- with rice, coleslaw, mango chutney and dahl ($10). It was a huge portion and full of chunks of yam, potato, pepper, cooked spinach, and chickpeas. It had a nice, mild and rich flavour, but I love their hot sauce, so adding a liberal amount made the flavour perfect for me. I like their coleslaw- it's not creamy, mayo-y, goopy, sloopy but instead it is light and more vinegar based.
Gabby ordered their Mission Tacos: Two crisp corn tortillas heaped with jerk chicken, melted cheddar, lettuce, and fresh tomato salsa $10 and a half order of Yardie Yam Fries: hand cut and thick with jerk mayo. She loved her food but definitely couldn't finish it all. I didn't try her tacos but did have a few yam fries. These aren't your standard yam fries- they are more like jumbo fried yam wedges. They aren't super crispy- softer. They tasted like roasted yams. I like them. They come with jerk mayo which isn't spicy, but savoury with a tang of citrus.
Wendy and Jess split a Chicken West Indian Curry $10 and a Tobago Wrap - Curry and lime marinated chicken breast with tomato salsa, organic greens, and avocado yoghurt wrapped in a flour tortilla $14. They loved both. Tash also got a Tobago wrap and really enjoyed enjoyed it.
Janine ordered Island Thyme Chicken: Coconut milk marinated chicken, slow cooked in Jamaican thume, served with mashed potatoes and veggies $15. She subbed her mashed potatoes for coconut rice. I tried a bite and the sauce was delicious- like a peanut, coconut gravy, it was slightly sweet balanced with nuttiness. Janine thought this meal was deee-lish.
All in all, The Reef has a good track record with me and seems to be a definite crowd pleaser for group dining.
On a related note, The Reef catered my amazing friends, Chas and John's wedding and they did an awesome job and blew everyone away with the food. They served-
Appies: yam fries, plantain chips, jerk chicken skewers, savage pinwheel bites
Dinner: Johnny Cakes, Reef Caesar and Spinach salad, West Indian Curry, Jerked Prawns, Jerk Chicken, Rice, Ital Veg Curry.
The food was amazing, the service was fantastic, and the bride and groom loved how nice their staff was and how easy they made it to put together a food package . It was delicious, no worries wedding food! If you are looking for a non-traditional catering option for a wedding, party or event- I Highly recommend!