Sadly, Doctor Bird’s Carribbean Rasta-Rant (3104 Main St., 837-6426) never enters the conversation. More’s the pity, since this Main Street institution could easily serve as a value-conscious meal plan while offering – and I’m estimating here – 78 times the flavor and soul of anything offered up in a dormitory dining hall.
Doctor Bird’s became, at minimum, a once-a-week tradition during my junior year at UB. I no longer find myself near South Campus much these days, but $1.50 still buys a remarkably rich, spicy, flaky-crusted treat. Throw in another buck or two for a side of plantains or “Rasta Pasta,” and you’ve got a meal that leaves nobody complaining of hunger. There is a student discount with a valid ID, but that almost feels like cheating.
The patty is the easiest point of entry for any palate, and hard to miss in the counter-top warmer. Choose a filling – chicken, beef, soy or callaloo, a leafy vegetable native to the Carribbean – and a level of spice you’re comfortable with. Choose “hot” and chances are you’ll be wishing you’d plucked a ginger beers or exotic-looking root drinks from the cooler. However you order it, you get your filling mixed with curried potatoes inside a deeply satisfying pocket.
The patties are shipped up from New York City, according to the owner, who calls himself “O.G.” But ingredients for the entrees are bought locally whenever possible.
That means the goat curry uses meat from the Broadway Market – and puts it to darned good use. Juicy meat served on the bone slides off with just the gentlest push of the fork or tongue. Even in the melange of spices, the strong flavor of the meat comes through in every soft-as-baked-potatoes bite. Red beans and rice with a kick and steamed vegetables round out a meal that’s barely $10 if you add a beverage.
The fried plantains at Doctor Bird’s are as good as any I’ve had in my admittedly limited experience around Buffalo. The Rasta Pasta belies its chintzy name, and the jerk-style entrees, salads and sandwiches don’t exist on the same culinary planet as similarly-labeled dishes at Applebee’s et al. Next time I’m in the neighborhood, I’m stopping in for some oxtail and perhaps a cut of the homemade Jamaican banana bread they keep in the cooler.
Doctor Bird’s is a de facto take-out spot, as limited space allows only three tables with two seats on each side. They close on Sundays and aren’t open past 10 or 11 p.m. most nights, but there’s a Jim’s Steakout next door if you arrive hungry at the wrong time.
Next time you hear a college student say they’re living off the “value menu” at their local fast food joint, let them know about the Rasta-Rant. The dollar you save might be the one they don’t have to bum off you.