A Deep Dale Special and Coco Bread Please!

The Thomas Family – A Legacy of Feeding the People
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When I was a child, beef patties, fried dumplings, and curry goat were NOT things that were readily available in Bermuda. Certainly not in the East End, where I grew up. It wasn’t until I reached my teen years that I discovered a small roadside eatery that served some truly amazing food – Jamaican food.

Regular visits to the Parson’s Road kitchen ensued, and before long, I – WE – became enamored with the rich, soulful taste of such delicacies as oxtails and rice, brown stew chicken, ackee and saltfish, and coconut fish. Soon, we discovered that everything tasted better on coco-bread, and that a cup of rice-and-peas with oxtail gravy was an actual meal!

Jamaican Grill had arrived, and, over the next few decades, that small roadside kitchen would expand into a true culinary institution. As far as culture was concerned, Bermudians had long since embraced the music of Jamaica, making it an integral part of our 70s, 80s, and 90s soundtrack, but now … now there was food – and a lot of the thanks for that must go to the Thomas Family.

Now third generation Bermudians, the Thomas legacy began in St. Andrew’s, Jamaica, and truly blossomed when Ranville and Agatha found each other in Bermuda. Family historian and proprietor of Jamaican Grill Bailey’s Bay, Florence recounts the start of the Thomas legacy in Bermuda:

“Ranville Thomas (Pop’s) migrated to Bermuda in 1962 at the age of 19. He arrived in Bermuda as a mason worker also with experience in farming. Agatha (then Tyrell – Mom’s) arrived in Bermuda at the age of 21. She had no formal training; however, she stemmed from a background of a business-oriented family (as her father was an entrepreneur), and she also had some accounting knowledge.

“Both Mom and Pops came from the beautiful mountains of St. Andrew’s Jamaica, and, over time, the two reacquainted and tied the knot in July of 1968. This union resulted in 6 children.”

The journey toward becoming a beloved Bermudian bistro was not an easy one, but there was a willingness to work hard, and a belief that they were offering something special to the Bermudian palate.

“During the time of migration West Indian food in Bermuda was not as popular as it is today. So not only were Jamaican restaurants scarce, but the demand for it wasn’t as high. However, this made no man idle, we persevered throughout the hardships and built our business on love and integrity and that made us fruitful. With Parsons Road being our first location, we quickly began to become a community staple and were able to introduce new flavours to the island on a broader scale. We have had many locations throughout the island from Somerset to St. George’s – literally. However, we have two locations currently operating; Court Street and Bailey’s Bay.”

These days, phrases like ‘Deep Dale Special’ and ‘Jammy Grill’ are regular parts of local parlance, and very few Bermudians would look at you quizzically if you said one – such is the impact the Thomas family has had on our small island culture. Florence expounds:

“Jamaican culture and cuisine have been extremely influential within the culture in Bermuda; from the food, to the music, to the language. The demand for Jamaican/West Indian cuisine has heightened immensely over time, and more aspects of Caribbean culture have been introduced to the island since the 60s. From grocery stores, to hotels selling Jamaican goods and cuisine, the merging of the two cultures is truly beautiful to see.”

Of course, the food is the draw, and there’s no shortage of decadent Jamaican dishes on offer at Jammy Grill on any given day. These days they offer a pre-cooked ‘dip-up’ section, where hungry patrons can come and see what’s cooking before they decide what they’ll be eating that day – but the traditional menu is always available as well. Florence talks about the dishes that made the Grill famous:

“Safe to say all of Jamaica’s Signature dishes, Oxtail, Curry Goat, Jerk Chicken, Ackee & saltfish, Patties etc. We have also had some new additions over the years that have become quite Popular as well; our stuffed dumplings (Jerk chicken, Cheese, Ackee & Saltfish, Callaloo) have become a local hot grab, along with one of our original specials – the ‘Deep Dale special’ – which was given its name by residents of the Deep Dale and Parsons Road area at the time, and has been a generational favourite, and a Jamaican Grill staple. Our unique twist on traditional Jamaican dishes is what appeals to both local and foreign customers, adding 4 special dishes to our menu daily, we try to offer our customers a variety so they don’t get bored.”

Boredom, is certainly NOT on the menu at Jamaican Grill. Their signature dishes are routinely delicious, comforting, and satisfying; while their daily specials may feature favourites like roast lamb, brown stew pork, and pepper steak. In short, you can’t really go wrong for lunch or dinner at Jammy Grill.

Still humble, and generous to those in need, the Thomas family has also forged a legacy of community service, which Florence is quite proud of – as well she should be! Her parents and family have fed people, housed people, offered counsel to people, and become a renowned local resource for locals in need – whether they be Bermudian, Jamaican, or whatever. The only important part is the authentic need, as they must also protect themselves against those who would take advantage of their generosity. It’s a wonderful legacy indeed.

“Our parents are humble people who never started out to be celebrated or become so well known. We came from humble beginnings, and they worked hard and always honored God in all they did. It’s a blessing that their legacy has touched so many people in Bermuda.

“Jamaican Grill created avenues for other Jamaican owned, and themed restaurants on the island to flourish and although not their intention, it was Mom and Pop’s way of introducing their culture to their adopted country and it has stood the test of time. Out of many, one people.”

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