After Hours: Okinawa’s Jamaican joint is small but friendly, mon!
July 27, 2006
GINOWAN, Okinawa — The hole-in-the-wall bar announces itself with bursts of bright yellow, red and green and welcomes you with the bouncing beat of reggae.
You’ll even be greeted by a Rasta man — well, at least a Japanese dude with some serious dreadlocks.
But this is no imitation Jamaican joint (just check out the pictures of Bob Marley). Yadi Café in Ginowan is owned by a Caribbean native who hopped from his little island to this one by way of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Yadi roughly means “local’s place” in Jamaica, and that’s exactly the kind of vibe you’ll find at this restaurant. It’s a small space — it sits only about 35, including the bar — with a laid back, nobody’s-a-stranger kind of attitude typical of the Caribbean. That’s amplified by the seat-yourself policy. Folks gather on barstools in large groups around tables made of slabs of smooth tree trunk.
My companion and I walked in early on a quiet Monday night and were handed an English drink menu before we could even take our seats.
They have an adequate selection of beers and a long list of cocktails, including Yadi specials such as a “Mama Pine,” a fruity drink with Myer’s rum.
The service is informal, so you’ll have to flag down a waiter throughout the meal. The Japanese staff doesn’t speak much English, but the menu is written in English on a chalkboard above the bar.
I’m a big fan of Jamaican fare, and Yadi Café is a decent place for it this side of the Caribbean. The jerk chicken was spicy and tender, and the coconut shrimp had just the right balance of mellow and kick. I was impressed the place even offers the traditional dish of oxtail … not that I ordered it.
The dim restaurant is a little hot with no air conditioning — though there is a good number of fans blowing — and I imagine the tight space can get a little claustrophobic when it’s crowded or a musical act is playing.
One downside of out-of-the-way places is often a lack of parking, and Yadi Café isn’t any different. There’s a small gravel parking lot across the narrow street that on Monday was only two-thirds full — but good luck on a busy night.
Still, it’s an okay tradeoff for the people-watching and the music.
Now if I could just get that reggae song out my head. People look at you weird when you’re singing in a bad Jamaican accent: “I act crazy/but I don’t smoke crack.”
As always, if you drink, do so responsibly. Don’t drink and drive.
Prices: Entrees start at 1200 yen (about $10.50), beer is 600 ($5.25) and cocktails 700 ($6.15).
Cover: none, unless a musical act is playing; amount varies.
Food: Small selection of traditional Caribbean fare, such as jerk chicken and pork, oxtail and spicy coconut shrimp. Side dishes of pizza, edamame and fried potatoes.
Entertainment: Reggae music, either live or by DJ
Clientele: Mostly under-40 Okinawans
Location: From the Camp Foster American Legion gate, turn right (south) onto 330. Shortly after the first stoplight you’ll see a narrow street where Yadi Café is located. The beginning of the street is marked with a sign for the restaurant. It is one-way in the opposite direction, so you’ll have to take the next left and backtrack.