Glenroy Ferrell, the deli's owner, says this is the way it's meant to be. "It's very hard to get goods and produce from Jamaica and the West Indies in Richmond," he says in his thick Jamaican accent. "You can pick up bits and pieces, but we're the only place you get only that."
Authentic Jamaican fare here also comes in the form of cured pig tail and fish in 5-gallon buckets; light, sweet homemade "cocoa bread"; white and yellow yams, and Irish Moss, a canned Jamaican peanut drink. There's plenty of other eye-catchers in the place including the efficient pen-and-ink signage on a fridge in back that reads "Cow Foot, Chicken Foot, Fish" and a root drink with ingredients that include "water, channy root, four man strength and brown sugar."
In the afternoons, the operation is overseen by Ms. Eva Morris, a friend of Mr. Ferrell. They share a mutual acquaintance in her son. Ms. Morris will have been in the U.S. for a year come June, at which point she'll return to her home in St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands. She says she was stuck here after Sept. 11 and decided to stay on while her daughter finishes high school.
It was Ms. Morris who directed us to the back of the place, serving the oxtail on rice with fried plantains and cabbage, all of which Mr. Ferrell makes fresh each morning. We passed on carrot juice swirling in one of those fruit-drink aerators on the counter and took the only table in the place, sitting on metal chairs while we devoured the stuff.
For a good 20 minutes we were Ferrell's only customers. The Jamaican population may be starving for goods from Africa and the West Indies, but one suspects that the authentic Jamaican population is only so vast. What mattered was that the food was good, hearty stuff, and considering the price, a huge serving of it at that. When it comes down to it, a good meal is a good meal everything else is just fluff.Ferrell Jamaica Grocery and Deli
3923 Hull Street Road
Monday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.