After surviving last year’s pandemic with his fine dining Caribbean and Ethiopian restaurant, Mesob Restaurant and Rhum Bar, still intact, chef Cherven Desauguste and his business partner and fiancée, Mehret Tesfamariam, have announced plans to open a new fast-casual Caribbean concept next door in early July.
Taste Island Grill will open in the former Shio Ramen space, which closed during the pandemic, leaving Desauguste the opportunity to create a more casual and affordable option next door to his fine-dining restaurant.
“I learned that offering fine-dining restaurant food during the pandemic was a mental and financial hurdle for many of my customers, as they did not consider me as a real option for carryout,” says Desauguste. “They have families they are trying to feed and were looking for something fast and affordable. That is when I started thinking about opening up a new place to meet those needs and give myself a backup plan should we ever find ourselves in lockdown again.”
The new space, which many will remember as Nabil's or the Grille on Broadway before it was Shio Ramen, features a memorable wood shake shingled ceiling, giving it the look of an inside-out cottage. It helps Taste Island Grill feel warm and inviting, like an island roadside shack.
The heart of menu will focus on five Caribbean bowls with names like Reggae Vibes, Beach Party, The Good Life and Island Love that feature blackened fish, pork shoulder, grilled steak, jerk chicken or a vegetarian option as the protein choices. Guests can also choose to build their own bowl with rice, protein, beans and vegetables, each boasting lots of tropical flavors and spice.
There will also be three different taco meals featuring white corn tortillas filled with the same meats, rice, beans and vegetables as the bowls. Look for Desauguste's signature guava chicken wings along with classic Jamaican meat patties. Each dish will be ready in five minutes maximum, with a price between $7 and $12.
“The thing about Caribbean food is that it can truly be anything,” explains Desauguste. “With the right ingredients you can create Caribbean flavors found across the islands that we can then brush over chicken wings or toss in a protein bowl. We are purposefully using plenty of fresh fish and flank steak in this concept to keep the cook times down.”
At Taste Island Grill, guests will order at the counter and either take food to go or grab a table and enjoy their food at one of the 25 seats inside. In addition to soft drinks and bottled water, Taste Island Grill will serve a Caribbean specialty juice drink from Jamaican brand Grace Foods, which comes in a variety of tropical flavors like sorrel-ginger, mango, guava and passionfruit. Desauguste plans to carry six to seven different flavors to start.
“I think most people in Kansas City think strictly about Caribbean food and associate it with Jamaican food, but we will play with Haitian, Cuban and Caribbean flavors,” says Desauguste. “Regardless of the size of the concept, I will always use the freshest ingredients – nothing canned or processed in my kitchen.”
After 12 years in business, Desauguste believes that Mesob’s loyal customers are familiar with the kind of quality dishes he serves at his first restaurant. Now, he is hoping to reach a younger customer base who live and work in the area, such as college students, young professionals and young families on a budget, with his second concept.
When it opens in the first week of July, Taste Island Grill will be open Monday through Friday from 11:30am to 8pm and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am to 9pm.
Taste Island Grill, 3605 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Missouri, 816-321-2090, tasteislandgrill.com