Sad news for spice lovers.
After 14 years in south Minneapolis, the owner of Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine has decided to close the restaurant due to business differences with the real estate developer who bought the building in 2017. The restaurant will blast its last customers with its signature “Marla’s Hot” spices sometime in the third week of June. (3761 Bloomington Av. S., Mpls., 612-724-3088, marlascuisine.com)
But this won’t be the end of the road for Marla Jadoonanan’s jerk chicken. She hopes to be back up and running in a new location before long.
“Of course” Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine will come back, Jadoonanan said. “What am I going to do with all my energy? My husband is going to come home to a very well-tended garden and a spick-and-span house.”
She doesn’t know where yet, only that it won’t be on the corner of 38th St. and Bloomington Av. S., where she first launched her dream of owning a restaurant.
Jadoonanan grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. After her mother passed away when Jadoonanan was 8, she learned to cook from older women in her village, who tasked her with helping to cater their social gatherings.
“When people come in and eat my food they say, ‘I can taste my grandmother’s cooking in this,’ because I learned from a lot of grandmothers,” said Jadoonanan.
When she came to Minnesota at age 15, there weren’t many Caribbean restaurants, with one notable exception. Her brother started Harry Singh’s Original Caribbean Restaurant in 1983 (2653 Nicollet Av. S., Mpls, 612-729-6181). She would help out there, too.
But she pursued a career in nursing instead of cooking, and was working with hospice patients as she approached her 40th birthday. “And I’d seen too many people of all ages and walks of life just die too soon and not get to do what they really wanted to do,” she said. She realized her own dream was to open a restaurant.
“I winged it and all I know is I loved cooking, I was good at it, and things started happening from there,” Jadoonanan said. Her restaurant even landed on an episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network.
The restaurant gained a following for its extreme spice. Jadoonanan grows her own “hottest peppers in the world” for it, and uses the entire pepper in her mix. It was meant to be a novelty, she said.
“I didn’t think people would really eat that stuff. But people come in to sit down and eat it. Some of them cannot eat it. They take two bites and say ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m so full.’ I say, ‘Quit telling lies.’ ”
Until the future of Marla’s Caribbean Cuisine is firmed up, Jadoonanan will continue catering and teaching cooking classes. So that eye-watering spice isn’t going away for long.
But eyes are watering for another reason now with the closure.
“I’m flooded with emotions right now,” Jadoonanan said. “It’s like losing your 14-year-old child.”