The Jamaican Patty was more or less foreign to me until a couple of months ago. I had passed by Golden Krust plenty of times en route to Popeyes, and I had heard tales of dried-up, unsavory offerings from deli counters and carts, but I had never felt the urge to seek out an authentic patty experience until I began living within walking distance of one of New York’s primary sources on the topic.
My first encounter with Christie’s Jamaican Patties Etc. in Prospect Heights made me wonder why it had taken me this long to enjoy the obvious. The Jamaican patty, a savory turnover traditionally shortened with suet and filled with meats minced to the consistency of a fine, spiced mash, guards the price-to-power ratio of the world’s best street foods with a distinctly Caribbean vigor. Like tamales, shao bing you tiao and other street eats that don’t always obey the laws of starch separation, the entire pastry is commonly offered as the filling for a sweet hunk of coco bread, forming a $3.00 sandwich to make New York delis shudder.
The meat-based options – described only as “chicken” and “beef” – make for wonderful standards. The pastry itself is tender, flaky and beautifully formed. The fillings, graced by hints of allspice, scotch bonnet, vinegar and other flavors, deliver a comforting blend of sweet, savory and tangy and finish with a nice, soft burn. Spice can be boosted with the house’s scotch bonnet sauce, but the balance of flavors is wonderful as is. The same goes for texture: Both fillings are incredibly moist, and their generous apportionment lends each patty a plump heft that is nothing if not satisfying.
Christie’s vegetable patties are given their own treatment, possibly made without the use of animal fat and filled with a seasoned mix of cabbage, corn and other veggies that are serviceable if not very exciting. I say this not as an omnivore but as someone who’s had some wonderful curtido, which can put almost any country’s cabbage-based offerings to shame. That said, the vegetarian option is a benefit, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who would be just as hungry for a meat-filled option.
Those actually seeking wonderful meat at Christies would be wise to stick to patties. While this New York Times review praised the house’s jerk chicken as a less intense alternative to the genuine, barrel-smoked artifact, Christie’s chicken seems to have suffered a precipitous decline since 2006. Soggy-skinned, marginally moist and mostly bland, the birds here are now little more than abysmal steam table fare. The looks of Christie’s jerk pork, curried goat and barbecue chicken doesn’t inspire much hope for a saving grace.
Fortunately, jerk chicken has found new wings just a few steps away, at a charming bakery called Little Miss Muffin N Her Stuffin. Here, Jamaican patties feature several types of meat-based filling, all of which are packed with much more flavor than their more classical counterparts at Christie’s. Little Miss Muffin’s jerk chicken patty sings with allspice and pepper, and their popular BBQ chicken patty abandons minced texture altogether for heavily glazed chunks of white and dark meat. It may not seem very traditional, but it’s finger-licking proof that meat-filled pastry can rarely do wrong.
I’ve had trouble confirming what exactly is used to shorten Little Miss Muffin’s pastry crust; while a roster of extremely hospitable women take their turns representing the bakery’s namesake at the counter, I’ve been told that three Jamaican dudes bake all of the patties. In any case, the pastry is just as flaky, if not always as tender, as the pastry at Christie’s – and the richer, bolder fillings within make Miss Muffin’s patties a distinct go-to when I have a patty craving.
Any visit to Miss Muffin’s bakery also begs a sampling of cookies, which are sold by the pound (roughly 3 for $2). Cranberry orange oatmeal and chocolate chip pecan are standouts – dense, crusty, chewy and moist, they provide a nice end to a lunch that really shouldn’t have consisted of meat-stuffed, lard-baked pastries. Then again, when it comes to classic handheld treats, walking away with a balanced meal is rarely as easy as pie.
|Christie’s Jamaican Patties Etc.
387 Flatbush Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11238
|Little Miss Muffin N Her Stuffin|
174 Park Pl.
Brooklyn, NY 11238