“Are you going over to the Jamaican restaurant?”

“Have you eaten at the Jamaican restaurant yet?”

“Let’s do lunch. How’s the Jamaican restaurant sound?”

No, these conversations haven’t happened yet, but they are sure to come as the Grand Opening of Reggae Flava Restaurant is set for Thursday, May 28th at 1:00 p.m.  Join Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox and other supporters for the ribbon cutting of the business at 2322 4th St.

Though the Reggae Flava food truck has been operating for four years already, owner Romeo Tomlinson says the process of starting the business began even before the food truck.

Ever the devoted son, he says he saw his mother work over 12 hours a day with jobs at a Northport nursing home and then at DCH Regional Medical Center. Wanting to alleviate her work load his family attempted to sell plates from home, nobody bought them.

So, they developed a new strategy and gave away free food, which is how they built a customer base. Those plates soon turned into catering services.

Romeo said he and his late wife Tamara decided to take their services to the next level and looked into operating a food truck.  Food trucks were just beginning to become popular, and there were no other establishments in Tuscaloosa where diners could enjoy Jamaican cuisine.

The truck saw mass success. However, tragedy struck.

Romeo says his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011.  She fought for three years and went into remission. However, it returned in 2017 and it had spread to numerous locations.   In June 2019, doctors gave her six weeks to live; and in August, she left this life.

However, plans for the restaurant were already in progress, as the demand for food grew.  Romeo says his wife had drawn plans for the décor, even though she never got to see them come into existence.  Once the plans for the restaurant started coming together, Tomlinson’s brother-in-law Lamar Carlisle decorated the restaurant from top to bottom.

There is an ongoing theme throughout this success story: family!

Romeo says his family is EVERYTHING to him.  They were already major factors in his life but took on even greater roles once he became a single father, and the family remains a source of strength and unity as his mother, aunt, and uncle do most of the cooking for the business.

When asked what we could expect from the Reggae Flava restaurant that we haven’t experienced with the food truck, Romeo went down an entire list of differences.

“For one, you can expect more dishes.  The truck has limited space. So, we had to keep our menu to a minimum; but at the restaurant, we’ll have more dishes and will also include appetizers, soups, and even desserts.”

He also noted that there will be longer hours of operation in comparison with the truck, which basically ran during lunch hours.

“One problem with the truck was that we’d run out of food with people standing in line to be served. So, having the restaurant will alleviate that issue as we’ll be better able to keep up with the demand.”

Another difference regular patrons will notice is a slight increase in prices, as the overhead is greater.  However, the prices are still in line with other casual dining restaurants in Tuscaloosa, and the portions will remain the same. Many reviews of plates from the truck emphasized portion sizes.

“I bought one plate last week and had lunch, an afternoon snack, AND dinner!” exclaimed one lady who stood in line Tuesday. “It’s always like that! That’s why I keep coming back.”

Romeo said it was important to him to maintain his regular customers while welcoming newcomers.

“There’s something for everyone.  If you’re on a smaller budget, you can order from the restaurant; but if you want something a little pricier like steak, oxtails, and ribs, we have you covered too! As a matter of fact, order a drink and make it a full experience.

“Ooh! That’s another difference. We’ll also be able to offer drinks!” he added.  “Having a building gives me the opportunity to share more Jamaican culture and cuisine with the customers who’ve supported us for years as well as new customers.”

This is definitely a unique restaurant for Tuscaloosa.  Go ahead and mark your calendars for the Grand Opening on Thursday, May 28th.  Again, the ribbon cutting will begin at 1:00p.m.

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