The hardest part about moving from Brooklyn to Long Island for Renee Davis was the food.
For nine years, she’d trek back into the city from her new home in Valley Stream just to have access to Trinidadian cuisine.
Davis craved the curry-based dishes so much that last April, she launched Trini Bites eatery in Lynbrook and began serving up Trini street food. She quickly discovered many Long Islanders shared her struggle.
“It’s just not convenient (to travel into the city), and many people have shared the same issue and are coming to our spot,” Davis said. “Folks from out east have gone to Brooklyn and Queens to get Trinidadian food, so they were pretty happy something opened up for them that they enjoyed.”
Her Trini Bites is inside a rented space at 32 Atlantic Ave. that was once home to the A La Carte Cooking School. Now, Davis cooks there every Saturday from 11 a.m.-8 p.m., with a break from 3-4:30 p.m.
Familiar, but fresh
Davis said some of her customers are unfamiliar with Trinidadian food, but she explained they may find it comparable to another popular curry-based cuisine.
“It allows me to kind of educate folks, which is always fun for me to do,” Davis said. “We’re meeting a lot of folks that are not of Caribbean, West Indian backgrounds and are open to trying new things. A lot of our cuisine has a similarity to East Indian cuisine, so folks might be familiar with that, but our twist on it is new.”
The comparison is perhaps most noticeable in Davis’ “buss-up bites,” soft and flaky paratha roti served with curry chicken, curry beef, curry shrimp or a vegan blend of channa, or curried chickpeas, callaloo leafy greens and potatoes.
“There’s so many different types of roti, and the one I make is called paratha roti, or ‘buss up.'” Davis said. “In the process of making it, you’re literally busting it up with two paddles – or some cultures even use their hands – to literally bust it up.
“When the dough is prepared it has a nice flaky type of appearance, and it looks like a busted up t-shirt or a busted up cloth,” she added.
Perhaps her biggest hit so far is a creation borne of her own desire to combine Trinidadian cuisine with one of her favorite Chinese staples, which would appeal to the small Chinese population of the Caribbean.
“For years, I’ve loved wantons, and I’ve just never understood why there weren’t any Caribbean or Trinidadian restaurants or just places in general that didn’t have wantons with curry goodness inside of them,” she said. “I just never understood it, and I said ‘Well, if I can’t find it anywhere, I guess I’ll have to make it myself.'”
The goal: Trini-style lounge
For years, Davis said she and her husband, Courtney, discussed the idea of opening a restaurant or lounge to serve Trinidadian foods. When the pandemic made city pilgrimages even more difficult, they pulled the rip-chord on the passion project, launching Trini Bites in pop-up form.
The upside to their current once-a-week format is the ability to balance work and caring for their three children.
Davis said they still aim to open a lounge one day, serve Trini-style small plates and watch customers enjoy their offerings in-person. The couple is considering serving fresh-made Trinidadian food in other settings as well.
“We’re even open to ideas like a food truck or something like that,” Davis said. “We’re definitely looking into what’s next. Since we’ve been in this space for a little while, it’s kind of time to see what’s next for us.”
Top: Curry chicken wantons curtesy of Trini Bites Instagram page.