Blue Mountain Cafe takes it one year at a time in making Jamaican food.
By Stefanie Gans / Photos by Kyle Martell
There’s a three-year plan, says first time restaurateur Herman Llewellyn. The goal of year one at Blue Mountain Cafe, which celebrated its anniversary in downtown Leesburg last month, was to “merely get a feel for my customers,” says Llewellyn. Year two—now—is to “stabilize and implement whatever may have been lacking.”
Year three is where the action happens. He hopes to be profitable by then—and make his own jerk sauce. Right now, Llewelly, also the chef, favors consistency over home-made. The kitchen found a system that works doctoring a commercial sauce and adding barbecue sauce, ketchup, cinnamon, allspice, garlic and a prepared scotch bonnet hot sauce, which Llewelly thinks is the right pepper, with the right heat.
He defends his enhanced—not homemade—sauce to that of imitation Coke. Soda is really just water, sugar, flavorings and carbonation. Could anyone (Hello, SodaStream!) put together a sweetened drink? Probably. But would it be right? Never.
“People are expecting a certain taste and you want to get as a close to that,” explains Llewelly, 51, about perfect jerk. And so he waits. By the time he masters his version of jerk, he sees that move as an expansion of the brand will probably bottle the sauce for retail sale as well.
But do not wait for year three to visit Blue Mountain Cafe.
Born in Jamaica, Llewelly knows the beauty of fresh ackee, a fruit operating like a vegetable. At Blue Mountain, the canned version, which Llewelly claims is just as lovely, is sauteed with onions and peppers and turns into something similar to the consistency of scrambled eggs. It is creamy and comforting and pairs with saltfish (salted cod) for the classic Jamaican combination. Carrots, cabbage and rice finish the platter, a doggy-bag portion for about ten bucks at lunchtime.
Wings live in the barbecue-jerk sauce combination—and hit with a vinegary heat. The wings are baked and the meat is soft. Jerk chicken also fills a spring roll with black beans and corn, a mix-cultured take on an appetizer, with a decidedly winning result, especially dipped into a sweet mango sauce.
Llewelly imports Jamaican products, including hot sauces and Irish Moss. The latter: a peanut milkshake in a can that is creamy and sweet with a raw peanut taste—and is amazing as long you avoid reading the back: 230 calories. Llewelly says “it’s all the energy you need.”
The former IT professional should probably take a sip; running a restaurant is not easy, which Llewelly understands: “I’m humbly saying that I’m still learning.” And we’re still wanting to eat your Jamaican food.
Blue Mountain Cafe
Check BMC’s Facebook page: Once a month the restaurant opens for fried chicken and soul food fixin’s.
Lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Saturday.
26 S. King St., Leesburg; bluemountaincafe-bmc.com