Evelyn & Olive: Jamaican Food Comes to Madison

Curry chicken, Kingston stew fish, creamed spinach and Red Stripe at Evelyn & Olive

On our way to Evelyn & Olive, the new Jamaican restaurant on Madison Avenue, we cranked up the reggae to get us in the mood. It was fun, but hardly necessary. From our first taste of salt and pepper shrimp, we were smitten with our food, our charming server Amanda and the restaurant’s infectious sociability.


If you aren’t familiar with Jamaican food, it’s not killer spicy like cranked up Thai. The restaurant's shrimp is a good example. Lightly breaded but still crispy (the shrimp’s pink color shows through), the basket is served with garlic pepper Boom Boom sauce, so you control the dip and the kick. We paired the shrimp with an excellent side of Kingston cabbage, a mix of shredded cabbage, corn and sweet peppers sautéed in Caribbean spices.


Owner Tony Hall is Kingston born, while his wife Vicki Newsum is a native of Memphis. The couple met in Brooklyn and Evelyn & Olive, named after their mothers, is a bit of a hybrid pulled together by the restaurant’s chef Xena Lovelady. That's the chef and Tony pictured above.


Vegans and vegetarians will be happy to know that Chef Xena adapts dishes, but the standard menu already includes vegetarian choices like black bean tacos ($7.95) made with tofu and kiwi salsa and served with rice and peas.


The restaurant’s rice and peas have a vinegar twang and were also the foundation for my Kingston Stew Fish ($10.95). The dish isn’t a stew at all but a pan-seared tilapia with Jamaican spices, pimento, pepper, tomato and scallions. I didn’t leave a morsel on my plate. Neither did Tony, who ordered the curry chicken dinner special. It included a thigh and a leg on the bone, plus chunks of white meat, a dumpling and a pretty splay of sliced cucumbers.


We tried to resist dessert, but gave in to the chocolate molten lava cake, rolled out for Valentine’s Day and still on the menu. Enough to share, the cake sits elegantly in a pool of kiwi sauce and is topped with strawberry compote.


Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner and for dinner only on Saturdays, the restaurant serves beer (yes to Red Stripe!) but is still waiting on it’s wine license. For now, you can bring your own bottle.

Evelyn & Olive, 630 Madison Ave. (901-748-5422)

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