By Cathy Phillips | Cleveland.com
Fans of the Cleveland food truckJibaro World Eats, or even of Middle Bass Island’sJibaro Tiki Bar, will be glad to know that they no longer have to wait for warm weather to get their Caribbean-style food fix.
The husband-and-wife proprietors of both of those establishments, Elvis Serranoand Lorna McLain, opened a year-round, bricks-and-mortar restaurant in Lakewood the last week of November: Jibaro’s Pit Stop. Since then, Serrano’s brother Saul has joined the team.
Although the property’s tiny storefront functions primarily for take-out, it does provide the owners with a sizeable kitchen that they can use for the restaurant, as well as for year-round catering gigs, which include block parties, corporate events and weddings.
“The weddings have been a big, big hit,” reports Elvis Serrano.
Fans of the Jibaro food truck flock to its Twitter-cast locations for tastes of Serrano’s inspired, Caribbean-fusion foodstuffs, which include tacos, burritos, rice bowls, and seriously tasty pulled pork sandwiches. All of these are on the Pit Stop menu, in addition to flavorful thin-crust, pan and New-York-style pizzas. Many menu items are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
“I’m very adventurous with what I do in the kitchen,” Serrano said.
He loves to use herbs in unique ways, like sprinkling herbes de Provence on shrimpceviche. He plans to grow organic greens and herbs in back of the restaurant come spring.
Serrano, who began cooking at the age of 5 on his family’s farm in Puerto Rico, draws on his family’s native food culture, as well as his extensive experience in Cleveland-area restaurants, including Blue Point Grille and Circo Zibibbo. He says that food’s smell, look, and taste — what he calls “the trifecta” — are all equally important to a dish’s success.
Mindful of the plethora of pizza joints around town, the Serrano brothers put their unique stamp even on this American staple. Of the made-fresh dough, Elvis Serrano said they “keep it very simple,” using spring water, extra-virgin olive oil, and a bit of annatto for a nice, golden color and subtle, warm taste. Through the end of the month, a large specialty pizza or a two-topping half sheet will run you only $13.
Choose-your-own toppings range from staples like pepperoni to exotica such as cinnamon-sugar bacon, shrimp, and pickled carrots. Caribbean specialty pizzas ($10-$16.50) come in sizzling hot flavor combinations like “Jamaican,” with house-roasted spicy jerk chicken, pineapple, cinnamon-sugar bacon and spicy barbecue sauce; and “Caveman,” with oven-roasted duck, caramelized onions and sweet mango.
We loved J baro’s planks of fresh fried platanos (plantains), artfully splattered with shredded, pickled carrots, garlicky green grape-cilantro sauce and creamy tomato mayo ($3).
The tender and flavorful Cuban on a buttery, grilled sub roll is out of this world and like no other, with provolone cheese, soft chunks of ham and succulent, slow-roasted pork spiked with ras el hanout, a complex and slightly fiery Moroccan spice blend ($8.50).
With flavors like these, winter can take its sweet time.
Jibaro’s Pit Stop is at 14201 Madison Ave. in Lakewood. It opens at 11 a.m. daily and closes at 6 p.m. Sunday, 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 216-227-9277 for information, catering inquiries, and to place take-out orders. Visit online at worldwidejibaro.co, or follow on Facebook and Twitter.