If you remember the old Monty Python skit about the restaurant that featured spam in every dish, even lobster thermidor, you'll remember when Baltimore's eating dens seemed to structure menus almost entirely around crab.
Then came the culinary enlightenment that gave us a greatly expanded scene of tastes and styles. The Caribbean niche of that scene got an enthusiastic addition when Get It Inn Island Cuisine started dishing out Jamaican-accented cooking in November at a Locust Point spot once occupied by Pazza Luna and Sweet Caroline's.
SCENE & DECOR: Except for the Bob Marley poster and the reggae music playing in the background, the interior doesn't differ too much from any number of corner taverns in and around Baltimore — compact space, basic tables and chairs. But, like the best neighborhood spots, this one gets plenty of personality from its food and staff.
APPETIZERS: We started off our lunch visit with traditional Jamaican carbs. The coco bread ($2.25) revealed subtle flavor from coconut milk and something of the fluffy texture of a Parker House roll. The festival bread ($4), suggesting a cross between cornbread and a fritter, struck a nice, hearty note (too dense for one of our vibrantly opinionated party).
A sure bet for an appetizer choice at Get It Inn is the jerk wings ($5.75). We found them boldly, but not absurdly, spiced to assure a very satisfying kick. If some of the wings weren't evenly cooked, the tastiness from the Jamaican spices proved consistent.
Nearly as appealing was the spicy beef patty ($2.50), contained in a flaky pastry.
ENTREES: Winning unanimous favor from our group was the curry shrimp ($12.50), which pleased even the normally curry-averse person at our table (that would be me). Winning unanimous disfavor, however, was the petite size of the six shrimp on the plate. We all craved something on a more hefty, prawn-like scale to go with the abundant, finely nuanced sauce.
The curry goat ($13.50 medium, $16.50 large) revealed sufficient zest and tenderness. The jerk chicken ($8.50 for a quarter white meat) was a little on the tough side, but as dynamically flavored as the wings had been.
Accompanying the entrees was a colorful pepper-cabbage assortment delivering a spice-burst that competed too aggressively with the main item on the plate. Happily, a welcome contrast to all the incendiary flavors of each dish came from subtle plantains and a scoop of equally subdued rice and beans.
We didn't have luck with one of our entree choices, the brown stew snapper ($15), which tasted and smelled too, um, fishy. The server graciously took it off the bill.
DESSERT: This portion of the menu could use some lovin'. We tried the two options available, carrot cake ($3.80) and lemon cake ($3.50), which were store-bought and tasted store-bought.
DRINKS: We were warned that the bar's signature rum punch ($5) was aptly named — for packing a punch. Refreshing and not too sweet, with a strong coconut undercurrent, the concoction was all too easy to knock back. Had it been the two-for-one happy hour, some of us might not have made it back to the office at all.
In addition to conventional liquors and beers, you can enjoy Jamaican sodas, among them Ting ($3.50), a very island-y, sweet-tart soft drink made with grapefruit.
SERVICE: We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome. Food arrived at a good clip; water refills didn't — and you need a lot of water to go with such dynamic cuisine.
Get It Inn Island Cuisine
Backstory: About a month after Sweet Caroline closed in October, the Locust Point venue was hopping again. The space was just what wife-and-husband duo of Cassandra Samuels and James Samuels had been hoping to find during a year of scouting a site to showcase Jamaican fare, a cuisine they felt would spice up the neighborhood.
Signature dish: Jerk wings
TVs: At the bar
Where: 1401 E. Clement St., Locust Point
Open: 11 a.m. to midnight Monday to Saturday; 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Handicap accessible: No
Bottom line: If you're seeking a welcoming, laid-back experience dining on fun Jamaican fare, you can get it in Get It Inn.